As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Now We Know The Source

Lots of forward movement in the Joe Klein/FISA debacle today. First of all, Peter Hoekstra, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has outed himself as a source for Klein's mendacious article, and tried in the National Review to feed the public the same crap Klein lapped up:

As one of Klein’s sources for the complex technical and legal points that seem to be in contention — and because Klein, his critics, and Democrats in Congress have accused Republicans of trying to “misrepresent” these issues — it is important to correct and clarify the record on three critical points, which also bear heavily on the broader debate currently at hand.

First, the issue in both the Protect America Act that became law in August and the legislation currently under consideration in Congress, is how to ensure effective surveillance of foreign intelligence targets in foreign countries. The issue is not nor has it ever been about surveillance of Americans, as some Democrats have irresponsibly suggested. Under any of these bills, if the intelligence community wanted to target an American in the United States for surveillance, it would need to obtain an individualized court order.

This is completely untrue, but it's a Republican acting in bad faith, so never mind that. What's important here is that we now know who got to Klein. We know who he listens to. And we know how he forms his opinions.

Here on Planet Earth, people understand that letting telecoms off the hook for enabling lawbreaking would be a devastating threat to the rule of law.

ROBERT REICH: You'd think anyone who remembered J. Edgar Hoover's FBI and Nixon's CIA, the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 -- let alone the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution -- might be concerned about the government illegally snooping on Americans.

But executives at the nation's biggest telecoms didn't blink an eye when the NSA, America's biggest spy agency, came knocking. You want records of domestic phone calls? Sure, help yourself. Emails? Yeah, we got tons -- they're yours.

When word of this leaked out and the companies got sued by Americans who didn't particularly like the idea of government rummaging through everything they said or wrote, the telecoms went to Congress and complained it wasn't their fault. They deserved immunity from such lawsuits. They were only following orders.

Only following orders? What if the government told telecoms to use their technologies to spy on American bedrooms, or turn over our bank accounts, or our personal photographs, home videos, anything else we store on computers or transmit through cables or over the Internet? The "only following orders" excuse would make telecoms extensions of our spy agencies.

It's just common sense, which is lost on some of our elected leaders. And we're about to find out which ones are being bought off by the industry.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has won another significant legal battle, as a federal judge in California yesterday ordered the Bush administration (.pdf) to comply with EFF's FOIA demand and disclose documents revealing its "communications with telecommunications carriers and members of Congress" regarding efforts to amend FISA and provide amnesty to telecoms. Better still, the court imposed an extremely quick deadline for release of these documents -- December 10 -- so that "the public may participate in the debate over the pending legislation on an informed basis."

Needless to say, the Bush administration raised every argument it could to avoid having to disclose this information. These disclosures will reveal -- among other things -- which telecom lobbyists and other representatives were meeting with DNI Michael McConnell in order to secure telecom amnesty, as well as which members of Congress McConnell and other Bush officials privately lobbied. As an argument of last resort, the administration even proposed disclosing these documents on December 31 so that -- as EFF pointed out -- the information would be available only after Congress passed the new FISA bill. The court rejected every administration claim as to why it should not have to disclose these records.

We're going to find out which senators are meeting privately with lobbyists and the Director of National Intelligence to give away the rule of law in preference for telecom industry love. That's going to be a very interesting disclosure, much like Hoekstra's disclosure of lobbying Joe Klein. It's an incestuous little village in Washington and we're just starting to see it uncovered.

UPDATE: By the way, this is what a correction looks like, Time.

UPDATE II: It's important to note that Pete Hoekstra is crazy, and shouldn't be trusted in any way on national security, considering it was his bright idea to put Iraq and Al Qaeda documents online for wingnuts to peruse that included plans on how to build a nuclear bomb. This is Joe Klein's go-to source for national security questions.

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