Democrats & Liberals Archives

Central Ironies and Collosal Collateral ClusterFlubs

Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) called Congress back into session today in a “fit of pique”, right in the middle of the Late Tom Lantos’ memorial service. Then, following that, Republicans called a dramatic press conference and managed to miss the vote they were so ticked off about.. They lost by about 223-32. Talk about inconvenient timing.

The vote was on contempt citations for Administration officials Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers who didn't merely fail to answer questions from Congress, but failed to even show up. Now supposedly, Attorney General Michael Mukasey is supposed to uphold and enforce the law, but in this case he's saying he won't. I know some may say that enforcing the law is supposed to be his job, but that might just be expecting too much of a Bush administration official. We'll see.

Meanwhile, The Republicans have decided to to get in the way of any new version of the FISA bill that doesn't immunize the Telecom companies for having broken the older version of the law at the Bush Administration's request. I mean, it's so important that we get these guys off for crimes committed on behalf of the administration, that even creating a suitable update to our ability to spy on domestic enemies and associates of enemies comes second to getting them off the hook, and by extension, the President who encouraged them to break the law.

Tell me, what happens the next time some administration, Bush or not, Republican or Democrat, invades people's privacy, and breaks their fourth amendment rights in the name of greater security? Issue more get out of jail (and lawsuits) free cards?

This Administration has outdone all administrations in recent memory in terms of its utter failure to uphold the law and the constitution. This wasn't optional, it's part of the job description. I mean, when a member of the Nixon Administration says you're too secretive, too flagrant in your violations of the rule of law, then you know you're in trouble. But then again, denying that they are in trouble has become a full-time job for the Bush Administration.

Let's define some more ironies. It's Ironic that Bush and the Republicans now bash Democrats for earmarks, given that prospective GOP presidential candidate John McCain chided his own party for more than tripling the number of earmarks:

"In 1994, when the Congress was taken over by Republicans, there were 4,000 earmarks on appropriations bills," he told the committee. "Last year there were 15,000. It's disgraceful, this process."

Remember, folks, this was the Conservatives doing this. Though Democrats have been far from perfect on the matter, they still managed to cut the value of the earmarks in last years spending in half. Bush, meanwhile hasn't merely passed earmark-laden bills, he's even added some of his own..

And of course Liberals are supposed to be big spenders, too, not Republicans. Only a liberal would give this country it's first three trillion dollar budget.. Only a liberal would raise spending to that level while failing to pay for 410 billion dollars of it, right? Only a liberal would take a five trillion dollar surplus for the nation, and turn it into nine trillion dollars worth of debt. And that liberal wouldn't be able to do that without a Democratic Congress, no doubt.

But wait, this was Bush, and he did it with the full consent and knowledge of not only the Republican majorities in Congress, but Republicans all across the nation! And this wasn't sudden, this was something that started early in his first term!

Speaking of terms, after Republicans threatened to end filibusters in the Senate via the Nuclear option, if Democrats were so impertinent as to block a handful of candidates, they have gleefully managed to make themselves the most obstructive congressional minority in American history, with a year to spare.

I guess the most ironic thing is the favor the Republicans did for us by picking this one time to step out of the way and do what they do best: talk nasty about the Democrats. Perhaps if they stepped aside more often to let the Democrats do the will of the people, this country would be running a bit smoother.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at February 14, 2008 6:29 PM
Comments
Comment #245359

SD
We pretty much ought to expect this administration and the survivers of the rep congress to act like wounded and cornered bears at this point. They are capable of anything and clearly have no moral minimum.
I hope that when the the mis-deeds come out we do not make the same mistake Ford did and we the people allowed. No pardons this time.Apparently we need the deterant effect to keep future miscreants in line.

Posted by: bills at February 14, 2008 8:47 PM
Comment #245360

Since when do the Democrats do the will of the people? The things I see are if liberal dems don’t get their way they get a federal lib judge to rule in their favor and screw what the majority want. IMO both dems and reps are corrupt. And by the way dems talk just as nasty as the reps. I also can probably say that there isn’t a senator or rep who hasn’t got something to hide.

Posted by: KAP at February 14, 2008 8:48 PM
Comment #245362

Bush likes being on the wrong side of the law and acting like he is above all constitutional constraints. I wouldn’t blame Mukasey or the underlings at all. Bush is the responsible party. The question then becomes what can be done about his lame duck ass in his final year. Impeachment looks too partisan if it is going to come at the end of every presidency. I’d like for the next POTUS to turn him over to the International Court of Justice for the Geneva Convention violations, but that would raise holy hell with the anti-UN people, and McCain might not be willing to do it, unless he’s really holding a grudge from 2000.

Posted by: ohrealy at February 14, 2008 9:34 PM
Comment #245365

KAP-
First of all, the Republicans walked out of the vote. If they wanted a different majority, they had their chance and blew it. Like I would tell any voter, it’s the majority present that matters.

As for getting a “federal lib judge” to rule in their favor? A judge is a judge, if its the office you respect and not merely the politics, and the fact is, subpoena power is part and parcel of what’s necessary for Congressional Oversight. If some official can arbitrarily blow off testifying, then there’s no teeth in that oversight.

As for the Democrats doing the will of the people? That would be kind of nice. You talk about us saying “screw what the majority wants”, but if you would bother to check through my links, you would find it’s the Republicans who have not only consistently done that, but done it at a record pace, blocking the legislation of a popularly elected congressional majority. I wish many of my Democrats weren’t so chickens***, but at least most of them are not so actively trying to get in the way.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 14, 2008 10:10 PM
Comment #245366

ohrealy
If Bush broke the law we do not need an international tribunal to prosecute and convict if there is sufficient evidence.Our criminal justice has the authority.If ford had not pardoned Nixon,Nixon could well have faced jail time.He should have as a warning to the likes of Bush.

Posted by: BillS at February 14, 2008 10:11 PM
Comment #245370

Dems had their share of blocking legislation. There are some 180 judicial appointments that the dem congress has not had the decincy of giving them an up or down vote. So why don’t we all just admit both parties are screwed up and quit playing the blame game.

Posted by: KAP at February 14, 2008 10:36 PM
Comment #245372

The Dems had many months to think about FISA and how to protect the American people from terrorists. Instead they prefer to play political games and score political points. For them kicking Harriet Myers in the keister is more important than protecting Americans from terror attacks. It shows their priorities.

The Republicans did the smart thing to call attention to the petty vindictivness exhibited by Pelosi and her gang of incompetents.

