President-Elect Obama, Report to the Woodshed

This may surprise you all a bit, but I’m no blind supporter of President-Elect Obama. Just visually impaired. But even through the mists of my rose-colored spectacles, I can see when it’s time to take the man out to the woodshed for an intimate discussion with the Smack-o-Matic.

This is that time. I discovered part of the reason for his ridiculous vote on FISA, which has been the only thing he’s ever done that’s stuck in my craw. And now it seems that the thinking – or lack thereof – that went into that vote could influence his presidency in all the wrong ways.

Glenzilla sez:

Last Wednesday, I wrote:

It simply is noteworthy of comment and cause for concern — though far from conclusive about what Obama will do — that Obama’s transition chief for intelligence policy, John Brennan, was an ardent supporter of torture and one of the most emphatic advocates of FISA expansions and telecom immunity.

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan noted that observation but then linked to this post from James Gordon Meek of the Counterrorism blog, which reported that Brennan — a top CIA aide to George Tenet during most of the Bush administration — is a leading candidate to replace Mike McConnell and become Obama’s Director of National Intelligence. Meek, not providing any links or citations, wrote: “Among many things Democrats like about the softspoken Brennan are his anti-torture views” (emphasis added). Andrew is right when he says: “They both can’t be right.”

Glenn then goes on to paint, in lavish detail, the portrait of a man who may think waterboarding is a bit beyond the pale, but everything else is right and just and For Our Nation’s Safety. The man hasn’t spoken out against the other “enhanced interrogation” techniques that would be called what they are – torture – if this wasn’t America. He’s a big fan of the extraordinary renditions. He’s cheerled for some of the worst of the neocon abuses. And Obama apparently listens to him:

And in July, 2008, NPR attributed Obama’s reversal on FISA and telecom immunity to the fact that he was relying on the advice of Brennan, an emphatic supporter of those policies:

What’s important here is Obama’s reference to the information he’s received. He’s advised on intelligence matters by John Brennan, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Like many intelligence professionals, Brennan says the FISA program is essential to the fight against terrorism. By adopting Brennan’s view, Obama improves his standing with the intelligence community. For someone looking ahead to a presidential administration, that’s important.

This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you, Obama, old son. I trust you, but not in this. So let’s just get this over with.

What the fuck are you doing listening to this fuckwit?

You and I both love this country and want to protect it, but you don’t protect it by breaking its laws. You don’t protect it by spying on its own citizens. You don’t protect it by condoning torture and throwing the Geneva Conventions out the window. If you do all of these things in order to protect America, you’re turning America into a country that isn’t worth protecting.

We elected you to roll back all of these abuses. We didn’t elect you to continue them. We expect you to defenistrate the intelligence “experts” who got snowed by the Bush regime’s 24-inspired cowboy covert operative mentality. We want those fuckers tossed out of the highest window you can find. There are plenty of sober, superbly skilled intelligence experts who can advise you how to protect this country while restoring its laws and reputations to the condition they were in before Bush & Co. came along and shredded them along with America’s international reputation and pride.

Do not fucking let us down.

Don’t let America down, and don’t let the world down. You rode in on a wave of international hope and joy. If you let this freakish bullshit continue in the name of national security, that hope and joy will turn to anger and disillusionment faster than you can say “extraordinary rendition,” our reputation goes right back down the toilet, terrorists get to point to you and say, “See? They’re still the Great Satan. Here, strap on this bomb!” and we are no better off than where we began. Worse, in fact. America expects better of you, and so does the world, and if those expectations are dashed, we’ll make all those bitter people in rural America who voted against you because you’re some super-scary socialist uber-liberal look positively cheerful.

I don’t care if you keep Brennan on. But you should take everything he says with a fucking salt block, and fuck this making him Director of National Intelligence. Fuck this listening to the little bugger spew neocon bullshit as if any of it has a place in a fucking democracy. It doesn’t. We do not torture, we do not engage in wholesale spying on our own fucking citizens, and we do not throw the rule of law out the door just because it makes the spies work harder. The fact that we did these things for eight fucking years should be an abomination, not the norm.

