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Friday, October 17, 2008

McCain and Palin stoking the fires of hell

WASHINGTON — An ACORN community organizer received a death threat and the liberal activist group's Boston and Seattle offices were vandalized Thursday, reflecting mounting tensions over its role in registering 1.3 million mostly poor and minority Americans to vote next month.

Attorneys for the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now were notifying the FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division of the incidents, said Brian Kettenring, a Florida-based spokesman for the group.

Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain, have verbally attacked the group repeatedly in recent days, alleging a widespread vote-fraud scheme, although they've provided little proof. It was disclosed Thursday that the FBI is examining whether thousands of fraudulent voter-registration applications submitted by some ACORN workers were part of a systematic effort or isolated incidents.

Kettenring said that a senior ACORN staffer in Cleveland, after appearing on television this week, got an e-mail that said she "is going to have her life ended."

A female staffer in Providence, R.I., got a threatening call from someone who said words to the effect of "We know you get off work at 9," then uttered racial epithets, he said.

McClatchy is withholding the women's names because of the threats.

Separately, vandals broke into the group's Boston and Seattle offices and stole computers, Kettenring said.

The incidents came the day after McCain charged in the final presidential debate that ACORN's voter-registration drive "may be perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history" and may be "destroying the fabric of democracy."

McCain's comments provoked a response from ACORN.

"I would not say that Senator McCain is inciting violence," Kettenring said, "but I would say that his statements about the role of this manufactured scandal were totally outlandish. We would call on Senator McCain to tamp down the fringe elements in his party."

McCain's campaign didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Kettenring said that ACORN had received growing amounts of hate mail in recent weeks, but "the campaign debate sort of tipped it over to a scary point, where raising allegations of voter fraud went from a cynical campaign ploy to really inciting racial violence."

Since McCain's remarks, ACORN's 87 offices across the country have received hundreds of hostile e-mails, many of them containing racial slurs, Kettenring said. "We believe that these are specifically McCain supporters" sending the messages, he said.

The e-mail to the Cleveland employee was traced to a Facebook Web page in the name of a Baltimore man. It featured a photo of a McCain-Palin sign.

Kettenring said that the bulk of the e-mails had been either "flat-out racist" or had racial overtones. Most of the group's 400 members and about 80 percent of the 13,000 voter-registration canvassers are African-American or Latino.

It's unclear whether the alleged threats violated federal law, but Jonah Goldman, the director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit legal organization that battles discrimination, argued that the Voting Rights Act should apply.

"A real concern is the impact that these terrible acts have on the people who registered through these registration drives," Goldman said. "Legitimate, eligible voters who sign up through these registration drives may be understandably intimidated and choose not to show up at the polls, and the Voting Rights Act prevents voter intimidation."

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 10/17/2008 | Death threat, vandalism hit ACORN after McCain comments

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

t r u t h o u t | Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: "Steal Back Your Vote!"

Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: "Steal Back Your Vote!"

by: Sari Gelzer, t r u t h o u t | Report

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast have teamed up to tell voters how to ensure their votes will be counted. (Artwork: www.stealbackyourvote.org)

    Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. believe that the 2008 elections have already been stolen. What's an American to do given these circumstances? They suggest: "Steal it back".

    Palast, an investigative journalist, and Kennedy, a voting rights attorney, paired up to create a nonpartisan voter guide that illustrates the six ways that American votes will be stolen this election and seven ways to steal them back.

    You may ask who's stealing your votes. Palast and Kennedy believe that the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), created in 2002, is one of the main reasons votes are systematically being stolen. Secretaries of state attempting to comply with HAVA are purging voters from the registration rolls and blocking new ones from registering. The purging occurs if a voter's name does not match a government database.

    Those who are at most risk for having their vote stolen are new voters, people of color, low-income, elderly and swing state voters, Palast told Truthout.

    In 2006, Palast says that 40 percent of citizens who were purged from the voter rolls in California had Islamic, Vietnamese, Chinese and Hispanic names. These names were at most risk for misspellings.

    The Steal Back Your Vote Guidelines promote the importance of going to the secretary of state Web site for your state to confirm that you are registered ahead of the election.

    The New York Times appeared to confirm Palast and Kennedy's findings on mass voter purges in its report last week titled "States' Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal". The newspaper found that tens of thousands of eligible voters were being illegally purged ahead of the 2008 elections.

    In the crucial swing states of Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio, The New York Times reported that Social Security databases are being used to verify voters, as opposed to more accurate state databases. Federal law requires Social Security databases to be used for verification only as a last resort.

    The swing states of Michigan and Colorado are also violating federal law, according to The New York Times, because they are removing voters from the registration rolls within 90 days of the presidential election.

    When a name has been purged from the voter rolls, election workers will hand out a provisional ballot. However, Palast points to 1.1 million provisional ballots that went uncounted in the 2004 elections as proof that provisional ballots often go uncounted.

    "Once you sign that provisional ballot, the chances are officially one in three that your ballot will be thrown in the garbage can," said Palast.

    In their guide, Palast and Kennedy write that a provisional ballot will most often render a vote uncounted. They suggest seeking adjudication on the spot, by calling a voter's rights hotline instead of accepting and signing the provisional ballot.

    "Don't go postal," says Palast, urging voters not to mail in their ballot.

    Palast told Truthout: "All you need is the most minor error, like you didn't use your middle initial in your registration; not enough postage cost a third of a million votes in the US the last time around because most ballots are two stamps, not one. There's a million ways to not count your vote on a mail-in; don't do it."

    The other suggestions in the "Steal Back Your Vote" guide include voting early, getting involved in voter-registration and get-out-the-vote organizations, and pursuing legal action if disenfranchised.

    Palast and Kennedy will be following the 2008 elections as they unfold, including publishing reports in Rolling Stone and BBC news.

t r u t h o u t | Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: "Steal Back Your Vote!"

t r u t h o u t | Welcome to the Revolution

Welcome to the Revolution

by: Steve Weissman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

A painting of Barack Obama by artist David Choe. (Photo: Getty Images)

    With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States proclaimed itself the world's only super-power and hawked American-style capitalism as the only economic system worth considering. How the mighty have fallen. A needless war in Iraq now calls into question whether the American military can control the oil and natural gas of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea, while the current financial chaos has driven the faith-based Bush administration to pray for government ownership in banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions.

    No matter who becomes president, Obama or McCain, this double-barreled cock-up will force Washington to redefine the global role of the American military and the economic role of the US government. What should average citizens expect? What should we demand?

    Start with the $615 billion in defense spending that Congress just passed. This was on top of $189.3 billion in the latest supplemental appropriations for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and whatever else the Pentagon and its Congressional allies put into the bill. Even in Washington, this is real money, which saps the financial resources and political will to pay for domestic initiatives such as health care, alternative energy and the creation of green jobs.

    But beyond all that, what job will our civilian leaders now ask the military to do?