The more the American people learn about how the Dems make their sausage in the Congress, the less they are going to like it. To the extent that Republicans can get the focus on the things Congress is doing AND not doing, they will do a service to the country.

Posted by: Jack at February 14, 2008 11:44 PM
Comment #245375

Jack

You make a very good point. But it is only a good point if the people agree with you. Most Americans however believe that this President has abused his office. Republicans have been surviving by distancing themselves from Bush. By aligning themselves with Bush on this issue, the Republicans are reminding us all that they are coconspirators on how this administration has conducted itself.

Republicans lost the House and Senate because of this. Democrats have received criticism, because people felt they should stand up to this administration more. Now they are doing it, let us see how public opinion reacts to this grandstanding. And I’m not saying let us see how conservatives react to this, conservatives tend to believe they comprise a majority.

Posted by: Cube at February 15, 2008 4:05 AM
Comment #245379

I DON’T think Jack makes a good point.

If protecting the American people is so important, Bush and his minnons would not be placing immunity for the telecommunications companies above protecting us. If Bush really thought that we could be attacked without the FISA bill then he would not be talking about vetoing it unless immunity is part of the package. The president and the republican congress had all these months to decide how to handle this issue with the telecommunication companies but they did nothing but insist on having things their way irregardless of whether it placed americans at risk or not.

It is Bush and company playing games here not the democratic congress. For once the congress has done what the country sent them to congress to do which is to stand up against the insane fear mongering president and his side kicks.

Posted by: Carolina at February 15, 2008 8:09 AM
Comment #245382

KAP-
It’s no game. If he wanted up and down votes, he could nominate people both he and the Congress would be pleased with.

Bush has seen fit to flood many offices and federal courts with cronies, incompetents, and extremists. The US Attorney firing case illustrates the kind of BS he tries to get away with, the kind of emphasis of partisan loyalties and ideologies he seems to want to protect at all costs. What reason do we have as Democrats to collaborate in letting Bush make more of a mess. Every time we’ve trusted Bush, we’ve had just one more person come back spouting that unitary executive BS. Bush has tried the patience of just about everybody in Washington. The time has come for him to grow up and cooperate.

Jack-
Harriet Miers refused a subpeona from Congress. Do that in any court and the land, and you’ll find yourself in jail. Why should she be let off the hook?

As for FISA, it’s a load of bull that we didn’t come up with alternatives. We came up with a barrel full of them. Unfortunately, the Republicans in the Senate insist on blocking any legislation they don’t like. We had our priorities straight, and you folks had yours.

Yours is excusing the telephone companies from prosecution or civil liability for having broken the law on Bush’s behalf. If Bush really thought that the lapsing of the former FISA law was that much of a problem, wouldn’t he put American lives ahead of covering his ass and those of his collaborators?

This whole FISA issue came along because Bush broke the law. He violated the constitution by not merely wiretapping without a warrant, but leading the telecommunications companies to install hardware to indiscriminately copy all web traffic going through the country.

What Americans like least about this is the extent to which the Democrats have not gotten in the way of it.

Fact of the matter is, the Republicans could have stayed and voted against the contempt citation. Instead, they walked out and whined on the capital steps about somebody trying to enforce Congress’s constitutional oversight authority. That shows their priorities.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 15, 2008 8:48 AM
Comment #245383

Stephen

The telecom companies relied on the interpretation of their and your government. Bush didn’t call them up. The American authorities did. If you put them into the trial lawyer paradise, few people will ever want to cooperate with their government before they consult their own lawyers who might well interpret everything differently.

Why don’t the Dems just vote on this, BTW? Harriet Myers is more important to them than the security of the American people. Scoring point politically is more important to them than the security of the American people. It is not like this came up out of the blue. We all know that the Dem leadership would lose an up or down vote.

The contempt vote is a mere diversion. In the long run and even the short run it does not amount to anything. It is a political toy for the Dems to play with. They could vote on that later. Instead they chew on their toy and neglect their duty to protect the United States of America.

As an American, I am more interested in the good of my country than the good of my party, but I suspect this dust up will be good for Republicans anyway. Doing what is right and defeating the Dem leadership happen to be the same thing in this case.

We have the moral high ground AND the political high ground on this issue. Dems will figure this out soon and pressure the queen of silly ideas to change her ways.

Posted by: Jack at February 15, 2008 9:01 AM
Comment #245384

Jack

Your party has not held the moral high ground on much of anything for quite a few years now. Revelations, scandal, deceptions, half truths and hypocrisy have showed just where the moral high ground lies with your party. The dem congress is doing exactly what I personally expect them to do. Place accountability where it is due. And before you can say it, my views have nothing to do with Bush hatred. They have everything to do with holding our legislators and executive to the same moral and legal standards as the common people of this country.

Posted by: RickIL at February 15, 2008 9:30 AM
Comment #245386

I don’t know it all seems like a smokescreen. Why is Bush making such a big deal out of the FISA bill and the immunity of the telecom companies? He could have let the bill go through as it was without the protections for the companies and then pardoned all of those that cooperated with him when charges where filed. It seems like grandstanding to me. Look at me poor George the congress is picking on me by not letting me get my way. It all seems so infantile and looks like his true goal is to smear the democratic congress.

I will be so happy when Jan. 20 comes around no matter who wins at least this painful canker on Americas good name will be finally excised.

Posted by: napajohn at February 15, 2008 9:59 AM
Comment #245394

Jack-
Telecom company Qwest refused the request, no doubt because their lawyers told them what the other telecom’s lawyer might have told them, or should have told them: the surveillance was illegal. Like somebody wrote, the fact that they didn’t get the Attorney General to sign off on the assurance should have tipped them off; the only signature was that of then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales.

Nobody’s going to refuse a request backed by a warrant and court order, especially not from FISA courts. The telecom immunity is to protect Bush and his corporate allies, who broke the law. If you didn’t break the law, you don’t need immunity.

As for Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, these people took executive privilege to mean that they could ignore a subpeona from Congress. That’s no smoke screen, that’s Congress’s ability to get administration figures to show up and testify as to how effectively they’re carrying out legislation and spending the taxpayer’s money.

Meanwhile, even under FISA in its former formulation, the government can eavesdrop on terrorists, and get warrants for those they can reasonably prove have something to do with the terrorists in this country.

What they can’t do is willy-nilly datamine through a whole bunch of private records and information in the interests of dragnetting for terrorists. On point of fact, I hear it’s actually quite ineffective for rooting out terrorists, because the systems can’t tell the difference between people using words as codewords, and using them regularly. The machines simpy don’t have the intelligence to distinguish between a person literally referring to a big meal, and somebody referring to a terrorist attack like that.

