Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Target: Media. Extent of Bush spying revealed
An NSA whistleblower reveals what some of us suspected all along: the Bush administration was eavesdropping on members of the media. And they were doing it 24-7, 365 days a year, sweeping up all of their converstions, emails, texts and faxes, both professional and personal. Watch this Countdown exclusive:

NBC has been quietly (if trepidatiously) following the story for years, starting in 2006 when the news organization apparently probed whether the Bush administration had used the NSA to spy on CNN foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour. From TV Newser in a post dated January 4, 2006:
Yesterday, published a transcript of Andrea Mitchell's interview with author James Risen about the CIA's domestic spying program. In it, Mitchell asked Risen if he had uncovered evidence that CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour was eavesdropped upon. It was a specific and pointed question that led AMERICAblog to ask if the veteran journalist had been spied on by the Bush administration. This afternoon, removed the portion of the transcript that referred to Amanpour. (Here's what it originally said.) In a statement to TVNewser tonight, NBC explained why:

"Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on 'NBC Nightly News' nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry."

And from the Americablog archives:
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
NBC confirms it's investigating whether Bush spied on CNN's Christiane Amanpour

That is the only way to read NBC's just-issued statement on why they deleted key portions of Andrea Mitchell's interview after we reported on it here earlier today.[Background: We reported earlier today that NBC's Andrea Mitchell, while interviewing New York Times' reporter James Risen (the man who broke the domestic spying scandal) asked Risen if there was any evidence to suggest Bush was spying on US journalists. When Risen said none that he knew of, Mitchell then pressed the issue again and asked if there was any evidence that Bush was spying on CNN's Christiane Amanpour. We reported on the fact that Mitchell seemed to know something, and shortly thereafter NBC deleted the section of the transcript dealing with Amanpour.]

Indeed the extent of the Bush spying regime, as it was slowly revealed by brave members of the print press, was covered on this blog, and many others. From Reidblog, also in 2006:
Now you may recall that Ms. Amanpour, probably CNN's best overseas journalist, had been critical of the news media's conduct during the Iraq war, including her own cable outfit. Amanpour claimed about a year ago that the press succumbed to a "climate of "fear and self-censorship" fostered by the Bush administration and its self-appointed mouthpiece, Fox News, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.If she was wiretapped, which again, we can't know because the administration conducted its surveillance without even informing the FISA court, it would give more credence to the Wayne Madsen scenario described in this previous post, whereby several journalists including Risen and Sy Hersh (not to mention menbers of Congress and even employees at the NSA) were targeted by administration espionage programs. Tin foil hattery? Maybe. But remember that this crowd even felt the need to spy on Quakers, Catholic relief workers and vegans...

Before long, I assume we'll learn of other targets including the aforementioned members of Congress, anti-war activists, and maybe even prominent bloggers.

It certainly makes you wonder why so much of the Bush agenda passed through that body so easily, doesn't it, and why the media was so pliant throughout Bush's two terms. But you also have to question why NBC, if it had information this dramatic three years ago, didn't do what Risen and the New York Times did: report it.

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posted by JReid @ 12:51 PM  
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
But will it have pictures...
Alberto "Torquemada" Gonzales is writing a book:
Alberto Gonzales, who has kept a low profile since resigning as attorney general nearly 16 months ago, said he is writing a book to set the record straight about his controversial tenure as a senior official in the Bush administration.

Mr. Gonzales has been portrayed by critics both as unqualified for his position and instrumental in laying the groundwork for the administration's "war on terror." He was pilloried by Congress in a manner not usually directed toward cabinet officials.

"What is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service?" he said during an interview Tuesday, offering his most extensive comments since leaving government.

Um... well ... where to begin...

During a lunch meeting two blocks from the White House, where he served under his longtime friend, President George W. Bush, Mr. Gonzales said that "for some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror."

You mean like this guy?

The Huffpo reports that Gonzales may have reasons other than clearing his name, for writing the book:

Another reason he might be writing the book: he can't find a job. Gonzales has had trouble getting employment since resigning from the Justice Department. In July, he suddenly began appearing in D.C. again after months of absence -- leading the Washington Post to speculate that he had landed a gig.