    Neo-con ideologues, who are old allies of John McCain, have argued for years that the US military should serve as the world's policeman, largely to maintain control of global oil and natural gas. This would greatly profit American corporations and - more important to the neo-cons - give Washington a political weapon to reward or punish potential rivals, whether Chinese or European.

    More of a traditional American nationalist, McCain has moved in the same direction. "In the Middle East," he explained back in 1992, "as long as the world's oil resources come from that area of the world, we have to be vitally involved." In backing the Georgians against Russia this year, he has similarly pointed to the need to keep an important oil pipeline out of Russian hands.

    What, then, of the Democrats?

    >From Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, they have quietly committed themselves to the same control of global oil and the same use of the military to defend that control. In fact, many of the now-Republican neo-cons learned their stance while working as aides to Democratic Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, and many, if not most, of the foreign policy leaders among the Democrats still think the same way.

    Until now, Obama has generally followed suit. But should he become president, he will face greatly reduced resources, his own competing priorities and a growing realization that the presence of American troops fuels enormous popular opposition in the oil-rich Islamic countries, as we've seen in both Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

    No one can know from Obama's speeches or public record what he would decide. But the new realities open the door for aroused citizens - both Democratic and Republican - to force Congress to debate the question in the full glare of public attention. "No blood for oil" seems a good place to start, coupled with wholehearted support for the development of alternative energy resources.

    On the government's new role in the economy, we have no idea what, if anything, McCain would do. Neither does he. At best, he would be wobbly and recalcitrant.

    Obama, by contrast, has clearly called for smart new regulation of financial markets, which should clearly include a long, hard look at derivatives and other speculative devices.

    He has called for a 90-day moratorium on mortgage foreclosures and a new stimulus package to create jobs and rebuild roads, bridges, water and sewage systems, and other parts of our crumbling infrastructure.

    And, he has openly declared that medical care should be a right of all Americans. Eat your heart out, Rush Limbaugh.

    But all this is only a bare beginning. The crap-shoot capitalists and free-market preachers made their wager and created a disaster. Now, no matter who wins the election, the time has come for the rest of us to take back our government and - in the words of the preamble to our Constitution - "promote the general welfare."

    Social Democratic governments in Germany, Holland and Scandinavia have led the way in showing the humane direction we could go in education, social programs and greater tax equality. We should learn from what they've done, while creating our own American solutions to the very real problems Americans face every day.

    Republicans and many right-wing Democrats will yell "Socialist," just as McCain and Palin have tried to brand Obama "a terrorist." Such smears have long been the tactic of those standing in the way of social progress, whether against women and African-Americans who wanted the right to vote or workers who wanted the right to organize themselves into unions.

    The fight has often been bloody, even deadly. But in the end, we know which side won, and so do those who lost.

t r u t h o u t | Welcome to the Revolution

Truthdig - Reports - Bush Doctrine Becomes DoD Dogma

By William Pfaff  (With commentary by Shelley)

I simply cannot believe the arrogance of our country in it's relations with other countries of the world.  This is stunning.

Last June the U.S. Department of Defense unexpectedly issued a new version of its National Defense Strategy. It was unexpected because there will be a new administration in Washington in January, which might be expected to issue a statement of its own ideas about military strategy.

Some in Washington speculated that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, only recently named to that office, a man who gets along with Democrats as well as Republicans, might be bidding to keep his job under a new administration.

The new statement lacks the Bush administration’s unilateralism or triumphalism (as if there were anything left to be triumphal about), but it foresees a “Long War” of “promoting freedom, justice and human dignity by working to end tyranny, promote effective democracies and extend prosperity; and confronting the challenges of our time by leading a growing community of democracies.”

All that is straight Bush doctrine, drawn from his second inaugural address and Condoleezza Rice’s policy statement last summer predicting decades of a “new American realism” of “nation-building” to conquer “extremism.” By now the “Long War,” realistic or not, will have become orthodoxy for most of the Washington defense and strategic studies community.

The noteworthy thing about this National Defense Strategy statement is that it says nothing directly about American national defense. It is a strategy for intervening in other countries, and preventing others from blocking or resisting American interventions. It states the responsibilities of America’s armed forces (summarizing the document’s introduction) as follows:

-- Conduct a global struggle against a violent, extremist ideology that seeks to overturn the international system.

(What is the "international system"?)

-- Deal with the threats of rogue-nation quests for nuclear weapons.

(Who is a rogue nation and who gets to make that decision?)

-- Confront the rising military power of other states.

(We created the giant that China has become and we are provoking Russia by trying to control all of the natural gas and oil in the region and we want to confront THEM for protecting their own interests?)

These duties will require “the orchestration of national and international power over years or decades to come” to accomplish the following:

(The twisting of arms and flat out bribery of tyrants who bow to our own tyranny or find themselves in Saddam Hussein's shoes.)

-- Long-term innovative approaches to counter al-Qaida’s rejection of state sovereignty, violation of borders, and attempts to deny self-determination and human dignity.

(yeah, about time we started doing something about al Qaida since it is such a serious threat and all.  We are concerned that they violate borders while we just walk all over anyone we care to walk over, erase their human dignity by torturing them and implement corrupted shills in their governments to take away their right to self-determination.)

-- Deal “with the inability of many states to police themselves effectively or work with their neighbors to ensure regional security.” Armed sub-national groups must be dealt with, “including but not limited to those inspired by violent extremism” which if left unchecked will threaten the stability and legitimacy of key states, and allow instability to spread “and threaten regions of interest to the United States, its allies and friends.”

(Become the world police so that we alone determine the "good guys" and the "bad guys".  And what we determine is right because we said so.  and Armed sub-national groups are ok as long as it's us arming and training them like we did in Nicaragua and Venezuela and oh so many other sovereign states.  The instability that is threatened is caused by the right of a foreign government to exact a price from American corporations.  if they don't play with our corporate monsters, they create instability and then it's ok to arm sub-national extreamists against them.  Regions of interest to the United States = anyplace in the world that has resources that we want for our corporations to make a killing off of.)

-- Form local partnerships and creative approaches to deny extremists the opportunity to gain footholds in “ungoverned, under-governed, misgoverned, and contested areas” affecting local stability and regional stability.

(We own every inch of land in the world and therefore, we determine how it should be governed.  If anyone living on that land decides they want to govern themselves outside of what we find acceptable, we have "creativce approaches" to deny them their desired governance.)

-- Counter Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology and enrichment capabilities, and deal with the ability of rogue states such as Iran and North Korea to threaten international order, sponsor terrorism and disrupt fledgling democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(After all, that's our job.  We don't need any competition.  And we certainly don't want them to be able to defend themselves against us when we don't take anything "off the table, including nukes.")

-- Meet possible challenges from (a) “more powerful states (that) might actively seek to counter the United States in some or all domains of traditional warfare or to gain an advantage in developing capabilities that offset our own,”

(Spelled Russia and China and the excuse to keep increasing the size of the military industrial complex.  We must always have an enemy.  Orwell 101)

as well as (b) nations that might “choose niche areas of military capability and competition in which they believe they can develop a strategic or operational advantage (even though) some of these potential competitors (may also be partners of the U.S. in) diplomatic, commercial or security efforts.”