You lack the moral high ground, and have resorted to scaring up votes with talk of terrorists being free to rape and pillage if the president doesn’t get his way in order to clamor for the political high ground. The thing is, though, he could get modernizations to the bill if he wanted to, and have it sail through Congress, if he were merely willing to moderate away the unconstitutional qualities of the bill, and not insist on telecom immunity.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 15, 2008 12:54 PM
Comment #245419

Dems put cronies in office and incompetents and extremists to, so WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE. LIKE I SAID LETS QUIT WITH THE BLAME GAME. AND IT IS A GAME>

Posted by: KAP at February 15, 2008 4:32 PM
Comment #245431

KAP-
Democratic Party politicians have indeed done that, but few folks of any party affiliation have been so extreme in their behavior in modern times. You have to go back a century to see this level of corruption. That’s the difference.

It’s no blame game. It’s accountability. This president wants to act with an unaccountability that shocks even John Dean, who’s boss committed one of Washingtons most damaging cover-ups.

Truth of the matter is, the GOP doesn’t listen to us, or the mainstream press. The Republicans would have listened to the rank and file, but the rank and file of the Republican party unfortunately bought into a lot of this garbage, and some continue to buy into it even now.

You should take a look at Democratic Party related sites. We’re merciless when it comes to watchdogging our own party. We know how and why we lost the majority the last time, and we’re not about to let that kind of politics get in the way once again.

If you folks were more willing to take a critical eye to your President and Congress’s policies, you wouldn’t be faced with the prospect of liberal politics taking over.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 15, 2008 5:57 PM
Comment #245439

The president wants permanent emergency powers because he believes he is “special”. He cannot be bothered with all that Congressional oversite and constitution stuff.
Feb.12 Top Ten Things Abraham Lincoln Would Say If He Were Alive Today
10. This guy is hilarious, but seriously, who’s your president?
from
http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/top_ten/index/php/20080212.phtml

Posted by: ohrealy at February 15, 2008 7:31 PM
Comment #245452

Great article and replies, Stephen.
Most definitive and faultlessly logical sentence?

If you didn’t break the law, you don’t need immunity.

BillS, Carolina, and RickIL, also good replies.

Posted by: veritas vincit at February 16, 2008 1:16 AM
Comment #245463
Sixty-one percent of voters favor requiring the government to get a warrant from a court before wiretapping the conversations U.S. citizens have with people in other countries, with an outright majority of voters, 51 percent, “strongly” supporting the requirement, the poll of 1,000 likely 2008 general-election voters found.

Similar percentages opposed “blanket” or “basket” warrants, under which surveillance of categories of Americans would be allowed.

“Strikingly,” says The Mellman Group’s analysis, “majorities across partisan and ideological lines oppose blanket warrants.” Seventy-two percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans opposed them; as did 71 percent of liberals, 57 percent of moderates and 58 percent of conservatives.

Fifty-nine percent of voters also reject amnesty for phone companies that may have violated the law by selling customers’ private information to the government, preferring to let aggrieved citizens go to the courts and let judges decide.

UPI Published: Oct. 16, 2007


Jack

The above polling results don’t bode well for your position, or that of Bush and the Republican party.

Posted by: Cube at February 16, 2008 4:32 AM
Comment #245464

If Dems want to argue this one out in the court of public opinion, bring it on. I hope for a clear cut result that will elminate the ambiguity.

If Dems think they have the high ground, why did they choose to use the time before their vacation to vote on a political plum rather than address the security of the United States?

I believe protecting the US is more important than political games. I also believe that firms or individuals following instructions from their lawful government should be protected from lawyers. If someone in government has broken a law by giving the instruction, go after him/her. The Dems know that cannot make this stick, so they want to cry havoc and let slips the dogs of law to intimidate and profiteer.

Let’s just put it all on the table. The Dems control congress. Let them vote their values and see what happens.

Posted by: Jack at February 16, 2008 5:40 AM
Comment #245471

Jack,
If Dems think they have the high ground, why did they choose to use the time before their vacation to vote on a political plum rather than address the security of the United States?

dems are ignoring this because it really is a non issue. most agree that the FISA bill is important, giving those that broke the law a get out of jail free card to satisify Bush and his admin is not very high on their priority list and shouldnt be. Bush wants to get all this his way so in the future when he violates the law in a similar way he can point to this and say that he believed that he was acting as congress directed because they gave immunity to those telecom companies.
giving those companies immunity or not neither makes us any more unsafe nor discourages telecoms in cooperation with the government. If the government had a case at all they could get a warrent it is rather simple. if there are no grounds for a warrent there should be no wiretapping.

Posted by: napajohn at February 16, 2008 9:16 AM
Comment #245472

Jack-
First, FISA remains, and allows retroactive warrants to be issued for wiretapping. Only a handful of requests have ever been turned down. If we’ve got good information that somebody’s involved in something, we can get those warrants.

Second, no warrant whatsoever is required for communications without American citizens involved, which covers much of the terrorists communications without any problem.

The only thing this could possibly prevent the government from doing is just going through the private communications of millions who have done nothing to raise suspicion about themselves, a direct contravention of the fourth amendment.

The burden of proof must always be on the government to prove that people are worthy of suspicion. Without that safeguard, two things will be true: the power of government surveillance with be vulnerable to greater abuse, and even if not abused, the targets will be more likely to be people who have little or nothing to do with the crimes in question.

The Republicans, in their fear, embrace the inefficiency of paranoia, where the slightest suspicion merits the strongest response. This, I’m afraid, is a strategy guaranteed to leave us more exhausted, less united as a country, more suspicious and fearful of authority, amplify the problems of corruption, and generally leave us less safe than before.

What are your values, Jack? Respect for the rule of law? Respect for the Constitution? Skepticism concerning government intrusion into American lives? Courage and level-headedness in the face of our enemies?

My values, not merely as a Democrat, but as an American, tell me that this country must be defended in ways that are consistent with its founding principles. Any other means of defense, whether effective or not, will be self-destructive for our nation if they are institutionalized and legalized.

I will not live in fear of either the terrorists or my government, nor have my children do so as well. It seems ironic to me that those who most fiercely claim to love this country are so insecure about the feasibility of its core principles in a time of crisis and war. I do not think of American values as making us weak or defenseless, if we hold to them. I think we’re smart enough and tough enough to defeat these people without constant resort to the destruction of civil liberties, and I and other Democrats will stand on those values any day.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 16, 2008 9:32 AM
Comment #245475

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security - Ben Franklin

almost like he is talking about todays debate.

