Author Topic: Rockefeller guarantees Telecom Immunity in new FISA law (He owns Telecom!)  (Read 4857 times)

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Offline Dig

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Senate passes intelligence bill after Democrats back down on presidential briefings, CIA jails
http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Backing_down_on_demands_for_Iraq_1005.html
Larisa Alexandrovna Published: Friday October 5, 2007



After a stalemate of over two years, the Senate passed the 2008 Intelligence Authorization bill Wednesday, with Democrats ceding a key provision regarding pre-war Iraq intelligence that Republicans had decried. Sources close to the Senate Intelligence Committee say one of the compromises Democrats made to ensure the bill’s passage was to remove language demanding the White House turn over all Presidential Daily Briefings on Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion. Democrats are said to have been hoping to establish whether President Bush mischaracterized intelligence in the lead-up to the conflict. “The provision on the PDBs was dropped because Republicans objected and were blocking consideration of the bill,” a Senate source said Wednesday. The request for the PDBs, which also included briefings for President Clinton on Iraq, was part of what is known as Phase II of the Senate investigation into Iraq prewar intelligence, the source added. Phase I of that investigation, which was released in 2004, focused primarily on intelligence failures by the CIA, while Phase II focused on five specific areas of inquiry, only two of which have been released. The PDBs were requested to determine whether public statements by the White House, as well as testimony and reports regarding Iraq's alleged WMD program, were substantiated by intelligence information. The inability of the Senate to pass the authorization bill in 2005 was the first time that had occurred in the nearly 30 years since the creation of the Intelligence Committee in 1975 following President Nixon's resignation and the investigations that followed.  The 2006 version of the bill was blocked from Senate consideration by then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). The main point of contention for Senate Republicans was, as now, the provision to require the White House to provide the PDBs on the Iraq war.

Another Senate source familiar with the bill said that the Democrats felt this was the only way they could get the bill passed, and avoid yet another failure of intelligence oversight. Democrats also dropped a demand for the Director of Central Intelligence to identify and hand over documentation related to secret prisons run by the US government around the world and operations involving extraordinary rendition.  Sources tell RAW STORY that although Director of National Intelligence John McConnell was not willing to provide the information to relevant oversight Senate committees, the Committee felt comfortable in removing the requirement from the authorization bill because the Director of Central Intelligence, General Michael Hayden, had given them “everything we needed.” Another provision removed from the bill was a requirement for the Intelligence Community to study the effects of climate change on national security. A Senate source close to the Intelligence Committee explained Thursday that the Committee had received a letter several weeks prior from the Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, Dr. Thomas Fingar, assuring them that the Director of National Intelligence had begun the study. Fingar purportedly said that they expect to publish their findings in early 2008,  Senate Democrats “believe that they were given enough assurance that this matter was being looked into,” said the source. Dr. Fingar was not immediately available for comment.

The Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), issued praise late Wednesday for the passage of the bill, which now goes to the House-Senate Conference Committee. “Intelligence Authorization bills are the most important way for Congress to weigh-in and have a voice on sensitive national security programs. Given the controversial nature of some of these programs in recent years, it was absolutely critical for Congress to maintain its oversight," Rockefeller said in a release. "Sadly, for nearly 3 years, we were blocked from providing this important guidance and giving our intelligence officers the support they deserved.” The 2005 version of the authorization bill was blocked from being brought before the Senate by a hold by an “anonymous” Republican Senator.  The main reason why Senate Republicans blocked the authorization from coming to the floor involved two key provisions in the language of the bill. The first of those provisions, introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in an amendment, required the White House to turn over all Presidential Daily Briefings on Iraq WMD capabilities starting with the Clinton administration and going up to March of 2003, when "Operation Iraqi Freedom" -- the Iraq war -- began.
Other provisions:

The provisions that made it into the final Senate version of the current authorization bill focused by and large on administrative and budgetary concerns. The key provisions include language that:

Changes the way personnel levels are authorized and gives the DNI the ability to exceed those ceilings by as much as five percent;