(We can't allow them to develop systems that would protect them from us if they start to displease us.)

-- For the foreseeable future, “hedge against China’s growing military modernization and the impact of its strategic choices on international security. ...

(Control the giant we have created.)

The objective of this effort is to mitigate near-term challenges while preserving and enhancing U.S. national advantages over time.”

(USA USA USA!  NUMBER ONE! through the denial of progress for everyone else.

-- Recognize that Russia’s (pre-Georgian crisis) “retreat from openness and democracy,” “bullying of its neighbors,” and “more active military stance ... and signaled increase in reliance on nuclear weapons as a foundation for its security ... (are warnings of) a Russia exploring renewed influence” and a greater international role.

(Hey!  What do they think they're doing protecting access to their regional natural resources?  We're the only one's who have a right to invade countries for their resources because those are OUR resources!  and how dare they look for friends around the world to ally with.  That's cheating!)

-- Prevent prospective adversaries, especially non-state actors and their state sponsors, from adopting “anti-access technology and weaponry (that can) restrict our future freedom of action,”

(boy i love this one.  stop them from stopping us from doing what ever we damned well want to do.)

and also from “making adversary use of traditional means of influence” such as by “manipulating global opinion using mass communications venues and exploiting international commitments and legal avenues.”

(can you say "censorship"?  what if we knew what was really going on around the world?  we have to stop any voices that contradict our own orwellian lies.)

-- The global “commons (space, international waters, aerospace and cyberspace) must be secured and with them access to world markets and resources,” using military capabilities and alliances and coalitions, participating in international security and economic institutions, and employing “diplomacy and soft power to shape the behavior of individual states and the international system, using force when necessary.”

(we'll ask you for your resources before we take them by force.  Isn't that big of us?)

The principal preoccupation of the document is the protection of American forces operating in foreign countries,

(yeah right.  if you want to protect American forces, stop sending them in to fight in other countries that disobey the corporate leadership of this country.)

and the blocking of measures by foreign states to “deny” American efforts to intervene in their countries or develop measures and technology to resist American intervention (or to send Americans to international criminal courts).

(how dare they try to deny us our efforts to intervene in their countries?  how dare they try to develop measures and technology to resist American intervention!?  How dare they seek justice in criminal courts against us!  They have no rights!  We make the rules!)

As for the United States itself, the document quotes the constitutional obligation of the government “to provide for the common defense,” but says that today, after more than 230 years, the U.S. “shoulders additional responsibilities on behalf of the world ... a beacon of light for those in dark places.” Yet the fear of those dark places that permeates the document compels the suggestion that American troops remain at home, where they will be safe from enemies and untrustworthy allies, and defend their own country.

Truthdig - Reports - Bush Doctrine Becomes DoD Dogma

Interview: David Iglesias . NOW | PBS

Web-Extended Interview: David Iglesias

David Iglesias David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney of New Mexico, talks to NOW about the pressure he says he received from the Justice Department to engage in "unlawful activities," his resistance, and why he believes it cost him his job. This is a longer version of the interview that appeared in the broadcast.

NOW: As the U.S. Attorney of New Mexico you were asked to investigate and prosecute instances of voter fraud. What was the nature of this alleged voter fraud?

DAVID IGLESIAS (DI): I was aware that the Justice Department was interested in having U.S. attorneys investigate and prosecute voter fraud going back to 2002. In New Mexico, I wasn't really aware of that being a potential large scale issue until the summer of 2004. So I set up a taskforce in September 2004 to investigate. I made it state, local and federal law enforcement, and I had made sure that the FBI was involved, and that the Justice Department, public integrity section in Washington was involved. I made sure that there were both Democrat and Republican officials as part of this voter fraud effort because I wanted to allay the fears of New Mexicans that this was some kind of partisan witch hunt.

NOW: And did you find prosecutable cases?

DI: No. We looked at well over 100 cases ... Upon reviewing the evidence and looking at the FBI reports, and actually talking to the FBI agent in charge of this, I concluded, as did the public integrity section at main Justice [Department] and at the local FBI office, that we didn't have any prosecutable cases.

NOW: Clearly, voter fraud is a crime. When do efforts to ferret out those few offenders cross the line into something more inappropriate where you are engaging in an effort to strike legitimate voters from the rolls?

DI: Are you putting pressure on the U.S. Attorneys to try to file indictments immediately before an election? If so, that is inappropriate. In fact, there's a longstanding policy in the Justice Department to not do that. And it appears, in some districts, there was pressure put on us to engage in unlawful activities. And that is not what the Justice Department stands for.

NOW: One press account described it as, "A misuse of power of the Department of Justice in the service of the Republican Party." Do you agree?

DI: I think that handsomely covers the issue, yet.

NOW: You said the Justice Department made it clear that if the U.S. Attorneys believed there was voter fraud than you needed to investigate and prosecute it. How did they make that clear?

"... there was pressure put on us to engage in unlawful activities."
DI: This refers to emails that we received with memoranda attached to them in the fall of 2002, 2004 and then again in 2006. [They] admonished U.S. Attorneys to work closely with election officials to offer assistance and investigate and prosecute what appeared to be voter fraud cases.

NOW: Was there any explanation ever given as to why there was this interest?

DI: No, there was no explanation. I had assumed that was the historic practice of the Justice Department. But I subsequently learned that this administration has made it a priority.

NOW: So you're saying prosecuting cases of voter fraud is not something that traditionally has been high on the list of priorities for U.S. attorneys in New Mexico or elsewhere in the country?

DI: That's correct. You have to understand there are approximately 4,000 federal criminal laws and we're tasked to enforce them all ... it's impossible to enforce every possible law. So every administration has to come up with a list of priorities and this was a priority every two years during the election cycle for the Bush Administration.

NOW: It wasn't only officials at the Department of Justice who were expressing an interest in pursuing such cases. You were getting requests from other individuals, correct?

DI: That's correct. In fact, there was a Republican attorney, Pat Rogers, who was a prominent local attorney who tried to pressure me to come up with cases. He would send emails to my assistant, who I had tasked with running this election fraud taskforce ... And I had lunch with Mr. Rogers last fall and he expressed his concern about what he believed to be this systemic, ongoing election fraud. I did not know at the time that he belonged to an organization called the American Center for Voting Rights. He did not disclose to me that he was representing any other interest. And I've also found out that the Republican Party was very interested in stamping out what it believed to be instances of voter fraud.

NOW: The State Republican Party or the National Republican Party?

DI: Both. But who contacted me or some of my assistants was the State Republican Party.

NOW: What interest would they have in seeing you pursue cases of voter fraud?

