Saturday, December 24

Purple Protest

Showing that they've rapidly begun to learn the true meaning of Democracy - thousands of Iraqis have gathered to protest the Dec 15th elections as being fraudulent.

BAGHDAD, Iraq -
Iraq's leading Shiite religious bloc said Friday it is ready to discuss Sunni Arab participation in a coalition government, while thousands of Sunnis and some secular Shiites demonstrated in the streets claiming election fraud.
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Reacting to growing protests over the Dec. 15 ballot for a new parliament, Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari urged Iraqis to have faith in the electoral process. He made the call after meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who announced the first of a possible series of U.S. combat troop reductions next year.

...

About 20,000 people took part in a mass demonstration organized by 35 Sunni Arab and secular Shiite political parties after Friday prayers.

Many people outside the governing Shiite religious-oriented political bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, allege last week's elections were unfair to Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups.

"We refuse the cheating and forgery in the elections," read one banner at the protest in southern Baghdad.

More than 2,000 people also demonstrated in Mosul, where some accused
Iran of having a hand in election fraud. About 1,000 people demonstrated in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown.

Sunni Arab and secular Shiite factions are demanding that an international body review the fraud complaints, warning that they may boycott the new legislature. The
United Nations rejected an outside review.

The demand was issued after preliminary returns indicated the United Iraqi Alliance was getting bigger-than-expected majorities in Baghdad, which has large numbers of secular Shiites and Sunnis.

About 1,500 complaints have been lodged about the elections, including 40 or so that the Iraqi election commission said are serious enough to change the results in certain areas.

The protesting groups have demanded the disbandment of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, accusing it of covering up ballot box stuffing and fraud

The prime minister defended the commission Friday, saying the government does not meddle in its affairs.

"Our victory as a government, our real victory, is that the election process included all political groups," al-Jaafari said. "Those who have complaints should contribute to this feeling and to be confident that their complaints will be listened to."


Just as he did one year ago, President Bush is certain to tout this election - with the manditory raising of a purple (middle) finger - and the subsequent draw down of 20,000 U.S. Troops (returning to our Baseline of 137,000) as major successes -- but how successful is an electoral process that many feel may have been rigged and/or gamed?

Vyan

Wednesday, December 21

NSA Spying = Watergate x 10,000

In my inbox today I had an announcement that three bills official censuring President Bush have been authored by Rep. John Conyers and presented to congress.

H.Res.635 would create a select committee - modeled after Sam Ervin's Watergate committee - to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, and retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment.

H.Res.636 and H.Res.637 would censure, respectively, Bush and Cheney for failing to respond to requests for information concerning allegations that they and others in the Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq, misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for the war, countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of persons in Iraq, and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of the Administration, for failing to adequately account for certain misstatements they made regarding the war, and – in the case of President Bush – for failing to comply with Executive Order 12958.
More details at CensureBush.org.

Oh what a difference a day makes - just the other day we were talking about how Bush polls numbers seem to be getting a bounce now that Katrina-Amnesia seems to have fully set in - today, all hell's busting loose.

Ed Kilgore from TPM Cafe.

The brazen we-make-the-rules-around-here attitude reflected in the Bush administration's domestic spying ukase, and its let's-punish-the-leakers reaction to its exposure, is certainly not just an executive branch phenomenon. Last night's House Republican maneuvers on budget and defense appropriations measures exhibit the same mentality, especially in the strategem that made it possible: a rules change that basically abolished all the rules.

. . .

Thanks to martial law, the incredibly convoluted series of decisions made totally behind close doors on the budget bill, turned into a simple loyalty test for partisans. There was a grand total of 40 minutes of debate, which was probably about right since nobody had the chance to read the bill in the first place.

. . .

Republicans have steadily degenerated from the party of law and order, to the party that is actually contemptuous of the law when it doesn't serve their purposes, and indifferent to constitutional and legislative order when it thwarts their will. What the Schiavo incident said about the true Republican attitude towards federalism and separation of powers, the "martial law" rule says about the GOP's true interest in rational policymaking and honest debate.

Sen Jay Rockefellers original handwritten letter to the President when he was informed of the domestic spying over two years ago...

July 17, 2003

Dear Mr. Vice President,

I am writing to reiterate my concern regarding the sensitive intelligence issues we discussed today with the DCI, DIRNSA, and Chairman Roberts and our House Intelligence Committee counterparts.

Clearly the activities we discussed raise profound oversight issues. As you know, I am neither a technician or an attorney. Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities.

As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology, and surveiliance.

Without more information and the ability to draw on any independent legal or techical expertise, I simply cannot satisfy lingering concerns raised by the briefing we received.

I am retaining a copy of this letter in a sealed envelope in the secure spaces of the Senate Intelligence Committee to ensure that I have a record of this communication.

I appreciate your consideration of my views.

Most respectfully,

Jay Rockefeller

Alberto Gonzales, claiming that the President had to power to spy on american's - but didn't ask Congress for that power because they wouldn't have given it to him -- ya think?