Enables the DNI to fund information-sharing efforts that span across the Intelligence Community;

Changes the requirements for reprogramming funds to make it easier to address emerging needs;

Authorizes the DNI to use interagency funding to establish national intelligence centers;

Establishes a contingency fund for the DNI to react to emergencies or unforeseen opportunities;

Gives the DNI the authority and responsibility to conduct accountability reviews across the Intelligence Community if he deems it necessary or if requested by Congress;

Creates a strong, independent Inspector General for the Intelligence Community confirmed by the Senate within the office of the DNI, and establishes statutory Inspectors General at the NSA, NRO, DIA and NGA;

Requires Senate confirmation of the directors of the NSA, NRO and NGA establishing a Senate confirmed Deputy Director for the CIA;

Requires the DNI to report on the implementation of the Detainee Treatment Act;

Calls for an annual assessment of personnel levels across the Intelligence Community to include a statement that those levels are supported by adequate infrastructure, training and funding, and a review of the appropriate use of contractors;

Requires a vulnerability assessment for all major acquisition programs; and

Curbs cost overruns and schedule delays by creating an annual reporting system on all major Intelligence Community acquisitions similar.


Larisa Alexandrovna is managing editor of investigative news for Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security stories. Email her at [email protected].
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Senator Rockefeller guarantees Telecom Immunity in new FISA law
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2007, 04:14:53 pm »
Democratic Lawmaker Pushing Immunity Is Newly Flush With Telco Cash
By Ryan Singel October 18, 2007 | 6:21:44 PMCategories: Surveillance   
http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/10/dem-pushing-spy.html


Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) is reportedly steering the secretive Senate Intelligence Committee to give retroactive immunity to telecoms that helped the government secretly spy on Americans. He has also recently benefited from some interesting political contributions.


Top Verizon executives, including CEO Ivan Seidenberg and President Dennis Strigl, wrote personal checks to Rockefeller totaling $23,500 in March, 2007. Prior to that apparently coordinated flurry of 29 donations, only one of those executives had ever donated to Rockefeller (at least while working for Verizon). In fact, prior to 2007, contributions to Rockefeller from company executives at AT&T and Verizon were mostly non-existent. But that changed around the same time that the companies began lobbying Congress to grant them retroactive immunity from lawsuits seeking billions for their alleged participation in secret, warrantless surveillance programs that targeted Americans. The Spring '07 checks represent 86 percent of money donated to Rockefeller by Verizon employees since at least 2001. AT&T executives discovered a fondness for Rockefeller just a month after Verizon execs did and over a three-month span, collectively made donations totaling $19,350. AT&T Vice President Fred McCallum began the giving spree in May with a $500 donation. 22 other AT&T high fliers soon followed with their own checks.


Prior to that burst of generosity, the only AT&T employee donation to Rockefeller was a $300 contribution in 2001. That supporter did not identify herself as a company executive. When asked about the contributions, an AT&T spokesman told THREAT LEVEL: "AT&T employees regularly and voluntarily participate in the political process with their own funds." Both companies are being sued for allegedly turning over billions of calling records to the government, while AT&T is also accused of letting the National Security Agency wiretap phone calls and its internet backbone. A federal judge in California allowed the suits regarding the eavesdropping to continue despite the government's attempt to have the suits thrown out on the grounds they will endanger national security. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed that decision in August. The judges seemed reluctant to toss the cases, but have yet to issue a ruling. On Thursday evening, the Rockefeller-led Senate Intelligence Committee is marking up a bill to re-amend the nation's spy laws. While the text of the bill has not yet been released, the bill reportedly includes a way for the telecoms to escape the litigation against them. Rockefeller's commitment to getting the telecoms out of court surprises some who remember that Rockefeller was originally disturbed enough about the secret spying programs that he hand-wrote a letter to Dick Cheney in 2003, expressing his concerns about the program's legality. In a fairly stunning related news, Democratic Senator Chris Dodd went all in with his political capital Thursday, announcing he would unilaterally put a hold on the bill, which would stop the bill from being voted on. Representatives for Verizon and Rockefeller did not respond to requests for comment. The contributions and the following tables were found thanks to OpenSecrets.org.

