Sunday, March 02, 2008

House Intelligence Chair Silvestre Reyes: Deal Soon on Renewal of Protect America Act

"1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that—

the electronic surveillance is solely directed at—

the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section [Ed.-my emphasis.] 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or

the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title;

there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party; and..." (

--The actual language of the Foreign Intelligence Act of 1978, federal and binding law at the time of the illegal NSA surveillance program conducted by the Bush administration beginning in 2002.

Washington D.C.
--Representative Reyes might want to confer with his constituents in El Paso as well as the American public on the final version of the amendment to FISA, the one that is likely to cave-in to the whims of the president, the GOP, and the telecommunications companies again. It appears that Rep. Reyes doesn't read the papers very much, having serious gaps in what we already know about the illegal NSA surveillance program initiated by the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Reyes, D-Texas, said he was open to that possibility after receiving documents from the Bush administration and speaking to the companies about the industry's role in the government spy program. "We are talking to the representatives from the communications companies because if we're going to give them blanket immunity, we want to know and we want to understand what it is that we're giving immunity for," he said. "I have an open mind about that." ("Reyes: Deal Soon on Eavesdropping Law," AP, 03.02.2008)
Yeah, well that's a little too "open," and more like something resembling the Stockholm syndrome. Perhaps Representative Reyes needs to recall the current administration's track-record for truthfulness since seizing office on January 21, 2001. It seems that Reyes and many of his peers in Congress skipped the law school classes that covered the Bill of Rights, and didn't bother learning much about constitutional law. Then again, you cannot teach morality to a moral imbecile, it simply can't be done. It's well-known that the White House's illegal surveillance was roving, potentially capturing information on millions of American citizens without their knowledge. Play again.

It has been common knowledge that the president didn't obtain warrants for this program since its belated exposure by the New York Times in December of 2005. The national masthead of record had been sitting-on the information for over a year, ample time for the Bush administration to have a narrower margin in the stolen elections of 2004. So much for the "Fourth Estate," but this is nothing new.

Under the 1978 FISA (Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act) that was in-effect during the illegal surveillance there must be a warrant obtained for any domestic-based surveillance, regardless of whether it's calls and communications coming from outside of the continental United States. The Fourth amendment issues are obvious to even the dimmest of Americans. This is something a first year law student knows: you must have a warrant for a search at some point, period. There are few exceptions, and Bush's first attorney general John Ashcroft was known to have had reservations about the program, its duration, and its scope. In the Spring of 2004, he and his underlings at the DOJ were refusing to continue authorizing the warrantless surveillance program...

Subsequently, there was a little something about a hospital visit--urged-on by the president--by then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and then-FBI director Robert Mueller III, then-chief of staff Andrew Card, and then-deputy attorney general James Comey (and others), while the then-acting attorney general was indisposed after gallbladder surgery--something about coercing a sick man on March 10, 2004 into signing an extension of an illegal surveillance program or something. Note the timing before the elections. Comey was really the acting attorney general at the time of the confrontation at the hospital, but wouldn't sign-off while Ashcroft was impaired. So, instead, they went around Comey to get to Ashcroft while he was recovering, barely coherent. Comey knew this, and went to the hospital to bear witness to the scene that was unfolding. He had raised the original concerns over the program.

Any takers from the law schools to run for public office? Any ten-year-olds out there who want to hold public office? We might have to lower the age-requirement for campaigners, it appears due. However, the standards-bar in politics has been lowered further to
"dancing the limbo" anyway, a term that fits our contemporary political crisis and the state of American democracy. John Ashcroft resigned on November 10, 2004, just days after the national elections. Gonzales took his place for his loyalty and cunning.