Q You have stretched this resolution for war into giving you carte blanche to do anything you want to do.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, one might make that same argument in connection with detention of American citizens, which is far more intrusive than listening into a conversation. There may be some members of Congress who might say, we never --

Q That's your interpretation. That isn't Congress' interpretation.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, I'm just giving you the analysis --

[...]

Q If FISA didn't work, why didn't you seek a new statute that allowed something like this legally?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: That question was asked earlier. We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be -- that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program. And that -- and so a decision was made that because we felt that the authorities were there, that we should continue moving forward with this program.

It should be fairly noted that in his press conference Gonzales takes pains to point out that only members of al Qaeda are being targeted by the NSA for surveilance, at least one end of the conversation has to be overseas, and that this action by the President follows the Supreme Court Decision in the Hamdi v Rumsfeld Case - a point which is made more clear by RedState.org
the President was authorized to use all necessary force against Al Qaeda in the wake of 9/11, it would seem rather strange that the use of wiretaps against known Al Qaeda agents would not fall under "all necessary force." As AGAG pointed out in the presser, the SCOTUS has already construed that authorization of force very broadly, to the point that they read it to imply powers not explicitly contained in the authorization even when such a construction directly violated another Federal Statute, 18 U.S.C. 4001(a). (See Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507). If the SCOTUS authorized the detention of a United States Citizen in direct contravention to the provisions of 18 U.S.C. 4001, they would certainly authorize the use of wiretaps in the gathering of foreign intelligence, when such authorization might questionably violate 50 U.S.C

Feingold Responds to Gonzales
Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis) responded to Gonzales' comments in an NBC interview this morning. "This is just an outrageous power grab," he said. "Nobody, nobody, thought when we passed a resolution to invade Afghanistan and to fight the war on terror, including myself who voted for it, thought that this was an authorization to allow a wiretapping against the law of the United States. "There's two ways you can do this kind of wiretapping under our law. One is through the criminal code, Title III; the other is through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That's it. That's the only way you can do it. You can't make up a law and deriving it from the Afghanistan resolution. "The president has, I think, made up a law that we never passed," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.).
Media Matters points out that FISA warrants can already be obtained on an emergency basis.

A December 16 New York Times article revealed that Bush had granted the NSA the power to eavesdrop on international phone and email communications that originate from or are received within the United States without court approval. During the December 19 press conference, the president defended this decision by arguing that "we must be able to act fast ... so we can prevent new [terrorist] attacks" and that the NSA program "enables us to move faster and quicker." Other administration officials have echoed this defense. For example, in a December 19 interview on CNN, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales stated, "I'm told by the operational folks at the National Security Agency that we do not have the speed and the agility in all cases, in every circumstance, to deal with this new kind of threat."

What this argument appears to ignore, however, is that the court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to provide authorization for international wiretaps is specifically designed to respond quickly to the type of requests in question. The so-called FISA court regularly authorizes these warrants within hours and even minutes. Moreover, in the case of "emergency" situations in which the attorney general deems it necessary to undertake surveillance immediately, the statute itself allows the government to obtain a warrant up to 72 hours after starting the necessary surveillance.


The problem here, besides the previously mentioned members of congress who gave President the authority to use "all neccesary force" who've specifically stated that that force was intended to be within the President's existing constitutional powers and the law - is the simple fact that if you know that someone is a member of al-Qaeda on Foreign soil - what's so difficult about obtainnig a FISA Warrant? Why is it truly neccesary to circumvent this step?

Possibly because it just might not be members of al Qaeda who are subject to this spying in actual promise - and Gonzales claim may eventually because just as ludicrous in restrospect as the claim that Saddam Hussein had mobile chemical weapons labs, or a fleet on unmanned aerial vehicles for delivering a chemical weapons attack.

Think Progress: Points out how Vice President Cheney from tonight's Nightline - is a bald-face liar:

It's the kind of capability [that], if we'd had before 9/11, might have led us to be able to prevent 9/11.

We had two 9/11 terrorists in San Diego prior to the attack in contact with al Qaeda sources outside the U.S. We didn't know it. The 9/11 Commission talks about it. If we'd had this capability, then we might well have been able to stop it.

This is false and sensational. The secret surveillance program authorized by President Bush did not provide the National Security Agency any new "capability."

The NSA "already had the capacity to read your mail and your e-mail and listen to your telephone conversations. All it had to do was obtain a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The burden of proof for obtaining a warrant was relaxed a bit after 9/11, but even before the attacks the court hardly ever rejected requests." Indeed, from 1979 to 2002, the FISA court issued 15,264 surveillance warrants. Not a single warrant application was rejected.

Nothing in the law pre-9/11 prevented the federal government from conducting surveillance operations on terrorists. Cheney simply can't resist using that tragedy to shield himself from criticism.

While the President, Vice President and Alberto Gonzales are pleading that the NSA needs this ability to greatly - and that they needed to circumvent Congress in order to get it - reports are pilling up that the FBI has already been spying on normal, non-terrorist Americans even with FISA authorization in place.
Newly released documents show counterterrorism agents at the FBI have been monitoring domestic organizations active in causes as diverse as peace, the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief. The documents came as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. We are joined today by members of three groups under FBI surveillance: Greenpeace, PETA and the Catholic Worker.