UPDATE: Reader Theo writes in to say why the money, though tiny in comparison to Rockefeller's fortune, is not negligible. Rockefeller is believed to have a personal fortune over $100 million. He spent $12 million of personal funds on his first Senate campaign. (http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-3521561.html)

However "in recent campaigns, he has downplayed his personal wealth in one of the nation's poorest states.  'I will not spend one single dime of any money that I have,' he said in 2002. 'So that I if I don't raise money, I won't spend money. I am on exactly the same playing field, so to speak, with anybody else who runs for office.'" AP

He's up for election in 2008. The cost of Senate races has increased several times over the last two decades.   With a serious Republican challenger in WV, which Bush won twice, such as Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, he could be forced to raise tens of millions of dollars.  That, or break his promise not to use his personal fortune, which wouldn't play very well in one of the country's poorest states.

So yes, even a Rockefeller has to raise money.  And in West Virginia, $50,000 is a lot of money.  It's about 2% of all the money he raised last year. (But I'll bet he's slightly more worried about being red-baited for suppurtin' terrists.)

Verizon Employee Contributions to Senator Jay Rockefeller, in reverse chronological order.
http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/10/dem-pushing-spy.html
___________________________________________

It is so weird.  $50,000 is like nothing to Jay.  And he could have gotten it through so many other methods.  Also it could just be a method of doing it slowly, like moving to 100K a month.  But making it this obvious ($0 for 6 years than
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

Offline Dig

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Re: ATT/Verizon Execs pay Jay Rockefeller $50K in 6 months (past 6yrs-$0)
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2007, 04:16:38 pm »
Rocky road ahead for Senate's gift of telecom immunity Nick Juliano
http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Rocky_road_ahead_for_Senates_gift_1019.html
Published: Friday October 19, 2007


Update: Feingold vows to use 'every tool at my disposal' to block telecom immunity, protect privacy; Dodd says will filibuster

A Senate committee advanced a bipartisan piece of legislation that would grant telecommunications companies legal immunity for their cooperation with President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, but lawmakers are expecting at least another month of battle over the scope of the administration's surveillance authority. The Senate Intelligence Committee spent nearly five hours Thursday hammering out the parameters of their proposal to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Despite talk of a bipartisan compromise, critics were still furious about some parts of the bill, and passage in its current form is hardly a guarantee.

"The bill still cedes far too much power to the executive branch, which has time and again shown it will only abuse it," Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) said in a statement. "If the bill that ultimately reaches the Senate floor includes immunity and does not adequately protect the privacy of Americans, I will fight it vigorously with every tool at my disposal.”  Feingold, who serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees, has been a vigorous opponent of attempts to vastly expand presidential power since Sept. 11. He and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) succeeded Thursday in amending the Intelligence committee's bill to explicitly require warrants for surveillance of Americans residing overseas. Although the bill emerged from the committee on a 13-2 vote, the Feingold-Wyden amendment is seen as unacceptable to the Bush administration, and one of the Senate's Democratic presidential candidates has vowed to prevent a floor vote on the bill, which provides immunity for telephone and Internet companies that helped spy on Americans. "I have decided to place a 'hold' on the latest FISA bill that would have included amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled the President's assault on the Constitution by illegally providing personal information on their customers without judicial authorization," Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) said in a statement released by his presidential campaign.

Dodd, who is not a member of the intelligence panel, released the statement before final details of the bill were released Thursday night. His campaign and Senate office did not return RAW STORY's calls seeking comment Friday morning. Later Friday, Dodd released a YouTube video saying he would filibuster the FISA update if necessary. FireDogLake declared, "This is awesome. Go Dodd." The Senate panel agreed to telecom immunity after receiving from the administration long-requested documents outlining the legal justifications of Bush's post-9/11 warrantless surveillance scheme. Their bill is meant to provide narrow grants of immunity to companies that facilitated the then-illegal Terrorist Surveillance Program. Interestingly, approval of the measure coincides with a massive increase in donations from the country's top telecom companies to Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), as noted by Wired's Ryan Singel. The bill requires that the Attorney General certify to the court that companies alleged to have assisted in the program were following a written request or directive from the Attorney General or an intelligence agency head or deputy head as part of the TSP.