Posted by: napajohn at February 16, 2008 10:06 AM
Comment #245479

Much like the Clemens hearing this is all for show. The power elite already have ceded the issue.

The contention that this is something newfangled is absurd.

It is only tangentially about protecting us from terrorist. It is about continuing to have control of a population.


Neither the Dems nor Reps will stop this snooping. It has gone on from the time of Washington. The same argument could be made about traffic stops which are made, presumably for safety reasons. The same argument is made here. Everyone knows that police use traffic stops to find drugs, check for warrants, increase revenue and generally snoop on people. The same issue is at hand here. It’s about effective control of people.

The Libertarians have the idealology right, but everyone also knows their idealogy is throwback fundamentalism that has no practical application in these situations. Yes, we accept these intrusions to trade for some degree of political stability and criminal dimunition.

Fighting for the equality of the little guy seems a more likely fruitful endeavor and one with a base of support.

Posted by: googlumpugus at February 16, 2008 11:04 AM
Comment #245498

googlumpugus-
This is not for show, not if we don’t want it to be. No elite can maintain power forever over an unwilling, vigilant population. It may seem tough to put the brakes on this, but it’s only tough now because this situation has been rolling downhill for so long.

Remember: things were once much worse than they are now for the average person. Go back a century, and even today’s degraded situation is better in many ways. There is nothing inevitable about the progression of history.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 16, 2008 1:48 PM
Comment #245507

The use of polls to support one’s position is just an exercise in popularity, not sensible deliberation. If one believes his/her position is correct and 99 others believe it is not, is this reason enough to change a firmly held, well-reasoned belief? I think not. In the world of financial markets, the “street” is always correct as it measures real people making real decisions with something real at stake…Money! Those responding to polls may be ill-informed and may be answering a question for which they are not prepared. And, most importantly, they have nothing at stake…they can change their mind tomorrow with no consequences. Shortly after 911 the overwhelming majority of Americans were convinced of our vulnerability and need for action. A call for action echoed thru the halls of Congress and our representatives responded. Today, we have become lazy and forgetful and while the same threats to our safety exist, many have become lulled into a false sense of security. How fickle is the American public! A single terrorist act committed against Americans on our soil will immediately swing the polls back again to our 911 mentality. I submit to you that relying upon public opinion for our actions as related to security is insane and a certain recipe for disaster. The public never has all the information necessary to make the best decisions. If that were not true, we would never elect an incompetent judge or a crooked politician. We would never elect a shitty president. Be very careful about citing polls and using that information as a basis for an argument. The blogs above are filled with emotion and very little common sense. Emotion should not rule the country, reasoned principles based upon existing knowledge and a respect for history is needed. Party affiliation and personal agenda is not reason enough to allow emotion to overcome common sense. All the mud-slinging about liberal vs conservative, bad president vs good president, my side vs your side is merely emotional child’s-play. I suggest we look for ways to let our brain rule and stop the name-calling and posturing.

Posted by: Jim M at February 16, 2008 3:07 PM
Comment #245521

Jim M-
I think you misunderstand. People haven’t forgotten 9/11 or national security. It’s the fact that they remember it that has them turned against Bush.

The Bush Administration took a rather elitists position on the matter, taking the War on Terrorism away from the obvious, and it turns out correct path, and onto some path that a bunch of neocon conspiracy theorists wanted. And so, we’re left five years into a failed war with no end in sight, and the man Bush once said he’d get dead or alive remains free, and is in fact reconstituting his forces largely unbothered in Pakistan. So people are angry. They feel deceived, taken advantage of. Thought contributes to feeling, feeling affects thought.

And why not? We have to stop thinking in terms of perfect judgment. Nobody has that. Instead, we think and we feel. The parts of the brain that give us deliberative judgement are hooked right into the parts that work off of emotion.

Without emotion, there’s little in the way of motivation. Emotion also serves as a map of salience for things; our feelings reflect our experience. Rather than go through the trouble of thinking everything out all the time, the Brain resorts when it can to working by intuitive feel. What we need to do is not remove feeling from judgment, but to discipline ourselves, to allow our rational sides to temper our emotional sides, and vice versa.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 16, 2008 8:08 PM
Comment #245526

Stephen—
well thought out and well written reply.. i think jim just needs a hug

Posted by: napajohn at February 16, 2008 9:59 PM
Comment #245534

Stephen

“Second, no warrant whatsoever is required for communications without American citizens involved, which covers much of the terrorists communications without any problem.”

This is factually incorrect and the nub of the problem. Many calls are routed through the U.S. We gain great advatage from this. New interpretations of FISA would require warrants for calls NOT involving U.S. citizens but “in” (the virtual sense at least) the U.S.

Beyond that, it is often not possible to know if the communications include American citizens. Sometimes you may pick up communications between two individuals talking about a terror attack and never be able to identify the participants.

If Dems are willing to

1. exempt communication among non-US citizens and
2. exempt communications where the individuals (and/or citizenship) cannot be reasonably identified.

I am with you. I believe if we are listening in on the communications of a clearly identified individual American citizen, we should get a warrant. This is not the dispute. This is the old tech, no problem.

So if you agree on these three points, you are on my side.

Posted by: Jack at February 17, 2008 1:31 AM
Comment #245546

Jack-
Non-US Citizens were already exempted under the 1978 version of the law. If the person is a resident alien or a citizen, it’s a three day retroactive warrant which just requires that a person demonstrate that they’re a foreign power or working for one.

It’s a red herring, really. First, we know that the NSA had the telecoms routing and copying traffic wholesale. The point is, Bush just doesn’t want to have to go through any real probable cause findings in order to justify surveillance or searching of personal files. The wiretapping is the least of the problems, and it’s bad enough as it is.

It opens up so much to abuse, so much to some official’s arbitrary designation of what is a reasonable search and seizure, in the name of security that realistically nobody can truly promise. Attention is not infinite. Releasing the government from restriction on surveillance might only result in limited resources being spread more thinly, or in the wrong direction as the checks against frivolous and abusive surveillance implicit in the warrant process are undone.

You folks always turn to the notion of the ticking time-bomb scenario to justify this, but lets be realistic: if that really was the case, there would be considerable understanding for those who bend or break the rules in these emergency circumstances to try and intercept the bad guys and foil their plans.

The problem comes when the only justification for this wholesale invasion of privacy, is the possibility of this being the case. Well, if we go by that argument, then the whole point of Fourth Amendment protections become moot, because that is essentially a perpetual state of emergency, and that means a perpetual license to snoop without a warrant on everybody.