DI: If they believe there to be prosecutable cases, it obviously sends a strong message. You don't violate federal criminal laws. But I do understand there are some allegations that, in battleground states such as New Mexico, prosecuting even a few cases sends a very strong message and could actually result in suppressing minority voting. It was never made that blunt. It was never that clearly presented to me. And a lot of this I'm reconstructing since leaving office on March 1 [2007].

NOW: What was the nature of the allegations that Rogers and other state GOP officials that you heard from or had contact with?

DI: They singled out ACORN [Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now] as an entity that they thought was engaging in this systemic election fraud. Specifically, they believed there to be a plan to register individuals who were not legally entitled to vote. Under-aged people, people who perhaps were felons, people who perhaps were not American citizens.

But it was generally that there were people voting who did not have the legal right to vote. And that may skew the result. And I believe this to be as a direct result of Al Gore's razor thin victory over George Bush in 2000.

NOW: Remind us of what happened in the 2000 election in your state?

DI: Al Gore won New Mexico by a very small margin. If memory serves me, it was approximately 344 votes. It was the smallest margin of victory of any of the 50 states. I distinctly recall hearing among Republican Party activists, there was a belief that George Bush actually won the 2000 election [in New Mexico]. And that somehow Gore stole the election. So I think there was this belief that let's not let this happen again. That's what I believe to be the genesis of them attempting to put pressure on me to find prosecutable cases.

NOW: In one press account you're quoted as characterizing Mr. Rogers' interest in this issue as "obsessive."

"There appears to be a growing body of evidence that suggests that there's voter suppression going on throughout the country."
DI: Yes. I was aware of grumbling within the State Republican Party. I had friends of mine who were attorneys. One was a former federal prosecutor himself and he would tell me during the course of early 2005 through mid-2006 ... "The Republicans are still upset with you. They still expect you to prosecute cases."

So I knew there was this belief that was I intentionally not prosecuting prosecutable cases. And I knew Rogers, as a prominent Republican, who had actually represented the State Republican Party in some civil litigation related to the voter ID issue ... I knew he was interested in the issue. And then I was also aware of the emails and phone calls he had been leaving with my assistant, who I had tasked with prosecuting this. So I knew there was a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction of me not prosecuting any cases.

What I believed, however, was consistent with historic practice—that the Justice Department would insulate me from any partisan political pressure. As it turns out, they didn't do that. And that was one of the bases for forcing my resignation.

NOW: Whether it was face-to-face conversations with people like Mr. Rogers or the buzz out there about you from your critics, did any of these conversations or any of these criticisms ever make you feel uncomfortable or pressured?

DI: That's a hard question to answer. It made me angry because I knew what we were doing. And I kept asking myself, "How can they possibly criticize me when they don't know the evidence. They've not looked at the evidence. They've not looked at the FBI reports. I have." Why would they think that a Bush appointee—who had run for public office—I had ran for state attorney general —would intentionally not prosecute a righteous case? That the one thing that I never understood. But I think in their zeal and their obsession for getting anything indicted, they let their theories get in the way of the facts and get in the way of the evidence, which they only knew a very small portion of.

NOW: In retrospect, do you believe they were rightly motivated or do you believe they were motivated by partisan politics?

DI: They were clearly partisan. I can't reach into their minds and tell you what they were thinking but I am very disturbed to read accounts of what appears to be "voter caging" in Arkansas and other parts of the country. There appears to be a growing body of evidence that suggests that there's voter suppression going on throughout the country. I'm not sure if that happened in New Mexico. All I know is there was an attempted pressure put on me by local Republicans to indict voter fraud cases. I resisted that. I thought I was going to be protected by the Bush Justice Department and I was wrong in that assumption.

NOW: Did any state Republicans complain to the White House about you?

DI: They did ... I believe they spoke to Karl Rove. I know that Senator Pete Domenici called and complained to President Bush about my alleged lack of zealousness in voter fraud issues. But I didn't know any of this until after I left office. The hearings have resulted in thousands of pages of documents and emails and what not. And I've been able to find out what was going on behind my back.

NOW: Why do you think you were fired from your position?

DI: I've maintained from day one for illicit, partisan political reasons. Specifically not coming up with voter fraud cases, number one. And number two not rushing forward indictments involving prominent Democrats during the election cycle. And thirdly, and this is a possible, since the evidence, it hasn't rolled out yet. But my reserve military duty being gone from the office a lot, I was called an absentee landlord. I believe it's a combination of those three reasons.

NOW: How would you characterize the act of enlisting a U.S. attorney in activities that will benefit a political party at the polls?

DI: It's reprehensible. It's unethical. It's unlawful. It very well may be criminal ... I know it's a marked departure from prior administrations, both Republican and Democrat, who understood that U.S. attorneys, as chief federal law enforcement officials, have to stay out of politics. And that's consistent with what Former Attorney General John Ashcroft told me in the summer of 2001. When he said, "Politics cannot enter into your decision making as a US attorney."

NOW: Where do you believe it went off the rails?

"That's why there has been such a circling of the wagons around Karl Rove and Harriet Miers and Sarah Taylor. I believe there to be incriminating, possibly criminally incriminating evidence contained in those e-mails and other memoranda."
DI: Once Alberto Gonzales took over from Ashcroft, I don't think he ever fully understood that his role as the Attorney General was for the United States of America, that his client was the American public. It wasn't serving the needs of the President. I think that's where the train left the rails.

NOW: Do you think the problems surrounding the U.S. attorneys' firings, as well as what we're learning about some of these voter suppression efforts has tainted the party?

DI: It's tainted the party and it's tainted the Justice Department, which is a real shame. It's a tragedy because, for many years, the only agency that really had a standing as the untouchable agency from partisan politics was the Justice Department. And unfortunately, what's happened over the passed couple of years has tarred it with a very, very ugly brush ... It's a serious problem. The American people have the right to believe that "prosecutive" decisions are made on the basis of evidence alone. And right now, that's called into question.

Every president has the right to set their priorities. But they have to stay within the rules. I mean, this entire scandal in one sense is about the rule of law. And this sordid affair was an attempt to use the power of the Justice Department in an unethical and unlawful way.

NOW: Trying to use the office of a U.S. Attorney for partisan political purposes is unethical. But you're saying it is actually illegal?

DI: Right. That's why there has been such a circling of the wagons around Karl Rove and Harriet Miers and Sarah Taylor. I believe there to be incriminating, possibly criminally incriminating evidence contained in those e-mails and other memoranda. That's why the White House doesn't want to produce it to Congress.
Interview: David Iglesias . NOW | PBS

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Financial Crisis Buries DoJ Bombshell

Too many important stories are conveniently buried in the main stream media.  Here we're watching the media harp on ACORN and voter fraud that doesn't exist while a systematic suppression of voters in the 2004 election goes unnoticed.  An adulteration of our "Justice system" is a non story in this election season.  This bombshell shows how states attorney's general were fired for not convicting more voter fraud cases, even if there was no evidence of wrong doing.  Or for not going after innocent democrats and for going after clearly corrupted republicans.  This "Justice" department stinks to high heaven and we're not going to hear about it because ACORN sent in to the states a pile of voter forms that they had tagged as bad for the secretary of state's office.  You got that, right?  ACORN told the secretary of state that those were bad forms and they were told they had to send them in anyway.  Because of this non-issue we won't be hearing about this corruption of our government from the top down.  So i send it on to you for your edification.

    At any other time, what happened in the U.S. Justice Department last week would have been big news. At any other time, when internal reports by Justice Department call for more investigation into a case of unethical, if not criminal, conduct on the part of lawmakers and the White House, the administration would have a lot of explaining to do.

    But the Bush administration got lucky. As its Treasury and Federal Reserve chiefs warned that the sky was falling and the economic crash and continuing tumult on Wall Street made them seem prophetic, the Justice Department released a nearly 400-page scalding indictment of the administration over the controversial firings of several U.S. attorneys in 2006.

    It was an overlooked bombshell in breaking news cycles preoccupied with financial crisis, rescue plans, presidential politics, and a vice-presidential debate.

    But what the Justice Department's exhaustive investigation and blistering report concluded about the enormous damage done to the department through improper politicization is far more troubling than even Sarah Palin in disjointed attack mode.

    Investigators from both the department's Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility found that political pressure did indeed drive the dismissal action against at least three of the nine federal prosecutors abruptly fired. At the time, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted the individuals were all dismissed for inadequate performance, or failure to implement the President's law enforcement agenda.

    But it appears the longtime pal and adviser to President Bush was lying through his teeth. Turns out the real reason some of the top federal lawyers were removed from the job, according to the Justice Department report, was that either the U.S. attorneys had the audacity to prosecute Republicans or because they failed to aggressively prosecute Democrats.

    Either way, their behavior ticked off well-connected GOP politicians who had come to expect a politically loyal Justice Department. A couple of calls from powerful New Mexico Republican officeholders helped push former U.S. attorney David Iglesias out of a job. Evidently, the top New Mexico prosecutor was remiss in his duty to produce criminal charges against Democrats in the run-up to the 2006 election.

    Another U.S. attorney in Missouri lost his post over a petty complaint from Republican Sen. Christopher Bond, and still another was bumped to make room for a protégé of White House political adviser Karl Rove. There was a pervading culture of partisanship/loyalty-above-all-else in the department, recalled one of the fired attorneys.

    "Not only were my colleagues and I not insulated from politics - as we should have been in our jobs as prosecutors - but we were fired for the most partisan reasons," Mr. Iglesias said.

    But it mattered not to the Machiavellian Bush Administration that justice was compromised with appalling political interference. It operates under the premise that the ends always justify the means.

    Look at the pattern.

    The administration used fear about nonexistent WMDs as a means to justify the ends of invading Iraq. It outed a CIA operative to punish critics, eliminated civil rights under the misnamed Patriot Act to expand executive authority, crafted energy policy with energy companies to benefit the energy industry, and allowed the subprime mortgage mess to perpetuate to generate obscene wealth for a few.

    And now there are official findings of fact about the politically charged dismissals of U.S. attorneys conducted to satisfy a White House agenda. Scandal-weary Americans may be inclined to dismiss yet another administration disgrace, but what happened at the Justice Department is too big a deal to ignore.

    We're supposed to be a country that requires "equal justice under the law," not tainted justice under political consideration. But that's what we had under shameless administration zealots like Mr. Rove and Mr. Gonzalez.

    The former administration officials allowed the most invaluable assets of the Justice Department - its integrity and independence - to be jeopardized for political ends. They permitted wholesale politicization of the department, as one commentary put it, "by subjecting new hires and sitting U.S. attorneys to rigid ideological litmus tests."

    Even though new Attorney General Michael Mukasey has appointed a federal prosecutor to investigate whether criminal laws were violated all the way to the Oval Office, the administration may luck out again. As time runs out on its lamentable tenure, the injustice it perpetrated on a once-venerated institution may go unpunished.

    But before the next administration takes over, Americans need firm assurance that the rule of law will be applied fairly by the Justice Department. Never again can there be partisan allegiance required of incoming professionals, or political criteria that outweigh the legal and ethical.

    The impartial administration of justice in this nation, its very credibility, was nearly destroyed by the tyrannical ambitions of a few.

    How's that for big news almost buried?

t r u t h o u t | Marilou Johanek | Financial Crisis Buries DoJ Bombshell

Monday, October 13, 2008

GOP Attacks on ACORN Are Based on the Fear of 1.3 Million New Voters | Democracy and Elections | AlterNet

To: Interested Parties
From: Bertha Lewis and Steve Kest
Date:  October 9, 2008
Re: The Truth About ACORN's Voter Registration Drive

Election Day is less than a month away, and our efforts to make sure that low-income and minority voters have a voice and vote on November 4th are in full swing.  Unfortunately, just as we've seen in previous election cycles, the more success we have in empowering these voters, the more attacks we have to fend off from partisan forces making unfounded accusations to disparage our work and help maintain the status quo of an unbalanced electorate. We want to take this opportunity to separate the facts of our successes from the falsehoods of our attackers.

On Monday, October 6, as voter registration deadlines passed in most states, ACORN completed the largest, most successful nonpartisan voter registration drive in history.  In partnership with the nonpartisan organization Project Vote, we helped register over 1.3 million low-income, minority, and young voters in a total of 21 states.  Highlights of this success include:

We collected over 151,000 registrations in Florida, 153,000 in Pennsylvania, 215,000 in Michigan, and nearly 250,000 in Ohio.

An estimated 60-70 percent of our applicants are people of color.

At least HALF of all are registrations are from young people between 18-29.

We are proud of this unprecedented success, and grateful to everyone who supported us in this massive effort, from our funders and partners to the literally thousands of hardworking individuals across the country who dedicated themselves to the cause and conducted the difficult work of registering 1.3 million Americans, one voter at a time.

And this work is far from over: now begins our effort mobilize these new voters around local and national issues, getting them to the polls and helping to channel their commitment and conviction into an ongoing movement for change in our communities.

As The Nation pointed out recently, ACORN's success in registering millions of low-income and minority voters has made it "something of a right-wing bogeyman." Though ACORN believes that the right to vote is not, and should never be, a partisan issue, attacks from groups threatened by our historic success continue to come, motivated by partisan politics and often perpetuated by the media without full investigation of the facts. As a result, there have been a few recent stories about investigations of former ACORN workers for turning in incomplete, erroneous, or fraudulent voter registration applications. Predictably, partisan forces have tried to use these isolated incidents to incite fear of the "bogeyman" of "widespread voter fraud." But we want to take this opportunity to set the record straight and tell you a few facts to show how these incidents really exemplify everything that ACORN is doing right:

Fact: ACORN has implemented the most sophisticated quality-control system in the voter engagement field, but in almost every state we are required to turn in ALL completed applications, even the ones we know to be problematic.