Notably, the bill provides no retroactive immunity for government officials, nor does it cover telecommunications' companies actions before Sept. 11, 2001. This provision likely would not kill all pending lawsuits against telecommunications companies, as some have alleged the NSA was recruiting phone companies to conduct legally questionable surveillance as early as February of 2001. Dodd's hold is not the only roadblock being thrown before telecom immunity. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA) both said recently that they had not seen the same documents handed over to the Intelligence Committee. Until they do, the pair said, any question of immunity is a non-starter. The Judiciary Committee is next in line to consider the FISA update before moving a full bill to the Senate floor, which is expected in late November or early December. FISA renewal also has stalled in the House, which would have to agree to any changes in the law before Congress sends a bill to the president. A House measure introduced earlier this month did not contain immunity for telecoms, a key sticking point for the president. Republicans managed to delay consideration of that measure using some parliamentary tricks. In August, Congress approved the Protect America Act, which was designed to close narrow loopholes in FISA law that mandated warrants to eavesdrop on conversations originating and terminating abroad. That measure expires in February, and Congress is in the middle of correcting what critics say was over-broad authority granted in that measure.
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

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All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

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Re: FISA immunity Amendment debated on C-SPAN 2
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2008, 06:03:10 pm »
With deadline looming, Senate returns to FISA debate
http://rawstory.com/news/2007/With_deadline_looming_Senate_returns_to_0124.html
Nick Juliano Published: Thursday January 24, 2008



A long-running fight over how much authority the US government has to spy on its citizens and whether phone and internet companies that facilitated warrantless wiretapping should get a free pass in court could reach a turning point Thursday.

The Senate will begin debate on a controversial, long-term update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, just a week before a temporary update expires, but the prospects for blocking a controversial telecom immunity proposal seemed to be dwindling.

Just before 2:30 p.m. the chamber decided against moving forward with an immunity-free FISA update, voting 60-34 to table an amendment offered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Even before the vote, supporters of the Judiciary measure were pessimistic about its chances.

The base bill, from the Senate Intelligence Committee, includes a provision that would grant legal immunity to telecommunications companies who are believed to have given the National Security Agency virtual free reign to monitor their networks as part of its needle-in-a-haystack search for terrorists in the US.

A House-passed FISA update contained no immunity provision, but President Bush reversed a previous decision Thursday and decided to give House members access to documents justifying his warrantless wiretapping program. That decision likely will weaken opposition to the immunity grant, which was based in part on arguments that the administration was refusing to share those documents with the House.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who chairs the Intelligence Committee, kicked off the debate Thursday with an argument in favor of retroactive immunity for telecoms, which is included in his committee's version of the FISA update. He said the dispute over the president's authority to authorize warrantless wiretaps aimed at Americans was one that needed to remain among the White House, Congress and the courts and said that private companies should not be "caught in the crossfire" of this dispute through the pending lawsuits.

Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald, a vocal critic of the immunity provision, accused Rockefeller of "doing the bidding of Dick Cheney" in pushing for telecom immunity.

Speaking in favor of an immunity-free proposal offered by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) said that bill would maintain the balance of powers and oversight necessary to protect Americans.

"The government's dissemination and use of information on innocent law abiding Americans will occur without any checks and balances whatsoever" under the Intelligence Committee's proposal, said Feingold, who sits on both committees. "Once again, 'Trust us' will have to do. I believe in this case, as in so many others, 'Trust us,' is not enough."