Only when there is some legal standard that has to be overcome do we get away from this police state sensibility of acting on suspicion and letting the government intrude whereever it wants.

FISA and other laws already cover many of these circumstances, and do not get in the way of much of our surveillance. Your party is just playing the fear card to justify what, if you took a few seconds to look at it, would obviously be an excessively authoritarian and unconstitutional provision.

Yes, FISA needs to be updated. However, the protections for those who are not terrorists nor involved with them, needs to remain, both to keep the focus of the investigations on the right people, and to keep it off of the wrong people, who have done nothing to merit such scrutiny.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 17, 2008 7:54 AM
Comment #245550

Stephen

We may have a dispute that is easily cleared up. As I wrote immmediately above,
1. exempt communication among non-US citizens and
2. exempt communications where the individuals (and/or citizenship) cannot be reasonably identified.

Are you saying that non-US citizens are not included even if they are in the US or the calls are routed through the US?

Resident alien is a specific category. Would you include people visiting the US or here illegally?

I really don’t know. My impression of the rule is different from yours. If you have some other information, please share.

My other concern is re people who cannot be identified. We might pick up a terrorist plot, but not know and never find out who the people were on either end of the line. Would this also be exempt? This is how the world of 2008 is differnent from the 1978.

Law is always in the details. I would like to see these things made specific. Even the resident alien caveat is potentially a problem.

I agree that if we have a specfic individual identifed American citizen, we should get a warrant. Have you heard of any specific situations where that was not done?

If we are talking about generally assessment of data or the aggregating of information, OR tapping foreigners, I do not think it should be warranted.

Posted by: Jack at February 17, 2008 9:38 AM
Comment #245552

Stephen,

I think it is for show. I know there are many screaming about invasion of privacy rights. The point I have tried to make and, in this one instance, I have to agree with Bush. In times of national threat, which in modern times is constant, the president has the power to use whatever means to protect the U.S. In Washington’s time espionage in this country included inserting friends into loyalist groups, intercepting mail, listening to rumors, interfering in foreign business relationships in France and England.

Privacy existed only in that people made an effort to isolate themselves from society. It is the same today, except communications have advanced. Spying on US citizens has gone on without warrant for centuries. It is only when that leads to some injustice that we hear about it and are outraged.

It will go on regardless of the outcome of FISA or immunity laws. It is how humans conduct war, which is just forceful use of violence, in exerting power, or controlling populations. It is Machiavellian in nature and is used by all power elites. As noble as it is to defend privacy, it simply doesn’t exist.

Yes, we live better today than in our fairly recent past, in some ways. The fight of the average man, however, is not against espionage, it is against the tyranny of the economically pwoerful, who take away his quality of life and add to their own. That is the fight that will find support, and be understood by all.

I don’t fear being spied upon, having my internet google habits monitored, unless it is being used to take away my freedoms. If it is used to restrict what I can read politically, like say, Al Jazeera, then I object. If it is used to limit P2P upload rates, then I object, If it is used to trace pedophiles, I don’t object. If I become labeled a pedophile because I watch teen cheerleaders, I object.

It is the action of repression, not the knowledge of my activities, that I object to. I expect no real privacy on the phone or internet. I expect no privacy when I tell my coworker I’m gay, because I know people talk. I don’t expect my library records to be private. If I want privacy, I share only with those I completely trust. If I want privacy, I’ll steal a book or read it in dark corners.

If I wanted to start a revolution, I wouldn’t use the phone or internet in a way that would be detectable, anyway. I have my doubts about the efficacy of their program anyway, and find these legalistic excercises in fantasy, on both sides, less than useful in real life. You will never remove the powerful from there ability to know what happens in society. Freedom, IMHO, is about limiting their ability to use that knowledge against my freedoms, not to limit their knowledge.

Posted by: googlumpugus at February 17, 2008 12:13 PM
Comment #245553

The problem with McCarthyite politicians is that they believe that it is always a time of national threat. The real threat being that there are people out there who are opposed to them and their policies, which they conflate with being UnAmerican, since only they know what is in the national interest. When the country is in a war, people who oppose the war, or are in contact with others who oppose the war overseas are thought of as enemy agents, even if the people they contact have no power to do anything other than complain.

Posted by: ohrealy at February 17, 2008 12:33 PM
Comment #245560

Jack-
Resident alien is a legal term, referring to legal, documented aliens that make this country their home. FISA refers to Permanent Resident Aliens, so, for the most part this means people who are immigrating and on the path to citizenship.

FISA does not require warrants for taps on foreigners, just Americans and those essentially becoming Americans.

As for identifying the person on the other end of the line, I don’t think that would necessarily be that difficult. If you were tapping the line, you’d probably be watching the phone numbers, and establishing who is talking to them anyways.

The aggregration of information is okay, if we’re talking about public domain information, where nobody has any expectation of privacy. As a matter of fact, due to the glamor of secret information, open source information is often badly neglected as a tool for intelligence.

But once you start digging into people’s personal information, the rules should apply. Privacy and Search and Seizure rules help protect people’s lives, their property, and their affairs from the unwarranted (literal and figurative) interference of government. Without such freedom, officials can interfere with the public’s affairs for personal and political gain. Remember that FISA originated in the post-Watergate Period, after the taps that were allowed for the sake of national security were abused by the politicians and the officials in power.

In the end, freedom constitutes its own kind of security for the American people.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 17, 2008 1:22 PM
Comment #245567
The telecom companies relied on the interpretation of their and your government. Bush didn’t call them up. The American authorities did. If you put them into the trial lawyer paradise, few people will ever want to cooperate with their government before they consult their own lawyers who might well interpret everything differently.

And why, exactly, is that a problem? Why should we expect American citizens to blindly comply with the government? Isn’t it your position, and that of your party, that government cannot be trusted and the government that governs best governs least? Why, then, does your innate suspicion of government not extend to the idea that citizens should have the right, even the duty, to check if a government order is actually legal before cooperation is either expected or required?

Posted by: Jarandhel at February 17, 2008 2:30 PM
Comment #245570

Stephen

I think we may agree on some things but be talking past each other on others.

My understanding is that we are rarely talking about tapping a particular phone or even targeting a particular individual when talking re warrantless searches. Rather it is the aggregation or general monitoring. For example, searching through communications for key words that might indicate a terror plot. Most of these would be false positives and abandoned on investigation. I think it would be premtively difficult to get warrants on these millions of communications. It is a lot like watching a rive flow under a bridge looking for something floating on the top. You look at a lot of water.