For anyone paying attention, the president and his administration are still being aided-and-abetted in a bipartisan-push to save the Office of President once more. The same can-and-will be said for any presidency. It's a lethal consolidation-of-power, and the GOP aren't the only party fond of the "unitary executive" ideology. What is Reyes really saying? The "solution" seems to be separating the retroactive immunity provisions from the legislation:
Republican officials said they likely would back the proposal to divide the bill into two pieces, as long as there was no delay in taking up the immunity provision. "We would be OK with that as long as the immunity provision [can] become law," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). Officials from both sides acknowledged that there are probably enough votes in the House to pass the measure protecting telephone companies. But splitting the bill would give Democrats who oppose the immunity provision political cover for voting in favor of the broader legislation. ("House Democrats may split spy bill," L.A. Times, 03.01
In other words, the GOP and the White House get what they want, and the Democrats do the cave-in once more, setting-the-stage for yet another Republican Congress. Nothing succeeds like failure, and it's best to fall on one's sword when duty calls. The problem is, the bumbling of the Bush administration has exposed many of these levers of power, the methodology of domestic control. It's not going to provide any real cover at all.

The Democrats have had the greatest hand in the creation of illegal domestic surveillance, going back to the administration of F.D.R., and culminating in the final years of J. Edgar Hoover's time as Director of the FBI. Some of the worst offenses actually occurred under the Johnson administration and were far-reaching, domestic, and just as illegal. Just as Joe McCarthy was just a symptom of a sick political culture, the same can be said about the Bush administration. The GOP are hardly alone in their enabling of criminal behaviors within government bureaucracy--along with Democratic mainstream incumbents, they are the initiators and enablers of decades of domestic spying that never ended with the death of Hoover.
In a strongly worded letter to the president, Reyes - chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence - outlined the procedures still in place allowing the nation's spy agencies to eavesdrop on communications among suspected terrorists. And he said that unnecessarily sacrificing civil liberty protections would provide a victory for the terrorists."I, for one, do not intend to back down - not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a president, who wants Americans to cower in fear," wrote Reyes, a Democrat."We are a strong nation. We cannot allow ourselves to be scared into suspending the Constitution. If we do that, we might as well call the terrorists and tell them that they have won. ("Reyes chides Bush on fighting terrorism, preserving liberties," El Paso Times, 02.21.2008)
While political elites have given the president virtually everything he's wanted, there have been other countervailing-trends. This has been an era of unprecedented whistle-blowing, perhaps even rivaling that of the 1960s-70s, a curious but healthy reason to hope for positive change. It's also a reminder that change tends to come from below in America, pressuring politicos towards the solutions, often unwillingly.

The game is selling the handing-over of our rights to an entire generation of institutionally corrupt politicians and economically embattled corporate businessmen and dirty financiers. In what is surely a quasi-legal and coordinated media campaign,
the Foundation for Defense of Democracies is telling us "it's only about spying-on terrorists," and that "our brave young men and women need the tools to protect us," but those aren't the real issues.

The real core-issues are, "How does this all affect our rights, and why do these people want to clamp-down and spy on the American public so badly?" Who are the members/founders/"advisors" of F.D.D.? It's not going to be any surprise: Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, Steve Forbes (the space alien who never blinks), Senator Joe Lieberman, former U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, former
Director of the CIA R. James Woolsey, Richard Perle, and many others who all agree with themselves and their rich backers who are losing their Empire, their bean counter's paradise.

Were the Democrats not in so much agreement with the GOP and all of their influential backers, they would wait the legislation out and simply let it die. Like the president
and GOP in the immediate aftermath of the events of September 11th, 2001, the Democrats have squandered a wonderful opportunity to unite the public once again, and hold the Bush administration accountable under the rule of law. It could have brought with it a new day in American politics and some much needed reform after nearly eight years of Bush administration criminality. The present political generation appears intent on letting these crimes stand as precedents. Their collective-intent should now be crystal clear: the social contract is over. Habeas corpus remains sidelined with no sign of action on either side of the aisle.

"Director's Notes Contradict Gonzales's Version Of Ashcroft Visit," The Washington Post, 08.17.2007:

"Reyes chides Bush on fighting terrorism, protecting liberties," El Paso Times, 02.21.2008:

The shadowy Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and their public face:

"House Democrats may split spy bill," L.A. Times, 03.01.2008:

"Reyes: Deal Soon on Eavesdropping Law," AP, 03.02.2008: