Friday, December 14, 2007

Why is Reid not skeptical of Bush's demand for telecom immunity?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

I’ll start right at the outset of this by pointing out that when Tom Daschle lost his election, Chris Dodd lost to Harry Reid by one vote to become the Senate Minority Leader. Both drational and booman have excellent posts up about Reid screwing over Dodd and the rest of the country on the FISA bill with respect to telecom immunity. With this, instead of asking what could have been if Dodd had one more vote, let’s use this to push for what will be (if Dodd doesn’t win the Presidency, of course).

While their diaries are excellent, I want to take a different angle here, and I have action items directly from Dodd himself at the bottom of this post. What I want to know is, if Bush is pushing so hard for retroactive immunity for the telecom companies in their illegal acts, then why is Reid (and Sen. Jay Rockefeller) so hell bent on going against his own party, including many of the Presidential candidates in order to accommodate this?

Some say that it is because they received money from the telecom companies. While that may be a contributing factor, there are many other ways to not have the telecom companies be completely and totally liable for their illegal actions. There are also a number of ways to do this without also accommodating Mister Bush’s demands with no compromise from him.

Back in August, the Washington Post had an article titled, NSA Spying Part of Broader Effort, which confirmed a number of things that were pretty damning to Bush (emphasis mine):

The Bush administration's chief intelligence official said yesterday that President Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president previously described.

The disclosure by Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, appears to be the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that Bush's order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005.


News reports over the past 20 months have detailed a range of activities linked to the program, including the use of data mining to identify surveillance targets and the participation of telecommunication companies in turning over millions of phone records. The administration has not publicly confirmed such reports.

We know from this, as well as other articles that were released and written about since then that the NSA was collecting data and phone records using the help of the telecom companies as well as Bush’s involvement in this and that this was pretty much unprecedented.

On his website, Senator Feingold has a copy of the letter sent to Reid about adopting a version of the FISA bill that does not include retroactive immunity. And a few months back, a number of articles indicated that the White House “cut a deal with the Senate Intelligence Committee for it to review documents not available to anyone else in exchange for providing retroactive immunity:

Senate Judiciary Committee members yesterday angrily accused the White House of allowing the Senate Intelligence Committee to review documents on its warrantless surveillance program in return for agreeing that telecommunications companies should get immunity from lawsuits.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the ranking Republican, said any such agreement would be "unacceptable," signaling that legislation granting immunity to certain telecom carriers could run into trouble. Leahy and Specter demanded that the documents, which were provided only to the Intelligence Committee, be turned over to the Judiciary Committee as well.

The White House didn’t even really deny this allegation at the time:
Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said yesterday that what the White House did was "not exactly" a quid pro quo but that the intelligence panel "expected to legislate on the liability" and so "we've been accommodative on sharing information."

A week or so back, Troutfishing wrote a diary about secret directives and secret memos that Bush himself signed authorizing torture. Similarly, there are documents that are at least being withheld from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The same committee whose FISA legislation will be railroaded by Reid for the Senate Intelligence Committee bill that gives immunity to the telecom companies.

But if the Senate Intelligence Committee can review these documents and come to the conclusion that retroactive immunity is necessary, then why can’t the Senate Judiciary Committee see those documents as well?

And more importantly, what is in those secret documents that (1) Bush doesn’t want anyone to see unless they promise not to hold anyone responsible for illegal data mining and wiretapping, (2) does it in fact, lead right back to a directive by Bush himself for the telecom companies to break the law and (3) won’t this shelter Bush from being held directly accountable for not only breaking the law, but authorizing (or forcing) others to break it as well?

We need to know what Bush is hiding, what he ordered and told the telecom companies to do and if he directed them to break the law. We also need to know why Harry Reid is allowing this to happen against the will of his party and the American people, and why he is covering for Bush’s potential criminal acts.

*****Action Items From Dodd*****

Here is the link to Chris Dodd’s website link for action items, and here is the text from his site:

Today, that FISA fight we've all been waiting for begins.

In a few hours, Majority Leader Harry Reid will ask for something called a "motion to proceed" on FISA, effectively disregarding Chris Dodd's "hold" on the bill.

Remember when this all started playing out? A lot of people rushed to send out strongly worded press releases about how committed they were to "supporting a filibuster."

Call or email the Senators that pledged to support a filibuster and ask them to be there when it happens to pick up the ball after Chris Dodd can go no longer.

Leadership is demonstrated through action.


Let's see what we can do. And while we are at it, ask what secret Executive Orders and other documents Mister Bush is hiding from what he says is a "legal" program.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

FrameWork: Environmental Cents-ibilities

With Global Warming and the environment becoming increasingly prominent political topics, the FrameWork crew talks politics. How do you address environmental issues to a general audience, and what can Democrats do to better position themselves on the issue?

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Rudy Sees Benito

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

A tale of three countries

With us or against us.

If we take a look at three countries that are in the news and tied to the “WarOnTerror™”, there are some very interesting contrasts between “Country A”, “Country B” and “Country C” and it really creates another stark example of the farce of our foreign policy, and the damage that has been done to our reputation. Oh yeah, and the extreme danger that these reckless decisions and actions have put our country, the Middle East and parts of Asia in.

So, I figured that I would take a look at these three countries and do a little write up on each, just to see how “with us” or “against us” they really are – and to shed some light on the precarious situation that we have put ourselves in.

Country A

Country A had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. In fact, this country pretty much hated Saddam, hates al Qaeda and wanted to help the US after the attacks when it came to Afghanistan. This reaching out after 9/11 was one of three separate occasions that an offer was made to have some level of diplomatic dialogue after a long period of no relations whatsoever. Country A also helped the US with respect to rounding up some suspected terrorists, and helped with logistical issues when we took military action against Afghanistan. This country has a long history with the United States, including some times when relations were pretty good.

This country has a fairly progressive population that has decent promise in terms of furthering relations in the future and shaping the future of the country’s political direction. In fact, it elected a President – who served as recently as 2005 (in elections that are more Democratic than in either Country B or Country C) who pushed for more social freedoms, over the objections of the more conservative religious leaders. Of course, this President was ridiculed as not having any power over the religious leaders in the country.

Partially as a result of the US rebuffing any calls for diplomacy, a confrontational President was elected, and whose confrontational rhetoric was also rebuffed by the former moderate President. Now, of course, this confrontational President (whose words are frequently “clarified” or contradicted by the same religious leaders) is labeled as too dangerous and has too much power. This is despite his losing the support of many people who voted for him, the religious leaders and a waning influence on the local political scene. He is not in control of the country’s armed forces and while he isn’t a figurehead, his actual power is far exceeded by the perceived power that he has (despite insinuations that his predecessor not having any power).

This country has no nuclear weapons, and by all accounts will not have any (if at all) for at least 3-5 years. This country has no reason to attack the US, and certainly is not a threat to our economy or security. Despite this country not having similar interests or goals as the US, it is unlikely that Country A would seek to inflame or incite any global conflict. This country can be a major player in the global economy and has decent relations with a number of other countries with strong economies or potentially strong and complimentary sectors of the economy.


George W. Bush – 11/21/2001: We fight the terrorists and we fight all of those who give them aid. America has a message for the nations of the world: If you harbor terrorists, you are terrorists. If you train or arm a terrorist, you are a terrorist. If you feed a terrorist or fund a terrorist, you're a terrorist, and you will be held accountable by the United States and our friends.

Which brings us to Country B

Country B also has a long relationship with the United States, although it is more of one that is based on convenience for the US. We have alternately shunned and supported this country, although we have also supported its “enemies”. Country B was one of only three countries who recognized the Taliban as legitimate before abruptly changing its mind after 9/11.

Country B’s leader seized power in a coup, and has, at times, suspended the Constitution, held positions as President and leader of the country’s military, looked the other way as terrorists set up in his country. Country B had no ties to Saddam or to 9/11, however, it has been sympathetic to extremists that have caused death and destruction within the country – including against political leaders. On the other hand, there were ties between the country and the Taliban in the months leading up to 9/11.

Country B’s population is not sympathetic to the United States; rather it is fairly hostile or apathetic at best. Not only does the Taliban and al Qaeda have large membership in the country, but many of its citizens in certain regions had been harboring them and therefore letting them roam free – recently, its leader was less popular than bin Laden according to polls. Last year, Country B’s leader said that he wouldn’t go after bin Laden if bin Laden agreed to live a peaceful citizen.