That is what you need to etch onto your heart. That is what you need to bring us back to. Talk to those people in national security who did a stellar job of it under Clinton. Talk to those people who saw 9-11 coming without the “benefit” of warrantless wiretapping, torture, and mayhem, and would’ve prevented it if the fucking president hadn’t been too busy playing rugged rancher to give two shits about the safety of this country. Put a person in charge of national intelligence who’s actually demonstrated some.

We didn’t elect you to continue the abuses of the Bush years. We elected you to put a stop to them. All of them. Do it.

I trust we won’t have to have this little talk again, but remember: the Smack-o-Matic is always right here waiting.

President-Elect Obama, Report to the Woodshed

The Unintended Consequences of Unchecked Warrantless Wiretapping

Kevin Drum has an answer for all of those who dismiss the dangers of the government’s dramatic new warrantless wiretapping powers by believing the same government that brought us torture, unending war in Iraq, unprecidented levels of secrecy and lawlessness, and a slew of politically-motivated hirings, firings and prosecutions will nevertheless confine themselves to only listening in on the terrorists.

Let’s jump out on a very long, thin limb here and say this were so. The FISA law would still be a bad idea. Kevin knows why:

Former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges explains how the new FISA legislation will handcuff him and his colleagues:

This law will cripple the work of those of us who as reporters communicate regularly with people overseas, especially those in the Middle East. It will intimidate dissidents, human rights activists and courageous officials who seek to expose the lies of our government or governments allied with ours.

….The reach of such surveillance has already hampered my work. I was once told about a showdown between a U.S. warship and the Iranian navy that had the potential to escalate into a military conflict. I contacted someone who was on the ship at the time of the alleged incident and who reportedly had photos. His first question was whether my phone and e-mails were being monitored.

What could I say? How could I know? I offered to travel to see him but, frightened of retribution, he refused. I do not know if the man’s story is true. I only know that the fear of surveillance made it impossible for me to determine its veracity.

We rely on our reporters far too much to have them crippled like this. Think about it. What’s going to happen if the few reporters left who actually investigate and report facts can’t do it because their sources are too terrified to talk to them? How the fuck can we possibly stay informed enough of important world events to be able to make the critical decision as to who we vote into government to handle this stuff?

Not worried enough? Kevin has more:

Second, reporters who cover terrorism and the Middle East are pretty obvious targets for NSA surveillance since they talk to lots of bad guys. This surveillance is illegal, of course, and under the old FISA law it was hard to get around this because the FISA court had to issue a warrant if NSA wanted to tap the phone of an American citizen. But now? They don’t need to directly tap reporters’ phones. They’re listening to every piece of traffic that goes through American switches and NSA computer software is picking out everything that seems interesting — and no matter what they say, doesn’t it seem likely that their algorithms are going to be tweaked to (accidentally! unintentionally!) pick up an awful lot of reporter chatter? It’ll eventually be “minimized,” but algorithms are infinitely malleable, they’re hard for laymen to understand, and they can almost certainly be changed to accomplish the same thing if a judge happens to order modifications. What’s more, it hardly matters: the new law allows NSA to hold on to all those minimized conversations forever even if a judge eventually decides the surveillance was illegal.

I’ve highlighted the bits that should make you sweat. Remember that the government has a history of listening in on the conversations of people they don’t like. Remember that they could decide very quickly that they don’t like you. There’s no way now for you to be assured they have to have probable cause to tap you. There’s nothing standing between you and the curious ears of a federal agent, where there used to be a Fourth Amendment requirement for a warrant.

Laws like this are slippery slopes. They’ve justified it by saying they need it to fight terrorism. Tomorrow, it could be expanded to fight drugs. The day after that, financial crimes. The next week, they need it to chase down criminals who may have fled across international borders. The week after that, it’s subversive political groups that might turn violent. The following month….

And the thing is, all of those steps will sound reasonable. If you focus on the reasons you’re given for taking the next step, the next, the next, and never look up to see where you’re going, you’ll end up in a world where your government can tap you at any time, for the flimsiest reasons, and then use anything they hear against you, no matter how illegal it was for them to collect it, no matter if your only “crime” was being active with a political group the government didn’t like. After all, there are other slippery slopes that lead to opposition groups being painted with brushes broad enough to make them the same color as the terrorists or other undesirables.

That’s why I won’t let this FISA thing go. Neither should you. Even if you’re the government’s BFF right now and think you have nothing to fear, the next government may think you’re the devil incarnate and go after you.