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) plans to renew his efforts to strip the immunity provision, which would spare telephone and Internet providers the burden of defending themselves against 40 or so pending lawsuits that allege they violated customers' privacy by allowing NSA eavesdropping without first securing a probable cause warrant.

Speaking on the Senate floor before the vote on the Judiciary bill Thursday, Dodd reiterated his objections to provisions of Rockefeller's White House-supported bill, and he said his disapproval was not based on partisan ship.

The Intelligence Commitee version "is entirely too trusting of a bill, not just for this administration. ... Any Democrat trying to do this, I'd speak just as passionately," Dodd said.

Dodd and Feingold plan a separate amendment that would strip the immunity provision, but supporters are doubtful about its chances. Dodd, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race this month, said granting immunity would be akin to letting a criminal off the hook.

"Imagine, if you will, a judge convicting a bank robber, and then letting him keep the loot that he stole, as long as he promises to never, ever, ever do it again," Dodd said. "That might as well be the bill before us."

The Senate tried to pass a FISA debate in December, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put that effort on hold after Dodd filibustered and senators were unable to reach a compromise on how to proceed.

"We've got to finish this legislation and we have to do it this week," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday as debate opened in the Senate. In August, Congress passed the Protect America Act, a temporary FISA update that fixed loopholes in the law but expires Feb. 1. Reid said President Bush and Senate Republicans blocked his attempts to pass a one-month extension to the PAA.

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the administration have put heavy pressure on Congress to update the FISA bill, calling for it to act before a temporary FISA expansion expires in February.

Whatever emerges from the Senate will need to be reconciled with a FISA update passed by the House last year, which does not include immunity for telecoms. The Center for Democracy and Technology compiled a comparison of the FISA updates proposed by both Senate committees and the House, which is available here (.pdf).

DEVELOPING...

This video is from C-SPAN 2, broadcast January 24, 2008.
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Re: Senator Rockefeller guarantees Telecom Immunity in new FISA law
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2008, 08:45:42 am »
Jay Rockefeller’s Unintentionally Revealing Comments
http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/01/23/6594/
Published on Thursday, January 24, 2008 by Salon.com
by Glenn Greenwald

As the Senate takes up “debate” today over granting the President new warrantless eavesdropping powers and granting immunity to lawbreaking telecoms, the individual who joined forces with Dick Cheney to get this ball rolling, AT&T’s personal Senator Jay Rockefeller, made some comments yesterday to The Politico that illustrate just how twisted and dishonest is the thinking of telecom immunity advocates. First, there is this:

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is predicting the Senate will grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies as Congress takes up reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). . . “I think we will prevail,” Rockefeller said on Wednesday, adding that he hoped the Senate will finish the bill by next week. The FISA legislation expires in February, and both President Bush and GOP congressional leaders have demanded new legislation be in place by that time.

“It’s a pretty bad idea to appear cocky,” Rockefeller noted. “I am not pessimistic.”

For an entire year, Congressional Democrats have won absolutely nothing. They’ve given in to the White House on every one of its demands. Yet here is Jay Rockefeller strutting around declaring Victory and having to battle against feelings of cockiness because, finally, he is about to win something. But ponder the “win” that is giving him these feelings of immense self-satisfaction. Is he finally accomplishing what Democrats were given control of Congress to do: namely, impose some checks and limits on the administration? No. The opposite is true. Rockefeller is doing the bidding of Dick Cheney. The bill that he is working for is the bill the White House demanded. Rockefeller is supported by the entire Bush administration, urged on and funded by the nation’s most powerful telecoms, and is backed by the entire GOP caucus in the Senate.

When Rockefeller smugly announces that he “thinks we will prevail,” the “we” on whose behalf he is so proudly speaking is Bush and Cheney, lawbreaking telecoms, and all Republican Senators. The only parties whom Rockefeller is so happily “defeating” are civil liberties groups and members of his own party. That is what is making him feel pulsating sensations of excitement and “smugness.”