Let me ask a serious question (this is not meant to put anybody on the spot) does anybody here know of a case where an individually identified American citizen has been tapped w/o a warrant? I have not heard of any, which is why it seems to me that we are talking more about the data gathering than the tapping in the sense you mean.

jarandel

It was in 2001/2. Everybody expected renewed terrorist attacks. We have been successful in avoiding them, maybe BECAUSE of some of the coopeation.

When I was in college (many years ago), I saw a man running from the police. As he ran by, I put my foot out. He tripped. They caught him and arrested him. Citizens tend to help the authorities in emergency situations. I suppose I would have been on stronger legal ground just to stand and do nothing. It was not my business, but where I grew up we thought that citizens should be involved.

More recently, I was walking down the street and the police asked me some questions about some cars parked on the road. As it happens, I didn’t know anything about them, but if I had, I would have shared that information. I suppose I should have taken the standard crook response and told them nothing.

One reason ghettos are so dangerous is because people won’t cooperate with the authorities.

As a conservative, I dislike taxes, but I pay my taxes in full and on time and fill out the Byzantine forms as best I can. I dislike regulation, but I follow the rules to the extent possible. I believe in smaller government, but I give my government the benefit of the doubt if it seems to need my assistance as a citizen.

One of the great ironies of liberals is that they call for bigger and bigger government but often do not respect the rules we already have. I suppose it is also a irony of conservatives that we support smaller government but are more law abiding. Generally speaking, however, the conservative postion is more responsible.

If my government wants information on the suspected terrorist next door, I will give it to them. Sorry about that to the terrorist next door, but it would be unwise to move in near me. You may disagree, so maybe the guy can move to your neighborhood.

Posted by: Jack at February 17, 2008 3:03 PM
Comment #245578

Jack:

It was in 2001/2. Everybody expected renewed terrorist attacks. We have been successful in avoiding them, maybe BECAUSE of some of the cooperation.

Would I be correct in assuming your notation (2001/2) means 2001 through 2002? (It could also be read as February 2001, and I’m trying to minimize the chance of misinterpreting any portion of your response.) If that is the case, I would like to point out to you that Bush authorized data-mining and warrant-less wiretapping programs well before September 11th. These activities were authorized in early 2001, shortly after Bush took office. We know this from the testimony of Joseph Nacchio, owner of Qwest:

Nacchio unsuccessfully attempted to defend himself by arguing that he actually expected Qwest’s 2001 earnings to be higher because of secret NSA contracts, which, he contends, were denied by the NSA after he declined in a February 27, 2001 meeting to give the NSA customer calling records, court documents released this week show.

AT&T, Verizon and Bellsouth all agreed to turn over call records to an NSA database, according to reporting in the USA Today in 2006. At that time, Nacchio’s lawyer publicly stated that Nacchio declined to participate until served with a proper legal order.
http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/10/nsa-asked-for-p.html

Given that such programs were authorized and in place seven months prior to September 11th, 2001, it seems rather fanciful to credit them with the apparent domestic safety we have experienced since September 11th. Surely, if such programs truly have the capacity to stop major terrorist attacks, they would have stopped that one.

When I was in college (many years ago), I saw a man running from the police. As he ran by, I put my foot out. He tripped. They caught him and arrested him. Citizens tend to help the authorities in emergency situations. I suppose I would have been on stronger legal ground just to stand and do nothing. It was not my business, but where I grew up we thought that citizens should be involved.

Frankly, I really don’t see the relevance of this comment. It is not against the law to detain someone for the police… it is against the law to share private information such as what the telecom companies have shared. Specifically it is a violation of Title VII, Section 702 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 regarding privacy of customer information. Complying with requests for this information, absent warrant or customer approval, would be more akin to roughing someone up at the request of the police than simply detaining them. I trust you see the distinction?

More recently, I was walking down the street and the police asked me some questions about some cars parked on the road. As it happens, I didn’t know anything about them, but if I had, I would have shared that information. I suppose I should have taken the standard crook response and told them nothing.

Again, this situation is not analogous to the type of compliance demonstrated in the telecommunications case. It would be more analogous if the police had asked you to break into one of the cars and search it for them without a warrant.

One reason ghettos are so dangerous is because people won’t cooperate with the authorities.

But we are not discussing not cooperating, we are discussing having the right and duty to make sure that a request is legal before complying with it. Speaking to a lawyer first to ensure that it is should not be met with the hostility you exhibit here, nor should it be seen as equivalent to promoting criminality and lawlessness.

As a conservative, I dislike taxes, but I pay my taxes in full and on time and fill out the Byzantine forms as best I can. I dislike regulation, but I follow the rules to the extent possible. I believe in smaller government, but I give my government the benefit of the doubt if it seems to need my assistance as a citizen.

Except that you also seem to be advocating for citizens to break the rules if it will help a government official who asks for your assistance as a citizen. That is not consistent with following the rules to the extent possible. There’s a point at which you need to stop giving the benefit of the doubt. It’s the same way a soldier has a duty to disobey an illegal order.

One of the great ironies of liberals is that they call for bigger and bigger government but often do not respect the rules we already have. I suppose it is also a irony of conservatives that we support smaller government but are more law abiding. Generally speaking, however, the conservative position is more responsible.

The irony is, in fact, that you are denigrating liberals for not following existing laws when we are trying to convince this republican administration to follow them. When we are condemning the illegal compliance of companies who handed over confidential information without either a warrant or customer authorization, and condemning the idea that amnesty should be extended to those companies so that it will not have a chilling effect on future illegal compliance. It is more responsible to hold those who have broken the law accountable for it, than to give them retroactive immunity lest they hesitate before breaking it again in the future.

If my government wants information on the suspected terrorist next door, I will give it to them. Sorry about that to the terrorist next door, but it would be unwise to move in near me. You may disagree, so maybe the guy can move to your neighborhood.

Again, your analogy falls short. Unless you are a doctor or a lawyer or otherwise in possession of confidential, legally privileged information, about your neighbor the suspected terrorist, there is simply no comparison between this and the compliance exhibited by telecommunications companies.

Posted by: Jarin at February 17, 2008 6:02 PM
Comment #245580

Jack-
From what I heard the kind of aggregating approach doesn’t always work well. The reason lies in the multiplicity of meanings people can draw from the symbols we use to communicate. Let’s say you use the world bomb. That should be easy, right?

Well, no. First you have many discussions of the plot of movies, TV shows, Novels, and of terrorism in the modern world. You have possibilities ranging from people discussing military activity in the past, to somebody discussing strategy in the latest Metroid game.

You have people discussing messy rooms that look as if a bomb went off in them. You have people discussing things they really like, that are da bomb, or that bombed at the box office. You even have people discussing that comment John McCain made to the tune of a Beach Boys song.