Yeah, you and millions of other Americans, pal, thanks to your former boss...

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posted by JReid @ 12:31 PM  
Friday, October 10, 2008
Support spy on the troops!
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the U.S. eavesdropped on American citizens. You know that by now, I'm sure. It might, however, be surprising to you that we spied on our own troops, in their most private moments, and then our troop supporting intelligence services stored the ill-gotten recordings on their computers like iTunes. Brian Ross reports:
Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia.

... "These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones," said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA's Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.

Kinne described the contents of the calls as "personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism."

She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and "collected on" as they called their offices or homes in the United States.

Another intercept operator, former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk, 39, said he and his fellow intercept operators listened into hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad's Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007.

"Calling home to the United States, talking to their spouses, sometimes their girlfriends, sometimes one phone call following another," said Faulk.

So ... what'd they hear?

Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer.

"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News.

Faulk said he joined in to listen, and talk about it during breaks in Back Hall's "smoke pit," but ended up feeling badly about his actions.

"I feel that it was something that the people should not have done. Including me," he said.

Feel any safer yet?

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posted by JReid @ 12:17 AM  
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Why we fight
While you were hunting wolf pups from an airplane ... Sarah Palin ... the Bush administration was seeking to recertify the "unitary executive"...
WASHINGTON — Tucked deep into a recent proposal from the Bush administration is a provision that has received almost no public attention, yet in many ways captures one of President Bush’s defining legacies: an affirmation that the United States is still at war with Al Qaeda.

Seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Bush’s advisers assert that many Americans may have forgotten that. So they want Congress to say so and “acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”

The language, part of a proposal for hearing legal appeals from detainees at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, goes beyond political symbolism. Echoing a measure that Congress passed just days after the Sept. 11 attacks, it carries significant legal and public policy implications for Mr. Bush, and potentially his successor, to claim the imprimatur of Congress to use the tools of war, including detention, interrogation and surveillance, against the enemy, legal and political analysts say.

Some lawmakers are concerned that the administration’s effort to declare anew a war footing is an 11th-hour maneuver to re-establish its broad interpretation of the president’s wartime powers, even in the face of challenges from the Supreme Court and Congress.

The proposal is also the latest step that the administration, in its waning months, has taken to make permanent important aspects of its “long war” against terrorism. From a new wiretapping law approved by Congress to a rewriting of intelligence procedures and F.B.I. investigative techniques, the administration is moving to institutionalize by law, regulation or order a wide variety of antiterrorism tactics.

“This seems like a final push by the administration before they go out the door,” said Suzanne Spaulding, a former lawyer for the Central Intelligence Agency and an expert on national security law. The cumulative effect of the actions, Ms. Spaulding said, is to “put the onus on the next administration” — particularly a Barack Obama administration — to justify undoing what Mr. Bush has done. ..
So what would the new language mean, precisely?
Mr. Mukasey laid out the administration’s thinking in a July 21 speech to a conservative Washington policy institute in response to yet another rebuke on presidential powers by the Supreme Court: its ruling that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay , were entitled to habeas corpus rights to contest their detentions in court.

The administration wants Congress to set out a narrow framework for those prisoner appeals. But the administration’s six-point proposal goes further. It includes not only the broad proclamation of a continued “armed conflict with Al Qaeda,” but also the desire for Congress to “reaffirm that for the duration of the conflict the United States may detain as enemy combatants those who have engaged in hostilities or purposefully supported Al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations.”

That broad language hints at why Democrats, and some Republicans, worry about the consequences. It could, they say, provide the legal framework for Mr. Bush and his successor to assert once again the president’s broad interpretation of the commander in chief’s wartime powers, powers that Justice Department lawyers secretly used to justify the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects and the National Security Agency’s wiretapping of Americans without court orders. ...

Hopefully, even Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid's accommodating Congress won't fall for it. Fool me once ...

And by the way, in case you missed this in the Times on June 8th:
WASHINGTON — A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.

In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said Mr. McCain believed that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance.

Mr. McCain believes that “neither the administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the A.C.L.U. and trial lawyers, understand were constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin wrote.

And if Mr. McCain is elected president, Mr. Holtz-Eakin added, he would do everything he could to prevent terrorist attacks, “including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.”

Although a spokesman for Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, denied that the senator’s views on surveillance and executive power had shifted, legal specialists said the letter contrasted with statements Mr. McCain previously made about the limits of presidential power. ...
A question that should be put to McCain in the debates: do you believe the president of the United States has the authority to supersede the law and wiretap Americans on U.S. soil? I'd love to hear his answer to that.


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posted by JReid @ 8:33 AM  
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Well said, Senator Dodd
Tonight on the floor of the Senate, Chris Dodd delivered a genuinely wonderful speech on civil liberties, capping his long battle against the FISA "reforms" tossed to the Senate by the House, at the behest of the Bush administration. Below is a transcript (which took a lot of pausing the TiVo. Hopefully, somebody else whose willing to admit to watching C-SPAN will post the video on Youtube.)

Dodd began by quoting the Church Committee, which investigated civil liberties abuses by the Nixon administration:
"Listen to their words of three decades ago ... and I quote: "The view that the traditional American principles of justice and fair play have no place in our struggle against the enemies of freedom, that view created the Nixonian secrecy of the 1970s." And the Church Committee wrote those words in part, as a rebuke to our predecessors in this chamber, who for years allowed secrecy, and executive abuses to slide. But today those words take on new meaning. Today, they rebuke us in a way. Today they shame us for our lack of faith that we
cannot at the same time keep our country safe, and our Constitution whole.

As I said before, when the 21st century version of the Church Committee convenes to investigate the abuses of the past years, how will we be judged? When it reads through the records of our debates, not "if" Mr. President, but "when," what will they find? When the president asked us to repudiate the Geneva Conventions, and strip away the right of habeas corpus, how did we respond? How was our Congress? What did we say about that? When stories about secret prisons, outsourced torture, became impossible to deny, what did that Congress do, in 2008, and 2007? And in June of 2008, when were were asked to put corporations explicitly outside the law, and accept at face value the argument that some are literally too rich to be sued, how did that Congress, how did that Senate vote on that matter? All of these questions are coming for us, Mr.
President, all of that and more. And in the quiet of his or her conscience, each Senator knows what the answers are. Remember, this is about than a few telephone calls, a few companies or a few lawsuits. If the supporters of retroactive immunity keep this argument a technical argument, then they will win. The technical argument obscures the defining question: the rule of law, or the rule of men. that question never goes away, as long there are free societies, generations and leaders who are struggling mightily to answer, and each generation must assert an answer for itself. just because our founders answered it correctl, doesn't mean we are bound by their choice. In that, as with all decisions, we are entirely free, the burden falls not on history, but on us, on each one of us. the 100 of us iwho serve n this remarkable chamber.

But we can take council. We can listen to those who came before us, who made the right choices, even when our nation's very survival was at risk. They knew that the rule of law was far more rooted in our character, than any one man's lawlessness. And from the beginning, they advised us to fight that lawlessness, whenever we found it. At the Constitutional Convention, James
Madison said, and I quote him, "the means of defense against foreign danger, historically, have become the instruments of tyranny at home." He also said, and I quote, 'I beleve that there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by tose in power, than by violent and sudden usuprtions," end of quote. As long as we are temporary custodians of the Constitution, as we are, we have a duty to guard against those gradual, and silent encroachments. And that's exactly what these are; gradual and silent encroachments. ..."

Dodd went on to say that the founders can warn and council, but "they cannot act for us," and called upon his colleagues to provide the answer "to them, and to generatons to come."

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posted by JReid @ 10:21 PM  
Hanging up on the telcos
The FISA/telecom immunity debate going on right now in the U.S. Senate is in many ways a classic Democrat-Republican argument. On one side, you have a vigorous defense of corporations (in this case, the phone companies who complied with the Bush administration's requests to pass along the private communications of Americans) by Republicans, and a repudiation of "trial lawyers" who would damage their businesses and ruin their profits with "excessive lawsuits." On the other, Democrats defend the trial system, arguing that people's right to sue should be preserved. Of course, there's more to it than that. As Sen. Chris Dodd is very effectively arguing right now, there is also the issue of standing up to the Bush administration (at last,) and "standing up for the rule of law," and for the premise that no man, no president, and no company is above it, versus the continuing Republican push to emasculate the courts,and so to make the executive branch practically untouchable, even if it breaks the law (so long as the executive is a Republican.) But underlying the arguments, are those age-old tensions between the two parties and two of their leading interest groups: corporations for the GOP and attorneys for the Dems.

That said, Sen. Barack Obama could, in my opinion, vigorously oppose, even fillibuster, the FISA bill so long as it contains immunity for the telecoms, with very little downside. The most obvious downside would be that right wing groups would accuse him of caving to, which apparently doesn't understand the concept of letting the candidate control the message (hence, that baby ad, and the present FISA demands.) Obama could make a very strong argument beyond the civil liberties issues, which sadly, many Americans are willing to look past in the quest for security. He could argue, very simply, that "in securing America, the Congress of the United States should not be in the business of protecting big business from ordinary Americans."

If accused of trying to weaken national security by taking away the incentive for "good, patriotic corporations" to help the government monitor "the terrorists," he could simply reply, "I don't think the Republican Party, which misdirected us into a war with Iraq, and which can't seem to locate Osama bin Laden even with wiretaps on every phone and email account in America and abroad, is in a position to lecture me."

If accused again, he could simply state that "besides, my goal is to do what's right for good, patriotic Americans. Republicans have been helping out the corporatioons long enough."

Or as Chris Dodd just put it, "the world is not going to collapse, the sky is not gonna fall, if a few companies have to explain to their customers why they vacuumed up their personal information."

Dodd could have been one hell of a communications guy.

UPDATE: Chris Dodd may have just made some news. It sounded like he just said he would fillibuster the FISA bill tomorrow, or prevent other legislation, on housing, from coming to the floor.

If and when the vote happens, you've got to wonder whether close proximity to the telecom industry will affect individual Senators' votes. And guess who is, by far, the leading recipient of telecom industry money? According to, it's John McCain. (Logically, since they were the presidential front runners, McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama form the top three, with Obama lagging well behind the other two...) Dodd is showing some courage tonight, given that he also makes the top 20 (rounding it out at number 20.)

Top 20 Senators (donatons from telephone utilities)
Rank Candidate Amount

1 McCain, John (R) $332,795
2 Clinton, Hillary (D) $223,092
3 Obama, Barack (D) $185,898
4 Rockefeller, Jay (D-WV) $48,000
5 Stevens, Ted (R-AK) $33,450
6 Graham, Lindsey (R-SC) $31,100
7 Pryor, Mark (D-AR) $29,950
8 Collins, Susan M (R-ME) $29,850
9 Baucus, Max (D-MT) $28,000
10 Lautenberg, Frank R (D-NJ) $23,800
11 Sununu, John E (R-NH) $22,600
12 Durbin, Dick (D-IL) $20,850
13 McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) $18,750
14 Wicker, Roger (R-MS) $18,000
15 Smith, Gordon H (R-OR) $16,750
16 Brownback, Sam (R-KS) $14,200
17 Landrieu, Mary L (D-LA) $13,750
18 Roberts, Pat (R-KS) $13,250
18 Dorgan, Byron L (D-ND) $13,250
20 Dodd, Christopher J (D-CT) $13,000

That's important information, since the stench of campaign cash is already hanging over Democrats in the House.

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posted by JReid @ 9:38 PM  
Thursday, June 19, 2008
What Fourth Amendment?
Why did the Democrats capitulate on FISA? Was it cowardice? Election year politics? Or as Keith Olberman puts it, not FISA but CYSA?