They now have all the tools they need to do so.

The Fourth Amendment used to give you some protection. Might be a very good idea to restore it to its former glory, or we can expect more stories of unintended consequences. The next one just might be you.

Become a StrangeBedfellow and Hold Washington Accountable!

The Unintended Consequences of Unchecked Warrantless Wiretapping

Bob Barr Endorses the Constitution

It’s no secret I’m thrilled that Bob Barr is running for President. I’m hoping he’ll draw off a good number of reluctant McCain supporters: he’s just conservative enough to manage it. And now I have a whole new reason to recommend him: he’s a privacy advocate who’s decided that FISA is poison to privacy. He’s endorsed the Strange Bedfellows coalition by way of saying, “That’s just about enough unbridled government power, thanks so much:”

A lot of media attention has been focused on our privacy or, more appropriately, the invasion of our privacy by the government. The recent law that allows the government to intercept our phone calls and emails without any legitimate probable cause is the most glaring example. Ultimately we lose some freedom with virtually every new law or government regulation, but this particular law, FISA, is the granddaddy of all invasions of our privacy.

For the last several years Bob Barr has been fighting the government’s intrusion into our privacy at every step. There have been other organizations standing shoulder to shoulder with Bob. But, the recent focus on the invasion of our privacy has motivated a whole new group of concerned activists to join together in an effort to stop the government’s encroachment into our lives.

Some of the names of the organizers of this new group, AccountabilityNowPac, may be familiar to you. They come from a large variety of backgrounds and political beliefs joined in the common interest of protecting our privacy.

If you get a chance please take a look at their web site to learn more about them.

Feels pretty good to be recognized by a presidential candidate. I hope his stand shames the other two into remembering this little thing called the Fourth Amendment. Maybe then we’ll see that nice, embarrassed shuffle sideways. That delightful, “What FISA fiasco? Oh, that. Yeah, I, uh, now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’ve realized I was temporarily insane in supporting that idiotic bill. My first act as President will be to kick that bit of legislation to the curb. Yay, Fourth Amendment!”

Look, one can dream.

Bob Barr Endorses the Constitution

We've Lost the Battle – But the War Must Go On

So. A travesty of a surveillance bill has passed. The Powers that Be seem to expect the furor to die down now that the FISA amendment’s a done deal. Some former defenders of civil liberties might buy the argument that “I’m not a terrorist, I don’t talk to terrorists, so FISA ain’t nuthin’ to me!” Others contort themselves to find reasons why the new bill isn’t a total “Fuck you!” to the Fourth Amendment.

It would perhaps be beneficial to point out that you’re all utterly fucking wrong. There are tremendous good reasons not to let Wednesday’s vote go unchallenged.

First, let’s have a look at what broad spying powers have been used for in the past (emphasis added in all):

From Wikipedia’s COINTELPRO article:

The Final report of the Church Committee concluded:

“Too many people have been spied upon by too many Government agencies and too much information has been collected. The Government has often undertaken the secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, even when those beliefs posed no threat of violence or illegal acts on behalf of a hostile foreign power. The Government, operating primarily through secret informants, but also using other intrusive techniques such as wiretaps, microphone “bugs”, surreptitious mail opening, and break-ins, has swept in vast amounts of information about the personal lives, views, and associations of American citizens. Investigations of groups deemed potentially dangerous — and even of groups suspected of associating with potentially dangerous organizations — have continued for decades, despite the fact that those groups did not engage in unlawful activity. Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views and their lifestyles. Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed — including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might result in deaths. Intelligence agencies have served the political and personal objectives of presidents and other high officials. While the agencies often committed excesses in response to pressure from high officials in the Executive branch and Congress, they also occasionally initiated improper activities and then concealed them from officials whom they had a duty to inform.

Governmental officials — including those whose principal duty is to enforce the law —have violated or ignored the law over long periods of time and have advocated and defended their right to break the law.