Country B also has nuclear weapons, and was dangerously close to a nuclear conflict with its neighbor a few years ago. The high level official in Country B’s government who was responsible for its nuclear weapons program sold nuclear secrets to a number of other countries, and is basically a free citizen (not totally but certainly not being punished). Most recently, it was uncovered that Country B’s leader really has no interest in cracking down on extremists and terrorist groups and was accused last year of looking the other way while the Taliban and al Qaeda were launching attacks over its border against US and NATO troops.


George W. Bush - November 6, 2001: "Over time it's going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity," he said. "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror."

The case of Country C is a bit more complex, yet still important to discuss. Country C is where bin Laden came from, and where much of his family is now. It is also the country where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from. Country C really has no military to speak of, and its human rights record is more than a bit spotty, with both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch having numerous and repeated concerns.

Most of the “foreign fighters” in Iraq come from Country C, and while it has no nuclear weapons program (or probably any ambitions), its record on terrorism is far from clean. The population is akin to a welfare state, with a huge dichotomy between the ruling family/class and the vast majority of the population. This leads to concerns about the population being sympathetic to extremism and extremist causes.

Last year, it was reported that a number of very wealthy citizens were funneling money to the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, including money used for shoulder rocket launchers used against our troops and helicopters. Country C’s leaders are aware of this, but have done little if anything to stop it from continuing.

Also late last year, it was reported that Cheney was warned that if the US were to withdraw from Iraq, it would side with the Sunni insurgents. Shortly thereafter, the US started to side with Sunnis against Shiites (also who conveniently were more aligned with Country A) – and amazingly the US even started to arm the same Sunni insurgents that were fighting against and killing our troops.

Country C also has a number of “charities” that have been linked to suspected terrorist groups but it has been slow to crack down on them as well.


Now, it would seem as though Country A would be the least of our troubles, with Country B being the one to keep our eye on the most, and Country C as a “thorn in our side”. Yet, as I am sure you figured out by now, Country A is Iran and is public enemy number one, despite no evidence that they are a threat to us. Of course, Iran isn’t the most innocent or pure of nations by a long shot, but it clearly is way down on the list of “threats to our national security”.

Country B (Pakistan) has been making the US look the damn fool time and time again, whether it is intentional or not, but clearly would represent the biggest potential disaster as it already harbors terrorists, has a military dictator who just suspended the Constitution and has nuclear weapons.

Country C (Saudi Arabia) has all of the ties to the Bush family and is hardly the “model of democracy”. Of course, the threats and blackmail related to our staying in Iraq and the funding of those same insurgents who were killing our troops gets little notice as compared to Iran’s purported and specious ties to weapons that are used against our troops in Iraq.

It’s no wonder that the world is in the shape it is in, and that the US is the laughingstock.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Don't Hijack My Thread! - November 7

Join Adam Lambert (clammyc) and welcome back David Atkins (thereisnospoon) tonight at 8PM Eastern/5PM Pacific for another edition of Don't Hijack My Thread!.

This week's topics are as follows:

  • What's up with our "best friend" Pakistan?
  • Getting behind the decreasing violence in Iraq
  • Big Dog making lame excuses for Hillary's recent missteps
  • Election Day 2007 recap
  • Rep. Kucinich and his "Cheney impeachment" bill
  • The "Ron Paul" factor - is he for real or just a "fad"?
The link to the show is here.

The call in number is 718-508-9410

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Why Are You Running?

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What motivates our current field of Presidential candidates and why should we care? We explore the framing of motivation on both the Left and the Right.

Join hosts theKK, clammyc and thereisnospoon for another edition of FrameWork this Monday at 8pm EST/5pm PST.

For Podcast or Download Click Here

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Don't Hijack My Thread! - Tonight at 8PM Eastern/5PM Pacific

Join Adam Lambert (clammyc) and welcome back David Atkins (thereisnospoon) tonight at 8PM Eastern/5PM Pacific for a Halloweek edition edition of Don't Hijack My Thread!.

This week's topics are as follows:

  • Romney vs. Rudy
  • Bush's proposed "end run" around Congress
  • AG nominee Mukasey and waterboarding
  • The mess at DoJ
  • Healthcare and kicking our veterans to the curb

The link to the show is here.

The call in number is 718-508-9410