Fact: ACORN flags incomplete, problem, or suspicious cards when we turn them in, but these warnings are often ignored by election officials. Often these same officials then come back weeks or months later and accuse us of deliberately turning in phony cards.

Fact: Our canvassers are paid by the hour, not by the card, so there is NO incentive for them to falsify cards. ACORN has a zero-tolerance policy for deliberately falsifying registrations, and in the relatively rare cases where our internal quality controls have identified this happening we have fired the workers involved and turned them in to election officials and law-enforcement.

Fact: No charges have ever been brought against ACORN itself.  Convictions against individual former ACORN workers have been accomplished with our full cooperation, using the evidence obtained through our quality control and verification processes.

Fact: Voter fraud by individuals is extremely rare, and incredibly difficult. There has never been a single proven case of anyone, anywhere, casting an illegal vote as a result of a phony voter registration. Even if someone wanted to influence the election this way, it would not work.

Fact: Most election officials have recognized ACORN's good work and praised our quality control systems. Even in the cities where election officials have complained about ACORN, the applications in question represent less than 1% of the thousands and thousands of registrations ACORN has collected.

Fact: Our accusers not only fail to provide any evidence, they fail to suggest a motive: there is virtually no chance anyone would be able to vote fraudulently, so there is no reason to deliberately submit phony registrations. ACORN is committed to ensuring that the greatest possible numbers of people are registered and allowed to vote, so there is also NO incentive to "disrupt the system" with phony cards.

Fact: Similar accusations were made, and attacks launched, against ACORN and other voter registration organizations in 2004 and 2006. These attacks were not only groundless, they have since been exposed as part of the U.S. Attorneygate scandal and revealed to be part of a systematic partisan agenda of voter suppression.

These are the facts, and the truth is that a relatively small group of political operatives are trying to orchestrate hysteria about "voter fraud" and manufacture public outrage that they can use to further suppress the votes of millions of low-income and minority Americans.

These tactics are nothing new, and history has shown that they will come to nothing. We'll continue to weather the storm, as we've done for years, and we'll continue to share the truth about our work and express pride about our accomplishments.
Most importantly, we want to assure you that this good work continues, unabated and undeterred. ACORN will not be intimidated, we will not be provoked, and in this important moment in history we will not allow anyone to distract us from these vital efforts to empower our constituencies and our communities to speak for themselves. If the partisan political machines are afraid of low-income and minority voters, they're going to have to do a lot better than coming after ACORN.

After all, there are now at least 1.3 million more of them, and they will not be silenced. They're taking an interest, and taking a stand, and they'll be taking their concerns to the voting booth in November.

And ACORN will be here, to make sure that the voices of these Americans are heard, on Election Day and for every day to come.

GOP Attacks on ACORN Are Based on the Fear of 1.3 Million New Voters |

Iraq has always been about the oil

The biggest ever sale of oil assets will take place today, when the Iraqi government puts 40 billion barrels of recoverable reserves up for offer in London.

BP, Shell and ExxonMobil are all expected to attend a meeting at the Park Lane Hotel in Mayfair with the Iraqi oil minister, Hussein al-Shahristani.

Access is being given to eight fields, representing about 40 percent of the Middle Eastern nation's reserves, at a time when the country remains under occupation by U.S. and British forces.

Two smaller agreements have already been signed with Shell and the China National Petroleum Corporation, but today's sale will ignite arguments over whether the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a "war for oil" that is now to be consummated by western multinationals seizing control of strategic Iraqi reserves.

Al-Shahristani is expected to reveal some kind of "risk service agreements" that could run for up to 20 years, with formal offers to be submitted by next spring and agreements signed in the summer.

Gregg Muttitt, from the UK-based social and ecological justice group Platform, says he is alarmed that the government is pushing ahead with its plans without the support of many in Iraq.

"Most of the terms of what is being offered have not been disclosed. There are security, political and reputational risks here for oil companies but none of them will want to see one of their competitors gain an advantage," he said.

Heinrich Matthee, a senior Middle East analyst at the specialist risk consultant Control Risks Group, also believes there are many pitfalls for those considering whether to make an offer.

"Currently it is unclear which party in Iraq is authorized to award a contract and at the same time to deliver its side of the bargain," he said. "Any contract with an independent oil company will be subjected to opposition and possible revision after pressure by resource nationalists."

Oil companies will find their reputations at risk from the actions of their Iraqi counterparties, such as joint venture partners, suppliers and agents. They will also have to contend with oil smuggling and the possibility that the ruling alliance could collapse, Matthee said.

He said that if the conspiracy theory that western oil companies egged on U.S. and British governments to invade Iraq were true, the plan could backfire on them and benefit rivals in Asia instead. "It is possible the American army has provided the economic stability that will encourage Malaysian, Chinese and other Asian companies to become involved," he said.

There is no precedent for proven oil reserves of this magnitude being offered up for sale, said Muttitt. "The nearest thing would be the post-Soviet sale of the Kashagan field [in the Caspian Sea], which had 7 billion or 8 billion barrels."

China's state-owned oil group, CNPC, has already agreed a $3 billion (£1.78bn) oil services contract with the government of Iraq to pump oil from the Ahdab oil field.

The deal is the first major oil contract with a foreign firm since the U.S.-led war and was followed up by an agreement with Shell, potentially worth $4 billion, to develop a joint venture with the South Gas Company in Basra.

This deal has also triggered controversy. Issam al-Chalabi, Iraq's oil minister between 1987 and 1990, questioned why there had been no competitive tendering for the gas-gathering contract and claimed it had gone to Shell as the spoils of war.

"Why choose Shell when you could have chosen ExxonMobil, Chevron, BG or Gazprom?" he asked. "Shell appears to be paying $4 billion to get hold of assets that in 20 years could be worth $40 billion. Iraq is giving away half its gas wealth and yet this work could have been done by Iraq itself."

The Baghdad government says it aims to increase crude oil production from 2.5 million barrels a day to 4.5 million by 2013, but faces internal opposition from regional governors and political opponents.

The sale today comes as oil prices have plummeted after stockmarket turmoil on Friday. The price of crude fell by more than $4 at one point to $75 a barrel -- the lowest point since September last year and a sharp drop from its peak of $147 in July. Opec, the oil producers' cartel, has called an emergency meeting to agree a cut in output to bolster prices in spite of protestations from politicians including Gordon Brown. Brown said on Friday: "We've had some success in getting the price of oil down: the price this morning is roughly $80, about half what it was a few months ago. I want these price cuts passed on to the consumer as quickly as possible.

"I'm concerned when I hear that the Opec countries are meeting, or are about to meet, to discuss cutting production -- in other words, making the price potentially higher than it should be.

"I'm making it clear to Opec it would be wrong for the world economy and wrong for British people who are paying high petrol prices and high fuel prices to cut production and therefore keep prices high."