The Constitutional system of checks and balances has not adequately controlled intelligence activities. Until recently the Executive branch has neither delineated the scope of permissible activities nor established procedures for supervising intelligence agencies. Congress has failed to exercise sufficient oversight, seldom questioning the use to which its appropriations were being put. Most domestic intelligence issues have not reached the courts, and in those cases when they have reached the courts, the judiciary has been reluctant to grapple with them.”[17][18]

From Bill Moyers’s journal, regarding Project Shamrock:

One important program brought to light by the Committee was Project Shamrock — domestic surveilliance that was subsequently prohibited by FISA. Shamrock was a NSA surveillance program stretching from 1947 to the mid-70’s that involved the copying of telegrams sent by American citizens to international organizations. L. Britt Snider, former CIA Inspector General and council on the Church Committee, describes the project he was tasked to investigate:

Every day, a courier went up to New York on the train and returned to Fort Meade with large reels of magnetic tape, which were copies of the international telegrams sent from New York the preceding day using the facilities of three telegraph companies. The tapes would then be electronically processed for items of foreign intelligence interest, typically telegrams sent by foreign establishments in the United States or telegrams that appeared to be encrypted.

Shamrock actually predated the NSA, which was created by President Truman in 1952, and began as a continuation of censorship efforts conducted by the the Army Security Agency during WWII. As Fritz Schwarz explains to Bill Moyers, the program began with benign intentions, yet, “if you have secrecy and lack of oversight, you’re going to get abuse.” By the time the hearings began, many estimate the NSA was analyzing 150,000 messages a month.

And then there’s the Huston Plan:

The Huston Plan was a 43 page report and outline of proposed security operations put together by White House aide Tom Charles Huston in 1970. It first came to light during the 1973 Watergate hearings headed by Senator Sam Ervin (a Democrat from North Carolina).

The impetus for this report stemmed from President Richard Nixon wanting more coordination of domestic intelligence in the area of gathering information about purported ‘left-wing radicals’ and the anti-war movement in general. Huston had been assigned as White House liaison to the Interagency Committee on Intelligence (ICI), a group chaired by J. Edgar Hoover, then Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director. Huston worked closely with William C. Sullivan, Hoover’s assistant, in drawing up the options listed in what eventually became the document known as the Huston Plan.

Among other things the plan called for domestic burglary, illegal electronic surveillance and opening the mail of domestic “radicals”. At one time it also called for the creation of camps in Western states where anti-war protesters would be detained.

The American Prospect points out another delight in the surveillance smorgasboard:

It’s important today to recall that the object of much of the Church committee’s investigation were the abuses the CIA and other intelligence agencies inflicted on Americans here at home. They included the Huston Plan, a proposal to have the agencies infiltrate and disrupt student and other dissenting organizations; Operation HT Lingual, in which the CIA had for 20 years been opening the mail that Americans (including Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey) had sent to the Soviet bloc; and other operations that kept files, ran wiretaps, and performed medical experiments on U.S. citizens.

Now. Tell me again how giving the government broad, unchecked spying powers is something no law-abiding citizen should ever worry about.

“But Dana!” some of you will undoubtedly wail. “Things are different now. FISA still stands – in fact, Barack Obama himself said that this new law ‘restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.’ How could Obama-wan be wrong?”

To which I reply, “Glenn Greenwald knows.”

And it’s only gotten worse since more information has come out:

In the podcast, Jaffer details exactly what warrantless surveillance powers the new FISA bill vests in the President, along with the reasons they are so pernicious. He underscores the extraordinary fact that the surveillance program implemented by Congress yesterday does not merely authorize most of the President’s so-called “Terrorist Surveillance Program” that gave rise to this scandal in the first place, but is actually much broader in scope even than that lawless program, because there is not even any requirement in the new FISA law that the “target” of the surveillance have any connection whatsoever to Terrorism, nor is there any requirement that the Government believe the “target” is an agent of a foreign power or terrorist organization, or even guilty of any wrongdoing at all. As Georgetown Law Professor Marty Lederman wrote today (emphasis his):

The new statute permits the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and a foreign location, without making any showing to a court and without judicial oversight, whether or not the communication has anything to do with al Qaeda — indeed, even if there is no evidence that the communication has anything to do with terrorism, or any threat to national security.

Those claiming that this new FISA law is just some sort of innocuous or mild extension of the Government’s surveillance powers under the old FISA law should listen to Jaffer’s extremely clear and detailed explanation of what this law really is, how invasive the powers it creates are, and why it tramples on core Constitutional protections. The podcast can be heard here.