Back in 2001, with 9/11 fresh in the minds of Americans, many Congressional Democrats decided it was better to switch than to fight the administration of George W. Bush. Karl Rove did his job, frightening both the country and the Congress into handing over to Mr. Bush extraordinary powers the likes of which this country hasn't seen since it divorced George III. 

Now, seven years later, Democrats control the Congress, even if barely in the Senate. Bush is a lame duck and by almost everyone's calculation, a failure as president. One of his many illegal acts and outrages upon the Constitution -- the warrantless wiretapping of Americans -- comes before the Congress, mainly because they choose to bring it t the floor, and rather than allow the Constitution to prevail, House Democrats cave to a president they no longer have to fear, by retroactively legalizing the wiretapping, and granting immunity to the telecom companies who participated, illegally, in it.
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that would continue a controversial surveillance program at the U.S. National Security Agency with limited court oversight, while likely ending lawsuits against telecommunications carriers that participated in the program.

The House on Friday voted 293 to 129 to approve a bill that was a compromise between congressional Democrats and U.S. President George Bush.

The bill would extend the NSA surveillance of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the U.S., while giving the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) an opportunity to review Bush administration requests for wide-ranging surveillance powers. The bill, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act, allows the NSA to receive blanket surveillance orders covering multiple suspects of terrorism and other crimes.

The compromise also sends the dozens of outstanding lawsuits against telecom carriers for their alleged participation in the NSA program to a district court, which will review whether they should be dismissed. The lawsuits would be thrown out if telecom companies can show that the U.S. government issued them orders for the surveillance that were presented as lawful.

U.S. President George Bush has pushed for the legislation, saying it's needed to protect U.S. residents from terrorism. For nearly a year, the Bush administration has called on Congress to pass long-term changes to the nation's surveillance laws. Congress passed temporary surveillance legislation, called the Protect America Act, in August 2007, but its provisions expired in February.

February ... and what was the urgency of passing hurry-up protection for the administration today? Nancy Pelosi pushed for this bill -- the same Nancy Pelosi who was "read into" the spying program, along with other intelligence chairs and ranking members, including Senator Diane Feinstein. (Pelosi's number two, Steny Hoyer, crafted the compromise bill, and is now being derided as "the new Joe Lieberman.") Could it be that Pelosi and other Dems are exercising the art of self protection?

Senator Russ Feingold called today's vote what it is:
“The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President’s illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration.”

Let's hope he's ready with a Senate fillibuster.

The big loser today was the Fourth Amendment, which is essentially gone now. The winners: the telcos:
"Congress seems to be on the verge of negotiating away our basic constitutional protections," Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington, D.C., legislative office, said during a press conference on Wednesday.

The compromise will give Bush "pretty much unfettered authority to engage in surveillance of Americans," Fredrickson added. "The bill still allows mass, untargeted surveillance of Americans by permitting the government to gather all calls and e-mails coming into and out of the country."

The compromise provides little additional oversight of the surveillance program, Fredrickson said. If there's any delay in the FISA court's approval of a government surveillance request, the NSA can move ahead of surveillance without court oversight, she said.

There are 47 outstanding lawsuits related to the surveillance program and 35 lawsuits with telecoms including AT&T, Verizon Communications and Sprint Nextel as defendants, Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said at the same press conference.

"Congress appears poised to needlessly toss the rule of law out the window and deprive millions of ordinary Americans their day in court," said Bankston, one of the lead attorneys in a class-action lawsuit against AT&T for its alleged participation in the NSA program.

You can find out how your member of Congress voted by clicking here.
On "Elevating the Dialogue" this morning, Congressman Alcee Hastings (FL) told us that he was leaning toward voting yes because Barack Obama was for the bill, and House Democrats "needed to give him some political cover." I'm not sure that's true. Politico reported today that Harry Reid is looking to strip the telecom immunity out of the bill to give cover to Senators who, like Obama, could support the FISA updates, but "loathe the telecom immunity." That's a bit vague, and its not at all clear that Republicans wouldn't stand squarely in the way of separating the bill in two.