A government source said: "The one chink of light has been the fall in the price of oil. The last thing we want is to head into a difficult period with a return to high oil prices. People need to act responsibly."
In Biggest Oil Sale Ever, Iraqi Government to Put 40 Billion Barrels of Reserves Up For Grabs | War on Iraq | AlterNet

Frank Schaeffer: An Open Letter to John McCain

Senator John McCain: If your campaign does not stop equating Sen. Barack Obama with terrorism, questioning his patriotism and portraying Mr. Obama as "not one of us," I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence.

At a Sarah Palin rally, someone called out, "Kill him!" At one of your rallies, someone called out, "Terrorist!" Neither was answered or denounced by you or your running mate, as the crowd laughed and cheered. At your campaign event Wednesday in Bethlehem, Pa., the crowd was seething with hatred for the Democratic nominee - an attitude encouraged in speeches there by you, your running mate, your wife and the local Republican chairman.


John McCain: In 2000, as a lifelong Republican, I worked to get you elected instead of George W. Bush. In return, you wrote an endorsement of one of my books about military service. You seemed to be a man who put principle ahead of mere political gain.

You have changed. You have a choice: Go down in history as a decent senator and an honorable military man with many successes, or go down in history as the latest abettor of right-wing extremist hate.

John McCain, you are no fool, and you understand the depths of hatred that surround the issue of race in this country. You also know that, post-9/11, to call someone a friend of a terrorist is a very serious matter. You also know we are a bitterly divided country on many other issues. You know that, sadly, in America, violence is always just a moment away. You know that there are plenty of crazy people out there.

John McCain, you're walking a perilous line. If you do not stand up for all that is good in America and declare that Senator Obama is a patriot, fit for office, and denounce your hate-filled supporters when they scream out "Terrorist" or "Kill him," history will hold you responsible for all that follows.

John McCain and Sarah Palin, you are playing with fire, and you know it. You are unleashing the monster of American hatred and prejudice, to the peril of all of us. You are doing this in wartime. You are doing this as our economy collapses. You are doing this in a country with a history of assassinations.

Change the atmosphere of your campaign. Talk about the issues at hand. Make your case. But stop stirring up the lunatic fringe of haters, or risk suffering the judgment of history and the loathing of the American people - forever.

We will hold you responsible.

Frank Schaeffer: An Open Letter to John McCain

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Private or Public retirement plans?

(3 unread) Yahoo! Mail, shelley9595

Major shock: Eavesdropping powers abused without oversight - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

Major shock: Eavesdropping powers abused without oversight

(updated below - Update II - Update III)

In the most unsurprising revelation imaginable, two former Army Reserve Arab linguists for the National Security Agency have said that they routinely eavesdropped on — “and recorded and transcribed” — the private telephone calls of American citizens who had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.  The two former NSA employees, who came forward as part of journalist James Bamford’s forthcoming book on the NSA, intercepted calls as part of the so-called “Terrorist  Surveillance Program,” whereby George Bush ordered the NSA in 2001 to eavesdrop on Americans’ calls in secret, without first obtaining judicial approval as required by the law (FISA).  That illegal eavesdropping continued for at least six years — through 2007.

The two NSA whistleblowers, Adrienne Kinne and David Murfee Faulk, were interviewed by ABC News’ Brian Ross.  Kinne said that “US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and ‘collected on’ as they called their offices or homes in the United States.”  He also said his co-workers “were ordered to transcribe these calls.”   Faulk told Ross:  ”when one of my co-workers went to a supervisor and said:  ’but sir, there are personal calls,’ the supervisor said: ‘my orders were to transcribe everything’.”   He said that the intercepted calls included highly personal and intimate conversations and even phone sex.

When Ross showed Kinne a video excerpt of George Bush insisting to the nation that only those with links to Al Qaeda were eavesdropped on as part of his illegal spying program, the following exchange occurred:

ROSS:  Kinne says she listened to hundreds of Americans simply calling their families …

KINNE:  Personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything having anything to do with terrorism. It was just personal conversations that nobody else should have been listening to.

ROSS:  President Bush has reassured Americans again and again:

GEORGE BUSH:  It’s phone calls of known Al Qaeda suspects making a phone call into the United States.

KINNE:  I would say that that is completely a lie  —  I would call it a lie — because we were definitely listening to Americans who had nothing to do with terrorism…

ROSS:  Kinne says she intercepted, recorded, and transcribed conversations with the military, journalists, and Red Cross and aid workers.

There are, for now, several points worth noting here:

(1) There is one reason and one reason only these abuses occurred:   because George Bush broke the law — committed felonies — by ordering the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants.

(2) While the extent of the abuses disclosed here is substantial — “hundreds of Americans”; journalists, Red Cross and aid workers; military officers speaking to their friends and families — these disclosures are from only two relatively low-level individual NSA linguists at one NSA facility in Georgia.  If just these two individuals are aware of this level of abuse, just imagine what the true extent of the abuses is — both quantitatively (how many innocent Americans had their conversations eavesdropped on?) and qualitatively (who, beyond journalists and aid workers, were listened to?).

(3) Most disturbing here is that these calls were not merely surveilled, but were recorded and transcribed.  In whose custody are these recordings and transcripts and what was done with them?

(4) This was not the work of rogue employees or bad apples.  Note that Faulk specifically said that the abuses were brought to the attention of NSA supervisors — the ones whom the Bush administration has repeatedly claimed were adequate substitutes for FISA judges in deciding who should be surveilled — and those supervisors said that they were ordered to transcribe the calls in question.

(5) These abuses aren’t merely grotesque invasions of privacy and civil liberties, though they obviously are that.  Independently, surveillance abuses undermine genuine counter-terrorism efforts and national security interests in the extreme.  If NSA agents are listening in on the calls of innocent Americans, including journalists and aid workers — including their intimate calls and even their “phone sex,” as Faulk said — then that means they’re not listening in on actual terrorist suspects.  

That’s why, as Rep. Rush Holt among many others have long argued, allowing oversight-less eavesdropping not only guarantees civil liberties abuses but also destroys genuine counter-terrorism efforts.  From Ross’ story:

Kinne says the success stories underscored for her the waste of time spent listening to innocent Americans, instead of looking for the terrorist needle in the haystack.

“By casting the net so wide and continuing to collect on Americans and aid organizations, it’s almost like they’re making the haystack bigger and it’s harder to find that piece of information that might actually be useful to somebody,” she said. “You’re actually hurting our ability to effectively protect our national security.”

(6) Let’s not forget who the ultimate culprit is here:  the U.S. Congress, and specifically the Senate Intelligence Committee led for years by GOP Sen. Pat Roberts and now by Democratic Sen.  Jay Rockefeller.  That Committee was created in the wake of the discovery in the mid-1970s that the U.S. Government was abusing its surveillance powers for decades because no judicial oversight was required, and the reason that Committee was createdthe reason it exists — is ” to provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

But people like Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller (along with Nancy Pelosi and ranking House Intelligence Committee Member Jane Harman) knew that the Bush administration was spying on Americans without warrants — because the administration told them they were — and they did nothing.  Even once The New York Times finally told the country that the Bush administration was breaking the law — only after the Times concealed the story for a full year — the Senate Intelligence Committee never bothered to investigate what the Bush administration was doing with its secret, unlawful spying powers, whether those powers were abused, which Americans were spied upon, and how they were selected.   To this day, they have never bothered to investigate those questions.