He is being allowed to win only because he is advancing the Bush agenda and those of his largest corporate donors, and waging war against members of his own party, acting to destroy the allegedly defining values of that party. Yet he’s so desperate to feel like he’s won something that this is enough to cause him to strut around giddily battling feelings of cockiness over his impending “win.” At least he’s being honest here about whom he represents.

Next we have this:

Rockefeller also rejected a potential compromise being floated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would let a secret FISA court decide whether the telecom companies, who are being sued for going along with official requests from the Bush administration to cooperate with warrantless surveillance programs, acted properly.

Telecoms already have immunity under existing FISA law where they acted pursuant to written government certification or where they prove they acted in good faith (see 18 USC 2520 (d)). There is no reason that the federal courts presiding over these cases can’t simply make that determiniation, as they do in countless other cases involving classified information. Even Feinstein’s “compromise” is a completely unnecessary gift to telecoms: to transfer the cases away from the federal judges who have ruled against them to the secret FISA court. But even that pro-telecom proposal is unacceptable to Rockefeller (and the administration), because that would still leave telecoms subject to the rule of law. Rockefeller’s only goal is to bestow on his telecom supporters full and unconditional protection from having their conduct — and, by effect, the administration’s conduct — subject to a court of law. Manifestly, that’s the real agenda. That’s why he’s feeling “cocky.”

It gets worse:

Rockefeller defended the actions of the telecom companies, arguing that the companies received explicit orders from the National Security Agency to cooperate with the super-secret surveillance effort. The West Virginia Democrat said the telecom companies were being “pushed by the government, compelled by the government, required by the government to do this. And I think in the end, we’ll prevail.”

Can someone please tell Jay Rockefeller that we don’t actually live in a country where the President has the definitively dictatorial power to “compel” and “require” private actors to break the law by “ordering” them to do so? Like all other lawbreakers, telecoms broke the law because they chose to, and profited greatly as a result. That telecoms had an option is too obvious to require proof, but conclusive proof can be found in the fact that some telecoms did refuse to comply on the grounds that doing so was against the law. There is a branch of Government that does have the power to compel and require behavior by private actors. It’s called “the American people,” acting through their Congress, who democratically enact laws regulating that behavior. And the American people enacted multiple laws making it illegal (.pdf) for telecoms, in the absence of a warrant, to enable Government spying on their customers and to turn over private data. Rockefeller’s claimed belief that we live in a country where private companies are “compelled” to obey orders to break the law is either indescribably authoritarian or disgustingly dishonest — probably both.

Finally, we have this bit of pure mendacity:

Rockefeller added: “If people want to be mad, don’t be mad at the telecommunications companies, who are restrained from saying anything at all under the State Secrets Act. And they really are. They can’t say whether they were involved, they can’t go to court, they can’t do anything. They’re just helpless. And the president was just having his way.”

Rockefeller’s claim that telecoms can’t submit exculpatory evidence to the court is flat-out false, an absolute lie. There is no other accurate way to describe his statement. Under FISA (50 USC 1806(f)), telecoms are explicitly permitted to present any evidence in support of their defenses in secret (in camera, ex parte) to the judge and let the judge decide the case based on it. That section of long-standing law could not be clearer, and leaves no doubt that Rockefeller is simply lying when he says that telecoms are unable to submit secret evidence to the court to defend themselves:

[W]henever any motion or request is made by an aggrieved person pursuant to any other statute or rule of the United States or any State before any court or other authority of the United States or any State to discover or obtain applications or orders or other materials relating to electronic surveillance or to discover, obtain, or suppress evidence or information obtained or derived from electronic surveillance under this chapter, the United States district court or, where the motion is made before another authority, the United States district court in the same district as the authority, shall, notwithstanding any other law, if the Attorney General files an affidavit under oath that disclosure or an adversary hearing would harm the national security of the United States, review in camera and ex parte the application, order, and such other materials relating to the surveillance as may be necessary to determine whether the surveillance of the aggrieved person was lawfully authorized and conducted.

