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July 9th, 2008
11:30 am

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Ask your senator to vote against HR 6304 (right now please. thanx)
To quote Novapsyche's post, there is still time to call your Senators regarding the capitulation on FISA (aka, the evisceration of the 4th Amendment).

The bill is H.R. 6304 and i have seen it described as a confirmation of the legal king model of government since it basically protects people (in this case, telecommunication companies) from being prosecuted for illegal activities because the president asked them to do them.

I would prefer to live in a country where presidential fiat does not make it ok for people to break the law, especially regarding the privacy of citizens, and in order for that to be true, we need to defeat this bill. please call your senator now.

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From:sylo_tode
Date:July 9th, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)

According to their office staff

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Senator Stabenow is going to vote against it.

Senator Levin, as usual, has not given his position.

Do you think it's a coincidence that this bill is likely to pass, impeachment is off the table, and Congress is at a record low approval rating?
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From:grimfaire
Date:July 9th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)

Re: According to their office staff

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BTW: Love the icon. :)
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From:sylo_tode
Date:July 9th, 2008 07:23 pm (UTC)

Re: According to their office staff

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Thanks.

It's the product of one of those memes that went around some time ago. The one where someone looks over your interests and posts and comes up with an icon for you. miss_s_b made this one.
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From:novapsyche
Date:July 9th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
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The problem with this bill is manifold.

First of all, it legalizes retroactively the illegal actions of the government that have been taking place for at least the last three years. Mr. Bush has admitted to breaking the law at least thirty times. The Congress, if it passes this bill, is colluding in a cover-up of thirty instances of a felony.

Second, if the telecoms are given protection against civil suits, there is very little chance that the American people will get a full accounting of exactly what they did on the government's behalf. The depth of the wrongdoing may never be known.

Third, because the bill goes above and beyond the previous bill granting the president these powers, it effectively allows the government to spy on its citizens without any court oversight and without any redress by the common citizen. It specifically guts the main protections afforded by the 4th Amendment.

Edited at 2008-07-09 04:04 pm (UTC)
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From:novapsyche
Date:July 9th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
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Consider also that the Senators are being asked to vote on this bill despite the fact that 70% of them have yet to be briefed on the very issue that the bill concerns. (See Russ Feingold's statements to the Senate this morning.)

I know that DailyKos is a biased source, but this diary references an interview with Jonathan Turley yesterday, wherein he describes in very sober detail what this bill means for the nation.

Another diary highlights some of the more egregious wording of the bill.
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From:arkaycee
Date:July 12th, 2008 11:36 pm (UTC)
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From the second link...

• H.R.6304 contains an "exigent" circumstance loophole that thwarts the prior judicial review requirement. The bill permits the government to start a spying program and wait to go to court for up to 7 days every time "intelligence important to the national security of the US may be lost or not timely acquired." By definition, court applications take time and will delay the collection of information. It is highly unlikely there is a situation where this exception doesn’t swallow the rule.

This concept and its corollaries (i.e. that too much time will be lost because the FISA court will be slow to act) was totally repudiated by the FISA court's most recent past head. I heard him speaking to the American Library Association on NPR about a year ago, and he said that it was a very speedy thing when it needed to be -- he was stuck in traffic caused by the smoke of the burning Pentagon on 9/11 and said he had already approved a half-dozen warrants from his car dealing with the attacks before he even got free of the traffic jam. He was very clear in stating that this was a bogus assertion to the need for the warrantless program.
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From:netmouse
Date:July 9th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
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The key is holding individuals responsible for acting legally despite what members of the government tell them to do, if they know the government is asking them to do something illegal.

This is similar to how a soldier is expected and encouraged to refuse to execute an oder that is illegal.

Just because a person is in a position of power doesn't mean they can do anything, or order others to do anything. It is more important to me that companies operate in good faith with the people and the laws of this country that that they do so with a particular (in this case despicable) holder of office within the government.