Meaningful information is a lot rarer than regular information. An investigative technique that so massively expands the volume of information might possibly give you what you want, but it could also drown you in so much information that you can’t get through in time to preserve the timeliness of the information. At the same time, if you cross reference these kinds of terms, you may go the other way, and find nothing at all, or be left with nothing but irrelevant information.

I’ve found that if you want to find something meaningful, the best option is often to start with the facts and do the detective work from the beginning. It’s sort of like that CSI axiom: every contact leaves a trace. It’s also the way they describe tracking skills, in the way that a person’s interaction with the environment brings about effects on that environment in a sort of sphere of evidence.

Put simply, the best way to find information on suspects is to follow the trail of evidence, because every bit of evidence is the result of an interaction that leaves other bits of evidence around it, and which relates to further events that will leave evidence. Rather than sift through tons of irrelevant information dragnetting for terrorists you know nothing about, you use reliable evidence from one source to pursue others.

As for the Liberal attitudes are? To be honest, there are probably a range of attitudes for the average Liberal, which is why politicians initially went with these things.

But I’ll tell you what: our attitude is that government and people both need moderation for the freedom of the average American to be meaningful, and as fully realized as possible. It’s to balance the interests of the powerful, so that nobody, not the corporations, not criminals, not terrorists, nor the government, can hold tyrannical power over people’s lives.

You would put such faith in government on security matters, but look what your faith in your legislators got you: When you trusted them without question, they betrayed practically every principle of your party.

The size of government for me is not the question. I don’t mind smaller government, less spending, higher efficiency. It is not a sin to me to reduce needless bureacracy, or to lower taxes. However, I’m not going to habitually rule out government, regulation, spending, taxes or other things like that. My principles are not built on these sorts of ideas being set in stone. I want government that works, that serves the public interest. And yes, my idea of that will differ from yours, so some of your opinions about what’s the right course of action will differ in ways you’ll find hard to accept.

As for the terrorist next door? Well you could be talking out your hat about that. Truth of the matter is, we must assume that our government is fallible, both practically speaking, and morally speaking, and that we need protections along those lines to keep innocent lives from being victimized by those failures.

I will not give my government the benefit of the doubt. It is too powerful to be so trusted. I will however follow the law. Conservatives do not have the monopoly on respect for law and order, nor do we have the monopoly on disrespect of it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 17, 2008 8:57 PM
Comment #245581

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
you step out of line
the man comes and takes you away
(for what its worth, buffalo springfield)

I really do not expect anyone from the federal government to come to me to help them watch my neighbors, even though the kid next door terrorizes his poor mother.

Posted by: ohrealy at February 17, 2008 9:02 PM
Comment #245588

Jack
The FISA laws were put into effect in response to the Nixon administation use of survallence against Vietnam War opponents in an effort to stiffle desent.This should be repugnant to every American with even the lest bit of respect fpr the Bill of Rights.There is no reason to believe this administration is not doing the same. Actually it is naive to believe they are not.Are you willing to bet the farm that Cindy Sheehan phone is not tapped?

Posted by: Bills at February 18, 2008 3:42 AM
Comment #245595

Stephen

Aggrgation works very well both for information gatherers in the private and the public sector. MOST of the leads are false. But with the help of fast analysis, they can be eliminated. One reason we have not suffered further terror attacks is the thousands of little plots that were stopped before they got started.

THere is a big place for the CSI style investigation WHEN you have leads. Information aggregation supplies leads. Remember that CSI investigates AFTER the crime. Better to avoid the terror attack than explain it after, don’t you think?

I think your formulation showed exactly why the FISA of 1978 is not applicable to the challenges of 2008 w/o modification. I am also afraid that most people and most legislators really do not understand the nature of the technologies and techniques.

I don’t want to overdo the pop-culture analogies, but they are still thinking CSI (or maybe Dragnet). We (and the terrorists) have moved into the Matrix.

Jarin

I am not advocating breaking the law. I am advocating updating a 1978 law to encompass innovations available to us - and the terrorists - in 2008.

You know Bush will not be president this time next year. I would also want a president Obama or a president Clinton to be able to protect us from 21st century threats. They cannot do that with 30 year old rules.

If you can get the terrorists to use TI computers and “pong” level processing, if you can get them not to use Internet of celphones, if you can get them not to use modern encription and all those other things that have happened since 1978, then I will certainly be happy to demand a warrant for every phone booth and land line we need to tap.

Posted by: Jack at February 18, 2008 7:45 AM
Comment #245597

Bills,

I remember when living in Dallas that Reagan used the same tactics against a church that was assisting regugees from El Salvador and Nicarauga, and a peace activist group. It never made national news. My problem with all this wrangling over FISA is that it is ineffective. People in power will seek out information. Some of it will be justified, Some will not. While Reagan was eventually told no about Iran/Contra, he never was prosecuted. He just didn’t know what was happening in the basement. The Contra’s were defunded by Congress, and the CIA used dope smuggling and gun running to go around Congress. No one was prosecuted for the murdering assassin squads unleashed on foreign lands, or the military “advisors” that paricipated in the war there.

There is law and then there is the leeway we always give the CIC. It’s the perk of being elected into a position of power.
The power elite are not going to taka away that power. If the citizenry were really outraged, they would have been behind Ron Paul. To me, this is a bunch of lawyers discussing angels on the head of a pin. It is never prosecuted. Nixon would have only been prosecuted for the cover up, not the wiretaps.

Posted by: googlumpugus at February 18, 2008 8:59 AM
Comment #245598

Jack,

Matrix??!! Someone has been watching waaaay too much Sci-Fi.

Posted by: googlumpugus at February 18, 2008 9:02 AM
Comment #245600

Jack,

BTW, there has been no evidence that these snooping programs have resulted in one iota of useful information. Since the tactic is now well known, I think the chances of it working are between Slim and None, and Slim just rode off into the sunset. These things only catch really stupid wanna be’s like the pizza plotters in New Jersey (I think that’s where it was), or the guys buying cell phones in Texas (They were Arabic students, looking to make a profit, not IED’s). They had big dreams, but they were morons from the get go.
Anyone can be a mass murderer like Tim McVay, or Bin Laden, intel won’t be likely to pick it up. Mass killing of innocents just takes craziness. Notice the terrorist events in repressive regimes like China and Russia. And they watch the political nutjobs, closely, without FISA.

Increasing mental health funding might be more effective.