Scary enough, but of course there’s more. Russ Feingold knows more about the illegal spying program this law is designed to enshrine than we ever will. And he has nothing good to say about this:

I sit on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, and I am one of the few members of this body who has been fully briefed on the warrantless wiretapping program. And, based on what I know, I can promise that if more information is declassified about the program in the future, as is likely to happen either due to the Inspector General report, the election of a new President, or simply the passage of time, members of this body will regret that we passed this legislation. I am also familiar with the collection activities that have been conducted under the Protect America Act and will continue under this bill. I invite any of my colleagues who wish to know more about those activities to come speak to me in a classified setting. Publicly, all I can say is that I have serious concerns about how those activities may have impacted the civil liberties of Americans.

And as if that’s not enough, I’ve got a cherry to put on top:

And then there is the entire, unresolved matter of what James Comey was describing
when he said that the spying activities in which the Bush administration was engaged for years were so patently illegal and unconscionable that even he, John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller — right-wing ideologues all who approved of the lawless “Terrorist Surveillance Program” — all threatened to resign en masse if those still-unknown activities continued.

Can you imagine how bad that had to have been? These aren’t leftist ACLU-loving civil libertarians we’re talking about here – quite the opposite – and even they couldn’t stomach what Bush was getting up to. Those lawsuits that just got shut down by retroactive immunity were our best chance of finding out just what was done in the name of national security.

Digby has a chilling conclusion to make:

We will have no way of knowing if or how they are using these powers to “preserve the nation” (In the days after 9/11 we know for a fact that they did use them to monitor dissenters.) Presidents will undoubtedly be tempted to use them for political purposes under that doctrine, just as Nixon did, if the populace ever becomes that vociferous again. Who knows what “preserving the nation” will mean next time?

Whatever doesn’t kill the authoritarian beast only makes it stronger. We’ll be dealing with the fallout from this for yet another 30 years. Indeed, this time it may just stick forever.

We ain’t letting it.

No fucking way.

The ACLU filed suit against the new law within an hour of Bush signing it. You can show your whole-hearted support for their effort to derail this travesty of a bill by pledging a small monthly donation here. You can sign their newspaper ad here.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is also filing suit on a complimentary front. Support their efforts here.

And you can join me and my Stange Bedfellows in bed here.

Trust me in this. We can make a difference. We just have to make enough of a ruckus so that we’re impossible to ignore.

Our civil liberties depend on it.

Become a StrangeBedfellow and Hold Washington Accountable!

We've Lost the Battle – But the War Must Go On

Dangerous, Arrogant Children Playing Spy Games

This Salon article, written by Jon B. Eisenberg, is a truly extraordinary glimpse inside the inane attempts of the Bush Regime to keep their warrantless wiretapping program secure.

Allow me to sum up.

Mr. Eisenberg and his fellow attorneys are representing one of the victims of Bush’s illegal surveillance program, the charity Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc. They know the foundation was a target of that surveillance because they’ve got a Document:

Our proof is a top-secret classified document, which the government accidentally gave to Al-Haramain’s lawyers in August of 2004. We call it “the Document.” It appeared in a stack of unclassified materials that the lawyers had requested from OFAC. Six weeks later, after the government realized its blunder, FBI agents personally visited each of the lawyers and made them return their copies of the Document. But the agents made no effort to retrieve copies that the lawyers had given to two members of Al-Haramain’s board of directors, who lived outside the United States.

Take a moment to appreciate this. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control not only fucked up and included a top-secret document with unclassified stuff, a document that proves beyond doubt that this wiretapping took place and is severely illegal, but also didn’t retrieve said highly sensitive document back from all parties who have it. Apparently, they’ll go to any lengths to protect classified information that’s slipped out – except travelling overseas. That would just be too difficult.

And where are our much-hyped enemies? Overseas. Come the fuck on.

Then they tried to sic the FBI on the judge, who had a copy. The judge said, “Bugger off.” The agents ran away. You’d think that if a tremendously sensitive document was being held in a non-secure location by a recalcitrant judge, it would take more than a simple “go ‘way” to get them to go.

The attorneys next had to file a secret brief showing standing, describing the Document from memory. The government threw a hissy fit, demanding they be given access to the attorneys’ laptops so they could wipe all traces of the secret brief with its secret Document details clean. The attorneys said “Bugger off.” The government whined. For months. Laptops remained stubbornly unwiped.