How much clearer could that be? Directly contrary to Rockefeller’s claims, federal courts are not only able, but required (”shall”), to review in secret any classified information — including evidence over which a “states secrets privilege” has been asserted — in order “to determine whether the surveillance of the aggrieved person was lawfully authorized and conducted.” Federal courts already have exactly the power that Rockefeller dishonestly claims they lack. Moreover, even if that provision didn’t exist (and it does), and even if Rockefeller were telling the truth when claiming that telecoms were unable to submit exculpatory evidence to the court (and he isn’t), then Congress could just easily fix that problem in one day. All they have to do is amend FISA to make clear that telecoms do have the right to submit such evidence to defend themselves notwithstanding the President’s utterance of the all-powerful magic phrase “State Secrets.” And then this oh-so-unfair problem would be instantly fixed.

If telecoms were really these poor, “helpless” victims unable to defend themselves, the solution isn’t to bar anyone from suing them even when they break the law. The solution, if that were really the concern, is simply to add a provision to FISA enabling them to submit that evidence in secret, the way classified evidence is submitted to federal courts all the time. The reality is that 50 USC 1806(f) already says exactly that, but even if it didn’t, Congress could just amend it to do so.

Rockefeller’s claims also entail the core dishonesty among amnesty advocates. He implies that the real party that engaged in wrongdoing was the President, not telecoms, yet his bill does nothing to enable plaintiffs to overcome the numerous obstacles the administration has used to block themselves from being held accountable. If Rockefeller were being truthful about his belief that it’s the administration that should be held accountable here, then his bill would at least provide mechanisms for ensuring that can happen. It doesn’t, and thus results in nothing other than total protection for all lawbreakers — including administration officials — who committed felonies by spying on Americans for years without warrants.

Democrats have failed repeatedly to end or even limit one of the most unpopular wars in American history. They have failed to restore habeas corpus. They have failed to fulfill their promise of “fixing” the hastily-passed Protect America Act. They even failed to provide children’s health insurance even though their entire party and much of the GOP favored it. They don’t feel the slightest bit ashamed or remorseful about any of that.

Yet here is Jay Rockefeller, feeling proud and cocky and triumphant, because he is about to vanquish members of his own party and civil liberties groups on behalf of a radical agenda of amnesty for lawbreaking corporations and warrantless eavesdropping powers demanded by Dick Cheney, AT&T and Mitch McConnell. I suppose he needs to find his self-esteem somewhere. But there shouldn’t be any doubts regarding on whose behalf Senate Democratic leaders are working. When Rockefeller says “we will prevail,” he’s telling you as clearly as he can whom they represent.

UPDATE: California’s Courage Campaign has an excellent critique of the “compromise” amendment which Diane Feinstein plans to introduce to transfer the cases against telecoms to the secret FISA court and allow them to be shielded from immunity if they can prove they acted in “good faith.” That site also has a fairly thorough summary of the procedural events likely to occur today. Feintsein’s press release on her amendment — which seems to have some chance of passing — “>is here.

Feinstein’s amendment indirectly provides immunity to telecoms while pretending not to. As demonstrated, telecoms already have immunity under the law if they can prove they acted in good faith, and there is absolutely no reason whatosever to transfer these cases away from a real federal court (that operates largely in the open, with both sides present, though with the ability to review evidence in secret), to a compeltely secret, one-sided court (only telecoms and the Government would be present) that is renown for deciding blindly in favor of the Government.

In any event, Feinstein’s amendment would almost certainly be vetoed by the White House, which (like Rockefeller) is demanding unconditutional immuninty. I actually prefer the much more honest and open approach of Bush/Cheney full-scale immunity to Feinstein’s deceitful approach. If they’re going to do this, it’s preferable to have it happen all out in the daylight, clear as can be what they’re actually giving to telecoms and how they’re protecting both governmental and corporate lawbreakers. A loss here can at least have the beneficial effect of serving as a potentially mobilizing event, unmistakably demonstrating just how lawless and corrupt our Beltway culture has become.
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

independentWV

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Hope folks in WV wake up and get rid of the Neocons keep telling them.