This is necessary to prevent thugs in government from creating their own private armies who will act illegally under the reassurance that they will never be prosecuted for doing so. People ought to follow the law, and they ought to be prosecutable if they do not. Those companies broke faith with their customers, and with the laws of this country, as those laws were duly established by our government. They did not act in good faith with the majority of government that established and upholds those laws, only with a small contingent that chose to disregard them.

Why does it make sense to you that they should be protected because someone in government asked them to do it? If the president asked someone to torture and assassinate US citizens, do you think those who executed such illegal acts should be given immunity because of who asked them to do it? Or does this crime seem more forgivable because it is an information and surveillance crime? Does it not majorly impact our freedom and honesty as a nation if we look the other way on crimes such as these?
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From:ckd
Date:July 9th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
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You might look at this explanation. A key point:
As has been pointed out by others, the law prohibits the telephone companies from giving information to the government. Therefore, it is ridiculous for them to say, “but the government asked us for it.” These are gigantic corporations with legal departments. They should bloody well know when the government is lying to them about what is and isn’t legal. Similarly, if in the future the government makes a request that actually is legal, the fact that the phone companies can be punished for breaking the law shouldn't make them unwilling to obey the law. We don't worry that putting bank robbers in jail could discourage law-abiding citizens from withdrawing their money from the bank.

At a minimum, the lawsuits need to proceed so we can use the trials to determine the details of what happened, of how egregious the violations of FISA actually were, how many thousands or millions of us were spied upon. And if there really is a signed piece of paper out there from the Administration assuring the phone companies that its request was legal, then the phone companies can countersue the government to recover their damages. (Google “detrimental reliance.”)
(Emphasis added.)

The phone companies, therefore, have recourse. For civil suits, detrimental reliance (as noted above); for criminal cases, Presidential pardons. There's no reason that immunity has to be the solution, except to keep information from coming out during the ensuing cases; the obvious reason that's so important is that they think it would lead to criminal cases against the government personnel responsible—in which case, it's critically important not to let retroactive immunity go into effect, shielding them from the consequences of illegal actions.
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From:cos
Date:July 9th, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC)
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First one key point seems to be on the issue of did the companies realize they were violating the law.

Not really. That is a point to be argued in court, where guilt is supposed to be determined. It is not something that is appropriate for Congress to decide.

Cases go to court all the time where defendants claim they didn't realize they were violating the law. Do you think that Congress should look at such cases, decide whether it believes the defendants, and if so, pass a bill saying that action wasn't actually illegal? Imagine what that would do for the concept of "rule of law".

Also remember that ignorance of the law is, in and of itself, not an excuse (though it can be a mitigating factor). Furthermore, in this case, I think it's very obvious that the telecom companies a) had a duty to know that this was illegal, b) had legal departments who could pretty easily determine that this was illegal, and therefore c) probably did realize it was illegal.
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From:cos
Date:July 9th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
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You're possibly right that Congress has the legal power to do this. It's not clear whether their declaration of amnesty really will immunize the phone companies, but it's likely enough that we're fighting against it. That's the whole point here, of course: If Congress clearly didn't have the power to retroactively give amnesty for lawbreaking, then this wouldn't be an important issue to lobby about.

So, grant that Congress is allowed to do this (aka this is "part of its duties").

Now, think about the effects. Remember what happened with Nixon. FISA was a response to the Nixon scandals. It placed a duty on phone companies not to comply with illegal request for information from the government, because the Church commission understood that without that, it would be very hard to enforce the law, since on the government side everything is secret, and it's hard to sue or prosecute anyone.

So imagine you're a phone company with a legal department that understands the FISA law, and the government comes asking you for information that you know you're not legally allowed to give them. For example, you're AT&T and the government asks you to build a special secret room where all of your data gets routed through and a copy is sent to the NSA. Obviously outside the law, and there's clearly no warrant from the FISA court, but they're the executive branch and they're pressuring you to do it. Do you comply?