Posted by: googlumpugus at February 18, 2008 9:17 AM
Comment #245611

Jack:

The telecommunications act was written in 1996. Things haven’t changed that much since 1996 that we need to simply scrap the law and grant retroactive immunity to those who have broken it in the name of protecting us. And yes, you are advocating breaking the law: you are specifically saying that we should grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies who have illegally handed over privileged information without a court order (in other words, broken the law) so that these companies will not feel obligated to check with their lawyers first before undertaking similar illegal but “cooperative” actions in the future.

Or would you like your doctor or lawyer, tomorrow, to hand over all of your privileged communications to the government, just to be helpful to the nice officers asking for it?

Posted by: Jarandhel at February 18, 2008 11:39 AM
Comment #245623

Google, Jarin et al

How do you think information gathering works? Activities produce patterns that can be discovered. The bad guys often are unaware of their patterns, just as you or I might be of ours.

Whenever you uncover a plot, it looks like the guys are morons. Imagine breaking up the 9/11 plot a month before. Did these guys really think they could seize planes with box cutters? And then fly them into buildings?

Information gathering like this works in business, government and intelligence. You guys may look into it as a career option.

Re the telcom firms - if they broke the law let the law be applied. What the Dems are proposing is to allow trial lawyers to rewrite the law and work whatever they can. This is because the Dems know the law does not apply and they want to go the lawsuite route around it.

Posted by: Jack at February 18, 2008 2:28 PM
Comment #245629

Jack:

They did break the law. That is why the President is pushing for a bill which grants retroactive immunity to the telecoms. Immunity is not necessary if they did not break the law, and the fact that immunity is being sought in this way is a tacit admission that they did break the law. What the Dems are proposing is to not pass retroactive immunity, and allow those whose confidential, legally-protected information was disseminated to the government without warrant or authorization, to seek appropriate reparations. In other words, to press charges. Lawsuits are the mechanism through which this is done. Lawsuits are not a route around the law, they are a route towards enforcing existing laws.

Posted by: Jarandhel at February 18, 2008 3:01 PM
Comment #245694

The president is pushing for them to be protected from lawsuites - i.e. legal speculation.

I have been party to three class action lawsuites. “My” lawyers won each time and collecgted big bucks. I never got a dime and I never understood the thing, but it is nearly impossible to opt out of a class action suit. It is a kind of legal piracy. We just do not want to open this up.

I have a serious question I have asked before. Does anyone know of even ONE individually identified bona-fide U.S. citizen who was negatively impacted by any of these activties. I have been unable to find one. Have you heard of anybody.

I would be perfectly content to allow lawsuites by individuals so affected and let them recover triple damages, but we all know that is not what the trial lawyers or their Dem allies have in mind.

Posted by: Jack at February 19, 2008 2:55 AM
Comment #245703

Jack,

The problem is not that it may not uncover plots, just that it is very expensive and unlikely to.

The plots I mentioned were uncovered by people, not supercomputers.

This has been understood for a long time. It’s usually someone with knowledge that betrays a plot. General Washington used it, and so do we in “modern” times.

It’s an unproven experiment. It may alert us to nutcases with stupidity, not well thought out plots. 9/11 was suspected by several people, but ignored by our intelligence managers. The lesson here is obvious. Sci Fi is fun and I’m not against learning, but mostly this is useless stuff of fantasy. Spies know well how to defeat patterns.

I get a chuckle when I hear people getting all worked up, and politicians grandstanding.

Posted by: googlumpugus at February 19, 2008 10:16 AM
Comment #245706

Jack,

If you live without a credit card, pay in cash, don’t use a cell phone and don’t use the internet or mail, you are difficult to trace. One way to communicate over the internet is to post to bulletin boards using anonymous or falsified identity on public computers. Anyone can read the messages, obviously encoded, lost among the mass of interweb info. Even a supercomputer won’t stop this kind of communication. The old note under a rock is another way. Unless you already know where to look, you won’t trace this. It’s still fairly easy to avoid detection. A wall won’t stop it, and a national ID won’t stop it. The gestapo won’t stop it, either. In fact, the more these tactics are used the more motivated the underground becomes. It is tha fallacy that all facists forget.

Either you must imprison people, destroying their productivity, and buliding a violent counter revolt within their ranks, or you must give freedom to a people. Al Qaeda is a direct result of Egypt’s repression. US repressive technics only work short term.

Posted by: googlumpugus at February 19, 2008 10:31 AM
Comment #245771

Jack:

The president is pushing for them to be protected from lawsuites - i.e. legal speculation.

Lawsuits are not legal speculation, they are the way that individuals may recover civil damages when they are wronged. They’re the entire reason we have civil procedure in the US as well as criminal.

I have been party to three class action lawsuites. “My” lawyers won each time and collecgted big bucks. I never got a dime and I never understood the thing, but it is nearly impossible to opt out of a class action suit. It is a kind of legal piracy. We just do not want to open this up.

I think the most telling part of your comment is that you never understood the thing. Class action lawsuits involve cases where large groups of people have been wronged. The kind of settlement you’re describing is something known as a coupon settlement… when the company pays damages that are essentially a token given the number of people they must be divided among. They are a tool of the companies to preclude large groups of people from seeking damages when they know they are liable. If piracy is involved, it’s on the part of the companies who use these token settlements to avoid real liability.

I have a serious question I have asked before. Does anyone know of even ONE individually identified bona-fide U.S. citizen who was negatively impacted by any of these activities. I have been unable to find one. Have you heard of anybody.

Well, it depends on what you define as “negatively affected”. All of us (who are not Qwest customers) had confidential, legally protected information about ourselves released to the government without warrant or our authorization. There is no real difference between this and a doctor releasing your medical records, a psychologist releasing details of your counseling, or a lawyer releasing confidential communications. If we, as a nation, decide that it is alright for the telecoms to simply hand over personal, confidential information to the government in violation of federal law, then what protects us from the same thing being done by Doctors, by Lawyers, by every other holder of confidential information? In such a world, our fourth amendment rights are meaningless. I’d say that’s a rather huge negative impact.

I would be perfectly content to allow lawsuites by individuals so affected and let them recover triple damages, but we all know that is not what the trial lawyers or their Dem allies have in mind.

No, it’s not. First, because individual lawsuits by all of the affected customers would tie up our legal system for centuries. We’re talking about actions which have violated the rights of millions of americans. Second, because the damages involved are not so easily quantifiable as you suggest. Someone telling the government about my phone usage, my medical records, my private legal communications, does me no tangible financial harm. But it is a violation of my basic rights. How would you assign damages for that?

Posted by: jarandhel at February 19, 2008 8:56 PM
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