While we were on the air, Hastings voted for the bill, which is unfortunate in my opinion. To their credit, Kendrick Meek, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Robert Wexler voted no. Maybe Wexler can convince Obama to reject it when it reaches the Senate.

Democrats including Hoyer sought to put the best spin on the vote today, with Hoyer calling it the best bill they could get. What an endorsement. No wonder Americans' confidence in Congress is at an all-time low... Best quote of the day, courtesy of Politico:
“Let me remind you, that July 4, 1776 was pre 9/11,” said Rep Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) who indicated he would not support the bill because it infringed on Americans civil liberties.

“Heaven help us if those values were shucked aside in fear.”



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posted by JReid @ 3:13 PM  
Thursday, February 14, 2008
My kingdom for one gutsy Democrat
Okay, now I've got a few, and none of them are in the Senate.

President Bush says he will veto any FISA reform bill that doesn't give immunity from lawsuits to the telecom companies who helped his administration illegally spy on Americans. (Placing the government's national security aparatus in the service of big business: priceless... using fearmongering to do it? Bush.) Well, go ahead, Dubya, delay that trip to Africa, veto the bill, see if anybody who matters cares.

On Thursday, February 14th, Valentine's Day 2008, finally someone had the balls to stand up to this maniac. From Wired News:
House Democrats Stand Up To Bush, Refuse to Rubber Stamp Domestic Spying

The Protect America Act, a temporary but expansive warrantless spying bill passed by Congress last summer, will likely expire Saturday at midnight, a casualty of a battle between President Bush and House Democrats over amnesty for phone companies that aided his secret, warrantless spying program and how much of that program should be legalized. The House leadership announced there will be no more votes before the long President's Day legislative break.

The bill's expiration is largely symbolic, but demonstrates that House Democrats are willing to fight Bush on anti-terrorism policies, where fear-mongering rhetoric had previously cowed their opposition.

Though Republicans charge that the expiration will endanger national security, no wiretaps or dragnets will be forced to stop and the government will retain longstanding surveillance powers.

Additionally, any broad domestic surveillance of emails and phone calls started under the expiring act can continue for another year, and new targets can be added such programs without getting a court order.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) laid the blame for expiration at the White House's door and said the House wanted extra time to protect Americans' rights.

"We are committed to protecting the American people and protecting the constitution," Pelosi said. "We will continue to work with the Senate to produce a [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] bill that does both."

The Protect America Act, passed in August last year, was a temporary measure enacted after a secret spying court ruled that the president's spying was illegal. That secret ruling came just months after Bush bowed to political pressure and submitted the program to the court more than a year after the New York Times exposed its existence.

On Wednesday, House Democrats attempted to pass a three-week extension to give it time to work out a compromise bill with the Senate. The Senate bill, passed by a wide, bi-partisan margin on Tuesday, is far more Administration- and telecom-friendly than the House's bill.

But Bush threatened to veto any extension to the temporary measure, a move clearly intended to push the House to adopt the Senate version verbatim. House Republicans, joined by conservative Democrats and a handful of anti-warrantless wiretapping liberal, voted down that extension Wednesday. ...
This comes after the Senate capitulated to the president, voting down Chris Dodd's attempt to strip telco immunity from its bill, and then approving a monstrosity of a FISA reform act that essentially gives this weakest of presidents -- this total lame duck -- everything he wants. How this guy can continue to run over Senate Democrats at this stage of his undress is beyond me. I'm starting to wonder if his domestic spying started, and perhaps ended, with Senate Democrats...

But the biggest theatrics of the day came from House Republicans, who threw a tantrum after their colleagues refused to kiss the backside of the president one more 'gain and walked out of the chamber (to waiting microphones, of course...) Someone get John Boehner a tissue...