More hijinks ensure, including the attorneys having to write a secret rebuttal to a secret government brief that they weren’t allowed to see. To add insanity to the inanity, they had to write that secret rebuttal in the belly of the beast – the offices of the DOJ’s San Francisco office, under the supervision of a DOJ lackey. All materials resulting from the drafting session were to be shredded, including, apparently, the banana peel from Mr. Eisenberg’s lunch. After all, the clever bastard might have encoded government secrets in the peel using teeth marks and just been waiting to dig that puppy out of the trash later, right?

And then, at last, comes the day of doom for the laptops on which the original secret brief showing standing had been written. The DOJ lackey arranges to meet Eisenberg in the courthouse. She brings an “expert” to destroy the super-secret info.

He has no tools with him to do so. He’s reduced to bashing the hard drive to death with a table leg. Not only that, he gives the bits back to Eisenberg

As for the other laptops, one remains unmolested to this day: the attorney who owns it told the DOJ to fuck off, and off they fucked.

I’ll leave you to go read the rest of the fuckery at your leisure. And then contemplate the sobering thought: these extraordinary fuckwits are in charge of keeping America safe.

It’s a good thing our Senate’s given them all that warrantless wiretapping power, innit? They’ll handle it oh so responsibly.

Dangerous, Arrogant Children Playing Spy Games

Profaning the Sacred

You’d think nobody had ever abused a Communion wafer before:

Here’s a story that will destroy your hopes for a reasonable humanity.

Webster Cook says he smuggled a Eucharist, a small bread wafer that to Catholics symbolic of the Body of Christ after a priest blesses it, out of mass, didn’t eat it as he was supposed to do, but instead walked with it.

This isn’t the stupid part yet. He walked off with a cracker that was put in his mouth, and people in the church fought with him to get it back. It is just a cracker!

Catholics worldwide became furious.

Would you believe this isn’t hyperbole? People around the world are actually extremely angry about this — Webster Cook has been sent death threats over his cracker.

Death threats. Police protection for Communion wafers. Calls for this poor schmo to be expelled. I know it’s an important symbol, and I know some people think religion’s the most important thing humanity has. But for fuck’s sake – if it really is the body of Christ now, don’t you silly shits think God can take care of his own smiting?

That’s what really terrifies them, actually: the fact that it’s all just fiction. That’s why it’s taken so damned seriously. They know if they let one person get away with it (not like many people haven’t, and without much more than a brief snort of outrage), then their symbol, powerless in itself, will lose its power.

I’d just like to ask: what the fuck has a Communion wafer done for humanity that warrants police protection? And why can’t the Constitution get the same respect these days?

Our Congress is about to take another step along the road to making the basis of our government so much empty rhetoric. Pretty words on old paper. They’d be up in arms if someone walked out with the original document and burned it, but as for the real protections it enshrines, those are okay to destroy.

Symbols are important, but ultimately, they’re just symbols. It’s the actions, the philosophies, and the laws they stand for that are of true importance.

John Pieret responded to PZ’s call for blasphemy by pointing out how we’d feel if Ken Hovind got his hands on Darwin’s original notebooks, defaced and destroyed them. Fair enough. We’d be upset. But what would he have destroyed? Is Darwin’s great contribution those notebooks, or the ideas within them? The notebooks would be gone, and no doubt they’d be a loss. But the ideas within them can’t be destroyed so easily.

I’d argue the same for Communion wafers. One college kid walking out with one wafer isn’t going to destroy the entirety of the Catholic faith. So it was consecrated. So it was the body of Christ. How many millions of those are passed out every Mass? Is Catholicism really so weak that the loss of a single holy wafer can deal it a death blow?

I’d like to say this to all of the folks who’ve totally gone off the rails on this: think about what’s more important, the symbol or the faith? Haven’t you rather mistaken one for the other? Isn’t there something in the Bible about not taking the symbols to be more valuable than the thing itself?

And this is why the whole farce made me think of the vote that’s going to rip a giant hole right through the Fourth Amendment. This will be done by people who would not dream of harming the physical document. Ask them to take a pair of scissors in hand and cut out the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution from the original document, and they wouldn’t. Ask them to vote to destroy the protections it enshrines, and they shall do so with nary a twinge.