If you know that if it ever gets found out, you're in for some serious liability, then you're much more likely to resist their pressure to break the law. That's what FISA was trying to accomplish.

But if this bill passes, that calculation changes. You understand that there are consequences for resisting the government (Qwest was punished for their refusal to collude). You also understand that the executive branch run amok will also be able to pressure Congress into immunizing you if this ever goes public, so there likely won't be any serious consequences. That means you're probably better off obeying government officials, than obeying the law.

That is the very definition of the difference between monarchy/dictatorship and "the rule of law".
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From:arkaycee
Date:July 12th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
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Regarding the Presidential Pardon; I don't know if it's amendable by Congress, but it's a lot better politically for the President if he can convince Congress to do it so he doesn't have to.

I'm expecting a big likelihood though that W's last day in office is going to include a lot of pardoning. I'm wondering if some of the higher-ups will get the Ford-to-Nixon type pardon wherein they've not really been tried and found guilty yet, but more of a blanket "get-out-of-jail-for-whatever-you-did" card.
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From:cos
Date:July 9th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
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The telecommunications companies broke the law. Qwest was the only big one who did not break the law, but all of them have legal departments part of whose job it is to tell the difference between legal and illegal requests for information, and these requests were very obviously, screamingly obviously, illegal.

Now, if the phone companies were actually acting in "good faith" and couldn't figure it out and thought what they were doing were legal, then they could defend themselves in court. It's the courts' job to determine that sort of thing, not Congress.

When the Church commission drafted the original FISA legislation, they understood that the problem wasn't just limited to the executive branch of government - it was also part of the problem that telephone companies would cooperate with such illegal requests. Therefore, they made the law explicitly address that. Telecom companies have an explicit duty under the law to refuse to comply with illegal requests for information from the government.

They broke the law. When someone is suspected of breaking the law, we have courts to handle determining their guilt and proper punishment.

For Congress to step in and try to cancel it out and excuse the lawbreaking is extremely dangerous. It means that FISA's requirements, placing a legal duty on telecom companies to take customers' privacy seriously, will no longer be as meaningful, because the precedent will be that if you break this law, the president will then successfully get Congress to excuse you anyway.

In other words, "If the president asks you to do it, then it is not illegal".

This is Congress agreeing with Nixon.
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From:novapsyche
Date:July 9th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC)
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Qwest was the only big one who did not break the law

Thank you. I'd been trying to recall the name of the company but was drawing a blank.
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From:grimfaire
Date:July 9th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC)
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Since bills/laws do not trump the constitution and since it is a government by the people... if it passes... I reserve the right to spy on the government and grant myself immunity from prosecution.

These idiots stay in power simply because we allow them to stay in power.

The only way to stop this is to stop voting for people already in office. I understand that some of them seem to be doing good but they are all products of the system and the system is broken.

It is time for the entire system to change. There is a reason Ron Paul garned as much support as he did... he he got more votes then Guilliani did in the Republican primaries despite him having shall we say a checkered background. The current establishment has proven itself to be beyond corrupt, incompentant and fails to perform their main duty of serving the people.
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From:cos
Date:July 9th, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
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The only way to stop this is to stop voting for people already in office. I understand that some of them seem to be doing good but they are all products of the system and the system is broken.

That is a broken political strategy that will not achieve any good. If you want to make political change you need a strategy that includes voting, sure, but "vote against all incumbents" achieves nothing whatsoever. Really.
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From:grimfaire
Date:July 9th, 2008 07:03 pm (UTC)
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Sure it does... our system doesn't have a method for a "no contest" or "no confidence" vote of our system so the only method left to us before revolution is to break the system.

We could just as well get 100 million to vote for donal duck to achieve the same results.
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From:cos
Date:July 9th, 2008 07:30 pm (UTC)
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You're not going to get 100 million votes for Donald Duck. Or "against all incumbents", either.