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posted by JReid @ 11:41 PM  
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Why you were watching the Potomac...
18 Senate Democrats were caving on telecom wiretap immunity. Barack Obama voted with the 30 Democrats who don't think telecom companies should be shielded from lawsuits stemming from their collusion in government spying on its own citizens. Hillary missed the vote. Now the Senate must reconcile its bill with the House bill that contains no immunity. Harry Reid isn't making me feel any better:
"Holding all the Democrats together on this, we've learned a long time ago, is not something that's doable," the party's Senate leader, Harry Reid, told reporters today.

Neither is Russ Feingold:
"The Senate has buckled," Democratic senator Russ Feingold said. "We are left with a very dangerous piece of legislation."

Okay, let's try this guy:
"It's time for Speaker Pelosi to draw a line the sand and make clear to the president that this House of Representatives is never going to pass any bill that includes immunity for lawbreaking telecoms," Bankston said in a statement.

The EFF is representing a group of Americans who are suing AT&T in a California federal court, alleging mass interception of their private communications without a warrant. Granting immunity to AT&T would almost certainly halt that lawsuit.

Time to replace some Democratic Senators...

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posted by JReid @ 11:19 PM  
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Quick take headlines: shootin' and spyin'
An FBI inquiry finds that Bush and Condi's private army in Iraq killed 14 of 17 civilians without cause in September.

The nation's new attorney general gets something right, finally giving up the security clearances needed for the Justice Department to investigate his predecessor's -- and those he was lacky to -- domestic surveillance. We await word on whether the Dems will cave on immunity for the telcos that helped out with the government's giant information shovel.

The WaPo has an interesting -- if a bit "duh" -- article on oil as a geopolitical weapon.

Bush's GOP lackeys on the Hill (I make the distinction to separate them from the Democrat and Independent lackeys on the Hill) demand that the Dems retract their Iraq war cost report putting the cost at $1.5 billion. After all, that report might turn Americans against the war ... HA!!!

Good news for the Clinton campaign: NY Guv Elliot Spitzer drops his licenses for illeal immigrants plan.

A new Pew Poll finds Black America more pessimistic than at any time in the last 20 years.

And Kanye West's mother's death following plastic surgery is sad ... and should sober people up about how dangerous plastic surgery can be. Earth to ladies: it's not your mother's Botox brunch. Meanwhile, Kanye issues a statement. ... and the doctor who says he refused to operate on Donda West says she ignored medical advice and that doing so may have led to her death.

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posted by JReid @ 9:14 AM  
Friday, August 31, 2007
The Coretta King files
KHOU-TV in Houston uncovered nearly 500 pages of documents on the FBI's surveillance of Coretta Scott King, the late wife of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The documents include memos showing that the FBI shared intel on Ms. King with the U.S. military, mainly out of fear of her involvement with the anti-war movement. They also intercepted her mail, tapped her phonecalls to political leaders including New York Governor Nelson Rockefellar, and shared their findings with the White House, which apparently was concerned that Mrs. King just might be a communist.

This is fascinating stuff, particularly since the FBI claimed to the KHOU reporters that the agency has changed.


Well a funny thing happened on the way to the anti-war rally ... the FBI showed up! And according to information unearthed by the ACLU, they're keeping a mighty big database of not just anti-war protesters, but anyone seen as opposing any policy of President George W. Bush. And then there's the matter of Dubya's executive orders regarding the government's ability to seize the property of anyone Bush believes is interfering with his war.

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posted by JReid @ 7:53 AM  
Friday, August 17, 2007
Mr. Mueller strikes again
FBI Director Robert Mueller's notes following the now infamous March 2004 visit to the bedside of then-ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft provide fresh contradictions between Mueller's and then-acting A.G. James Comey's accounts of the "Godfather"-esque attempt to strong arm a sick man into Okaying an illegal domestic wiretapping program, and the "recollection" of Alberto Gonzales. The Washington Post reports:
Then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was "feeble," "barely articulate" and "stressed" moments after a hospital room confrontation in March 2004 with Alberto R. Gonzales, who wanted Ashcroft to approve a warrantless wiretapping program over Justice Department objections, according to notes from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III that were released yesterday.