A few people in the House and Senate understand. They know that you could put the Constitution itself through a papershredder and then light the fragments on fire, and nothing would change. They know that what is really going to harm that document is voting its protections away.

They know better than to mistake the symbol, no matter how sacred, for the thing itself. It’s too bad so many others get it backwards.

Profaning the Sacred

FISA Zombie Returns!

On July 8th, the FISA zombie’s lurching back into the Senate for yet another attack on American civil liberties and the rule of law. You know what to do:

If you need reminding of just how odious this bill is, go here.

For a stirring reminder that oh, yeah, Americans are supposed to be against unchecked government power, check out Glenn Greenwald’s latest.

And then remind your senators what it means to be Americans.

FISA Zombie Returns!

Fourth Amendment Gets a Stay of Execution – File Your Amicus Brief Now!

The FISA zombie lurches on, which gives us some hope of defeating the thing. It’s the same hope I have of getting an email from a publisher this year saying, “Oh, hey, saw your blog, went to your website, how about a million dollar advance so you can quit your job and write that book, eh?” But it’s still hope, and I shall grasp it.

The vote on this disgusting bit of fuckery has, through the heroics of Dodd and Feingold, been delayed until July 8th. Time for us to get busy.

Here’s a petition from CREDO Action asking Obama to wake up and smell the coffee:

On July 8, the Senate will vote on H.R. 6304, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

If the bill passes, it would mean a blank check for President Bush to continue his warrantless wiretapping program and a get-out-of-jail-free card for the telecoms suspected of helping him illegally spy on Americans.

There will be no filibuster. The only way we can stop this catastrophe is to get a majority of senators to vote no.

You can also urge Obama to do the right thing on his own website. Some of his supporters started a group called “Senator Obama – Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity – Get FISA Right.” Joining it takes about ten seconds, and tells him on no uncertain terms that while he’s not as appalling as the alternative, he’s still got some ‘splaining to do. At this moment, 2,139 folks have done so. That’s a lot of pissed-off Obama supporters.

Once you’ve told Obama to stop being a fuckwit, it might be a good idea to tell your senators the same.

More to come, I’ve no doubt.

Fourth Amendment Gets a Stay of Execution – File Your Amicus Brief Now!

Et Tu, Brute?

I think most of us remember when Keith Olbermann hit one out of the park for law and civil liberty. He delivered a scorching Special Comment on the FISA fuckery, and for a moment, there was hope that a truly noxious bill would get annihilated by mainstream media scorn. Olbermann was one of the heroes. He’d not only delivered one of the most impassioned diatribes against dangerous legislation – he’d come within a hair of calling Bush a fascist fuck.

Ah, the good old days before he sharpened his bestest knife and plunged it into the backs of those who are fighting a rear-guard action to keep the Constitution intact and the telecoms on the hook for breaking the law:

Last night, Olbermann invited Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter onto his show to discuss Obama’s support for the FISA and telecom amnesty bill (video of the segment is here). There wasn’t a syllable uttered about “immunizing corporate criminals” or “textbook examples of Fascism” or the Third Reich. There wasn’t a word of rational criticism of the bill either. Instead, the two media stars jointly hailed Obama’s bravery and strength — as evidenced by his “standing up to the left” in order to support this important centrist FISA compromise:

OLBERMANN: Asked by “Rolling Stone” publisher, Jann Wenner, about how Democrats have cowered in the wake of past Republican attacks, Senator Obama responding, quote, “Yeah, I don’t do cowering.” That’s evident today in at least three issues . . .

Senator Obama also refusing to cower even to the left on the subject of warrantless wiretapping. He’s planning to vote for the FISA compromise legislation, putting him at odds with members of his own party . . .

It only gets worse from there. If you want the full compliment of stab wounds, head on over to Glenn Greenwald’s blog and prepare to bleed.

Thanks a fucking lot, Keith. I can only hope the ass-reaming Glenn gave you hurts half as badly as you suddenly deciding that this “textbook example of Fascism” was just fine as long as Obama supports it.

With friends like these, our Constitution has more enemies than it can survive. I think I shall start calling it Caesar.

Beware the Ides of March, dear parchment.

Et Tu, Brute?