Congressional leaders in both parties — including those whose statutory duty was to compel compliance by the intelligence agencies with the law — were absolutely complicit in allowing all of this to happen.  They knew for years that the Bush administration was breaking the law in spying on Americans without warrants and remained quiet and supportive.  Then, this year, Congress — led by Jay Rockefeller and Jane Harman (and both major party presidential candidates) — acted to immunize the private telephone companies that broke the law by enabling this spying and to expand the President’s authority to eavesdrop on Americans without meaningful oversight.

(7) None of these revelations of abuse is even remotely surprising, and anyone who feigns surprise — in the administration, in Congress, in the media — is simply lying to conceal their own culpability.  Since the Church Committee, we have known that the U.S. Government, no matter which party is in control, will inevitably abuse eavesdropping powers if those powers can be exercised in secret and without oversight.  The temptation to abuse eavesdropping powers is too great to be resisted.  That was why FISA was enacted — because judicial oversight is the only way to prevent that abuse.   Abuse of this sort is inevitable when a Government is allowed to spy on its own citizens without checks and oversight.

(8) Even without any reports of abuse, what the Bush administration did in spying on Americans without warrants was a felony, punishable with a $10,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison for each offense.  We’ve heard for the last many years — from the David Broders and friends — that it would be terribly divisive, awfully unfair, upsetting and disruptive, for government officials to be held accountable for their violations of the criminal law.  Will these revelations — that innocent Americans were spied upon in large numbers as part of this criminal spying program — change that view?

(9)  Those who have been vigorously protesting expanded executive power and oversight-less surveillance authority for years — and who have been arguing that violations of the criminal law by high government officials cannot be tolerated — have continuously been subjected to accusations that we are shrill, paranoid extremists for believing that government officials should not and cannot be trusted to exercise power in the dark.   Here was what Gen. Michael Hayden — now the CIA Director and the then-Director of the NSA — said in a January, 2006 Press Briefing, in the wake of the NYT disclosure, when asked by an independent journalist about the likelihood of abuse when the NSA eavesdrops without judicial oversight:

I’m disappointed I guess that perhaps the default response for some is to assume the worst. I’m trying to communicate to you that the people who are doing this, okay, go shopping in Glen Burnie and their kids play soccer in Laurel, and they know the law. They know American privacy better than the average American, and they’re dedicated to it. So I guess the message I’d ask you to take back to your communities is the same one I take back to mine. This is focused. It’s targeted. It’s very carefully done. You shouldn’t worry.

That was the attitude of the political and media establishment for years — our Government Leaders are Good and want only what is Good for us, and need not have their powers questioned, checked, or limited.   Today’s disclosures are just the revelations of two low-level independent whistle-blowers.  Just contemplate what we will learn — years or decades from now — the Bush administration was really doing as we collectively decided that they could seize and exercise powers, even illegally, and exercise it without limits.

UPDATE:  Just as a reminder of where we are as a surveillance state, Privacy International assesses countries around the world using objective metrics, and ranks each of them for the level of privacy they afford their citizens, using this color-based scheme:

Here’s what they found for 2007:



The Land of the Free — The Greatest Country Ever to Exist on the Planet for All of Human History — is the least privacy-respecting, most invasive surveillance state of those surveyed (having been downgraded from its 2006 ranking as an “Extensive Surveillance State” to its 2007 designation:  ”Endemic Surveillance Society”), tied only with Russia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, the U.K., China and Malaysia.

UPDATE II:  ABC News and Brian Ross are touting this story as an “exclusive,” but it’s nothing of the sort.  Back in May, Adrienne Kinne appeared on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, and disclosed these details already, and many more, including the fact that the Bush administration had purpoesly targeted the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad for eavesdropping, where most American journalists were staying (h/t Rumpelstilskin):

KINNE:  And over the course of my time, as we slowly began to identify phone numbers and who belonged to what, one thing that gave me grave concern was that as we identified phone numbers, we started to find more and more and more numbers that belonged not to any organizations affiliated with terrorism or with military—with militaries of Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere, but with humanitarian aid organizations, non-governmental organizations, who include the International Red Cross, Red Crescent, Doctors Without Borders, a whole host of humanitarian aid organizations. And it also included journalists… .

One of the instances was the fact that we were listening to journalists who were staying in the Palestine Hotel. And I remember that, specifically because during the buildup to Shock and Awe, which people in my unit were really disturbingly excited about, we were given a list of potential targets in Baghdad, and the Palestine Hotel was listed as a potential target. And I remember this specifically, because, putting one and one together, that there were journalists staying at the Palestine Hotel and this hotel was listed as a potential target, I went to my officer in charge, and I told him that there are journalists staying at this hotel who think they’re safe, and yet we have this hotel listed as a potential target, and somehow the dots are not being connected here, and shouldn’t we make an effort to make sure that the right people know the situation?

And unfortunately, my officer in charge, similarly to any time I raised concerns about things that we were collecting or intelligence that we were reporting, basically told me that it was not my job to analyze. It was my job to collect and pass on information and that someone somewhere higher up the chain knew what they were doing… .

But the only reason now that I really remember that specific email is because I knew, having listened to journalists staying at the Palestine Hotel, talking with their families and loved ones and talking about whether or not they were safe and trying to reassure their family and co-workers and loved ones that they were safe, when I saw that hotel listed, I thought there was something that was going terribly wrong.

The whole interview with Goodman from four months ago is very worth reading, including Kinne’s discussion of why she took so long to come forward (“I took my clearance incredibly seriously. I had a very high clearance, military intelligence”) and why she came forward now.  And ABC News and Ross should remove their “exclusive” designation from this story.  A real journalist, Goodman, reported most of these facts months ago.

UPDATE III:  This is one of the biggest jokes I’ve ever read, from the now-updated ABC article:

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), called the allegations “extremely disturbing” and said the committee has begun its own examination.

“We have requested all relevant information from the Bush Administration,” Rockefeller said Thursday. “The Committee will take whatever action is necessary.”

Jay Rockefeller has known since at least 2003 that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on Americans without warrants and did nothing as the leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and then joined with Dick Cheney to crusade for the FISA/telecom amnesty bill passed this year.  After George Bush, Jay Rockefeller is probably the person most responsible in America for these intelligence abuses, and for him to feign surprise and anger — “Wow!  I’m so surprised and upset that warrantless surveillance powers were abused!  I never would have imagined that eavesdropping would be abused if done without oversight!” — is really too much bear.  The only “necessary action” he’s likely to take in response to all of this is to retroactively immunize those responsible.

Major shock: Eavesdropping powers abused without oversight - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com