One of Mueller's entries in five pages of a daily log pertaining to the dispute also indicated that Ashcroft's deputy was so concerned about undue pressure by Gonzales and other White House aides for the attorney general to back the wiretapping program that the deputy asked Mueller to bar anyone other than relatives from later entering Ashcroft's hospital room.

Mueller's description of Ashcroft's physical condition that night contrasts with testimony last month from Gonzales, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Ashcroft was "lucid" and "did most of the talking" during the brief visit. It also confirms an account of the episode by former deputy attorney general James B. Comey, who said Ashcroft told the two men he was not well enough to make decisions in the hospital.

"Saw AG," Mueller writes in his notes for 8:10 p.m. on March 10, 2004, only minutes after Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. had visited Ashcroft. "Janet Ashcroft in the room. AG in chair; is feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed."

The typewritten notes, heavily censored before being turned over to the House Judiciary Committee, provide further insight into a tumultuous but secret legal battle that gripped the Justice Department and the White House in March 2004, after Justice lawyers determined that parts of the warrantless wiretapping program run by the National Security Agency were illegal.

Although Mueller did not directly witness the exchange between Ashcroft, Gonzales and Card, his notes recounted Comey's personal statement that Ashcroft at the outset said that "he was in no condition to decide issues." Ashcroft also told the two men he supported his deputy's position on the secret program, Mueller said Comey told him.

Comey had precipitated the confrontation by informing the White House days earlier that the Justice Department would not approve the wiretapping program's continuation in its present form. Gonzales and Card then decided to see if they could get Ashcroft to sign a certification that it was legal.

After the meeting concluded without success, the Bush administration decided to proceed with the program anyway. But Comey, Mueller and half a dozen or so other Justice Department officials threatened to resign if it was not changed. The standoff was averted after President Bush agreed to make changes, Mueller and others have testified, but the changes have never been described.

In his notes, Mueller recounts Comey's statement that Ashcroft complained to Gonzales and Card at the hospital about being "barred" from obtaining "the advice he needed" about the NSA program because of "strict compartmentalization rules" set by the White House. Although Ashcroft, as attorney general, had been fully briefed about the program, many of his senior legal advisers were not allowed to know about it, officials said.

Gonzales was White House counsel at the time of the hospital visit and replaced Ashcroft as attorney general in 2005. "We never had any intent to ask anything of him if we did not feel that he was competent," Gonzales testified, adding later: "Mr. Ashcroft talked about the legal issues in a lucid form, as I've heard him talk about legal issues in the White House."...
Drip ... drip ... drip ... can anyone argue with any credibility that we have a functioning office of attorney general at the moment, while it's being helmed by a perjurer?

Mueller's notes were released by the House Judiciary Committee, may God bless them. Whether they'll actually do anything about Gonzales' perjury is another matter.


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posted by JReid @ 8:49 AM  
Saturday, August 11, 2007
How to chump a Democrat
The New York Times uncovers the simple plan the Bush administration used to trick the hapless Democrats on the Hill into giving Alberto Gonzales approval power over NSA domestic spying. How did they do it? They got DNI Mike McConnell to issue a warning: the NSA is picking up 75% fewer intercepts of al-Qaida communications, because of the FISA court's dreaded 72 hour rule for granting warrants (72 hours AFTER the surveillance begins, that is...) Then, throw in a few handy dandy terror scares ("bombs in the cheese! Bombs in the cheese! Run for you liiiiiives...!!!) and presto! Democrats fold like cheap suit. Russ Feingold and Jane Harman explain their party's inherent weakness:
The White House, Mr. Feingold said Friday in an interview, “has identified the one major remaining weakness in the Democratic Party, and that’s its unwillingness to stand up to the administration when it’s making a power grab regarding terrorism and national security.”

“They have figured out that all they have to do is start talking about an imminent terrorist threat, back it up against a Congressional recess, and they know the Democrats will cave,” he added.

Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, said the White House “very skillfully played the fear card.”
I don't know about skillfully. Clearly you don't have to be too bright to put one over on these idiots.

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posted by JReid @ 8:16 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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