Back Into the FISA Fray

Wednesday. That’s when mcjoan says we can expect the Senate to turn their loving attention to the FISA fiasco and put the final stake in the heart of our Fourth Amendment.

Man the phones, my darlings. Let the Senate know we stand squarely against this legislative poison:

The objective is to strip immunity from the bill. We need to figure out a way to
make that happen before leadership caves on this altogether. Sen. Feingold’s office has put up a handy fact sheet on the problems with the bill [see my link above]. One way to push on this is to flood the offices of Senators with calls and FAXes telling them to do just that. If they don’t hear from you, then they won’t know you are pissed — so let’s get to work…

Toll-free numbers for Congress from Katymine:

1 (800) 828 – 0498
1 (800) 459 – 1887
1 (800) 614 – 2803
1 (866) 340 – 9281
1 (866) 338 – 1015
1 (877) 851 – 6437

Several Senators could use extra contact on this — uncommitted or wavering Democrats, leadership folks, members of the Gang of 14, and a number of wavering Republicans. Tell them no telecom immunity — period. It is well past time that respect for the rule of law and the role of Congress in the balance of powers was restored…



Bayh (202) 224-5623 (202) 228-1377
Carper (202) 224-2441 (202) 228-2190
Obama (202) 224-2854 (202) 228-4260
Inouye (202) 224-3934 (202) 224-6747
Johnson (202) 224-5842 (202) 228 5765
Landrieu (202)224-5824 (202) 224-9735
McCaskill (202) 224-6154 (202) 228-6326
Mikulski (202) 224-4654 (202) 224-8858
Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274 (202) 228-2183
Clinton (202) 224-4451 (202) 228-0282
Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551 (202) 228-0012
Pryor (202) 224-2353 (202) 228-0908
Salazar (202) 224-5852 (202) 228-5036
Specter (202) 224-4254 (202) 228-1229
Feinstein (202) 224-3841 (202) 228-3954
Webb (202) 224-4024 (202) 228-6363
Warner (202) 224-2023 (202) 224-6295
Snowe (202) 224-5344 (202) 224-1946
Collins (202) 224-2523 (202) 224-2693
Sununu (202) 224-2841 (202) 228-4131
Stevens (202) 224-3004 (202) 224-2354
Byrd (202) 224-3954 (202) 228-0002
Lincoln (202)224-4843 (202)228-1371
Reid (202) 224-3542 (202) 224-7327
Coleman (202) 224-5641 (202) 224-1152
Durbin (202) 224-2152 (202) 228-0400
Smith (202) 224-3753 (202) 228-3997
Stabenow (202) 224-4822 (202) 228-0325
Kohl (202) 224-5653 (202) 224-9787
Leahy (202) 224-4242 (202) 224-3479
Schumer (202) 224-6542 (202) 228-3027

And, for extra bonus points, here is contact information for the Democratic
presidential candidate:

Sen. Barack Obama:

Phone: 312-819-2008 Toll Free: (866) 675-2008 FAX: 312-819-2088

And mcjoan adds:

In addition to the list that Christy provides…, there are some Dems who are with us but who need to know that we’ll have their back if they make this a fight. That includes Dodd and Feingold and those Senators who worked with Dodd to keep the bill from passing last December. Ask them to do it again:

Russ Feingold: Phone: (202) 224-5323, Fax: (202) 224-2725)

Chris Dodd: Phone: (202) 224-2823, Fax: (202) 224-1083)

Ron Wyden: Phone: (202) 224-5244, Fax: (202) 228-2717

Barbara Boxer: Phone: (202) 224-3553, Fax: (202) 224-0454

Sherrod Brown: Phone: (202) 224-2315, Fax: (202) 228-6321

Ted Kennedy: Phone: (202) 224-4543, Fax: (202) 224-2417

Yes, it’s a daunting list, and an even more daunting task. We’re probably going to lose this. But as Glenn Greenwald points out, “even battles that are almost certain to end in a loss are worth waging until the bitter end.”

At least we can let them know we’re not going to go down quietly. Fuck that. We’re going to roar. And if you can’t shout at every Senator on this list, at least scream at your own.

This is still a fucking democracy. Let your voices ring out: let them know you own this goverment. And you can fucking well fire their asses if they piss away our civil liberties for a security myth.

Ready? FIGHT!

Back Into the FISA Fray