If you want to change legislators' behavior on some issue and your strategy is to vote against both your allies and your opponents, you will A) not get much support for your strategy, hence not a lot of votes, and B) not get any coherent message to legislators, either the incumbents or new ones who get elected, about what it is that they should do to win your votes. Hence, you will achieve nothing. Really.

This strategy is similar to the neocon/Bush global strategy of "just beat all the bad guys". It sounds like it makes sense only if you neither understand the system you're trying to affect, nor do you have any interest in understanding it, and at its best (if you achieve enough power to really do it), it can cause a lot of damage, but can't get you what you want (unless all you want is "a lot of damage" - but it does bit you in the ass too).
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From:grimfaire
Date:July 9th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
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What you don't get is that I fully understand the system and therein lies the problem. The system is broke with no chance of repair.

You start with basic idea of a two party system which over time has evolved into a 1 party system... I'm sorry but other then monikers there is no realistic difference between dems and republicans... whomever throws more money at the official gets their vote. They talk differently but act the same.

Personally, I'd more for just truly educate everyone and then you wouldn't have this problem but since we get no choice with the current system, we have to think of another way. The best we can hope for with the system as it is, is to elect gridlock and have a completely inefectual government that is incapable of doing anything which means at the very least it can't do any harm.

I'd rather put my trust in Joe across the hall who has to live in the shit he shovels than people who spend most if not all of their adult lives isolated from everyone else in society. We've created our own nobility class in members of congress.
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From:cos
Date:July 9th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
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What you don't get is that I fully understand the system

The rest of your comment strongly suggests otherwise, and also suggests that you don't even see what system it is, let alone understand how it works. However, I'll drop it now, because a real answer would take way more time than I have.
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From:knightlygoddess
Date:July 9th, 2008 10:59 pm (UTC)
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I once wrote in "Snoopy" as my vote for a local election - and he received two votes. So I wasn't the only person of the mind to vote for a make-believe character.
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From:cos
Date:July 15th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
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There are always a few write-in votes like that in almost every election. They have no effect, of course, because they're individual & disorganized. Perhaps they make some voters feel better, perhaps they amuse someone (well, I know they amuse me sometimes), but as far as making political change they're completely pointless votes.
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From:arkaycee
Date:July 12th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
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This strategy is similar to the neocon/Bush global strategy of "just beat all the bad guys".

(big nod in agreement). Locking people up at Gitmo as illegal combatants in the War on Terror comes to mind. To me, it's like the War on Bank Robbery. As long as there are banks, there will be robberies, and we can't just lock up bank robbers permanently, if that's how you define when to start letting out illegal combatants. For one big thing, there are probably thousands of terrorists and terrorist groups, each with their own individual goal, and many of whose goals are in absolute conflict with each other. Unless human nature changes, that'll never change, which is sad but true.
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From:skylarker
Date:July 9th, 2008 04:30 pm (UTC)
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Done.
From:tlatoani
Date:July 9th, 2008 08:09 pm (UTC)
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Both Levin and Stabenow voted against it.

Obama, who everyone keeps telling me is such a wonderful, hope-bringing, progressive voted for it. I was hoping I'd finally get to vote for a presidential candidate instead of just against the other one, but not this year.
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From:arkaycee
Date:July 12th, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC)
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Obama is beginning to disappoint me more and more -- just as at one point, even though I am more liberal than conservative, McCain did. I really thought he might be a voice of common sense a few years ago.
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From:cos
Date:July 15th, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC)
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Even the very best Presidents have had some really big flaws. No candidate can ever be perfect. FDR made this a much much better country than it was before him, was responsible for creating much of the middle class... and had all Japanese-Americans rounded up and put in concentration camps for several years. Obama has the potential to be a great president. He has some serious problems. I support him with great vigor while also fighting against things like this.
From:nicegeek
Date:July 9th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)
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This is sparking quite an online backlash...there's a PAC called Accountability Now that's organizing to support pro-civil-rights candidates in the fall election.
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