More
One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

[snip]

Many of the investigative documents turned over by the bureau are heavily edited, making it difficult or impossible to determine the full context of the references and why the F.B.I. may have been discussing events like a PETA protest. F.B.I. officials say many of the references may be much more benign than they seem to civil rights advocates, adding that the documents offer an incomplete and sometimes misleading snapshot of the bureau's activities.


Meanwhile, the Pentagon has found a brand new sinister threat to National Security - Gay people.

Yes, this is who they're spying on:

According to recent press reports, Pentagon officials have been spying on what they call "suspicious" meetings by civilian groups, including student groups opposed to the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel. The story, first reported by Lisa Myers and NBC News last week, noted that Pentagon investigators had records pertaining to April protests at the State University of New York at Albany and William Patterson College in New Jersey. A February protest at NYU was also listed, along with the law school's LGBT advocacy group OUTlaw, which was classified as "possibly violent" by the Pentagon. A UC-Santa Cruz "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" protest, which included a gay kiss-in, was labeled as a "credible threat" of terrorism.

Yeah, they're just going to "Girls-Gone-Wild" us to death, I just know it. What a way to go.

With a bi-partisan group of Congressmen coming together to block the Patriot Act and calling for a spying investigation, Rep. Conyers call for a "Censure" of the President seems far more plausible than it did even when President Bush's poll numbers were in the toilet.

But the real question is just what such a committee will truly discover? With the activities of both the FBI and Pentagon spying on PETA and Lesbian groups they've designated as "terrorist threats" -- how likely is it that Bush and Gonzales's claims that they need to circumvent FISA, but that they've "only targeted al-qaeda"?

Not bloodly likely.

It's far more likely that this Administration, just as it has done with so many other aspects, has completely Politicized the NSA, and the reason they need to circumvent the FISA court isn't because of "timeliness" - but because not all their targets are legitmate members of al-Qaeda, they are most likely their political rivals, liberals, Democrats and Activists. I strongly suspect that we will eventually discover NSA abuse of Echelon and Carnivore this will make both File-gate and the breakin at DNC Headquaters at the Watergate Hotel look like amatuer hour. In several months, unless Senate Repubilicans can stage another faux investigation, we'll likely to discover that the Bush Administration has used the NSA pure partisan political gain - in the same that Tom DeLay used the FAA and Homeland Security to enable his Texas Redistricting plan.

And just what will Bush's poll numbers look like then - or rather, his bars?

Vyan

Tuesday, December 20

Spying and the Echelon Myth

The Bush Admin and it's support are doing what they usually do when they find themselves yet again in Deep-Shit - Blame Clinton.

From ThinkProgress:

Prominent right-wing bloggers – including Michelle Malkin, the Corner, Wizbang and Free Republic — are pushing the argument that President Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program isn’t news because the Clinton administration did the same thing.

The right-wing outlet NewsMax sums up the basic argument:

During the 1990’s under President Clinton, the National Security Agency monitored millions of private phone calls placed by U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries under a super secret program code-named Echelon…all of it done without a court order, let alone a catalyst like the 9/11 attacks.

That’s flatly false. The Clinton administration program, code-named Echelon, complied with FISA. Before any conversations of U.S. persons were targeted, a FISA warrant was obtained. CIA director George Tenet testified to this before Congress on 4/12/00:

I’m here today to discuss specific issues about and allegations regarding Signals Intelligence activities and the so-called Echelon Program of the National Security Agency…

There is a rigorous regime of checks and balances which we, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the FBI scrupulously adhere to whenever conversations of U.S. persons are involved, whether directly or indirectly. We do not collect against U.S. persons unless they are agents of a foreign power as that term is defined in the law. We do not target their conversations for collection in the United States unless a FISA warrant has been obtained from the FISA court by the Justice Department.


Meanwhile, the position of the Bush administration is that they can bypass the FISA court and every other court, even when they are monitoring the communications of U.S. persons. It is the difference between following the law and breaking it.

Update: Media Matters has followed up on this point regarding comments made by Hannity & colmes guest host Rich Lowry...

As a guest host on the December 20 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, National Review editor Rich Lowry claimed that the Clinton administration had asserted "exactly the same authority" that President Bush has cited in defense of his controversial decision to allow the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance. Lowry was referring to then-Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick's July 14, 1994, testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, in which she stated that the executive branch has "inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches."

But "physical searches" are not the same as electronic surveillance and, as Gorelick's testimony made clear, were not restricted at that time by the Foreign Intelligence Authorization Act (FISA), which has since been amended to include them. The foreign intelligence activity that the Bush administration has argued it can conduct without warrants -- domestic wiretapping -- has for 27 years been governed by FISA, which specifically requires court orders. On the other hand, the foreign intelligence activity to which Gorelick was referring -- "physical searches" -- was not covered by FISA when she said that Clinton had the "inherent authority to conduct" them. Further, Gorelick testified that she supported legislation requiring FISA warrants for physical searches. Following the passage of such legislation in 1995, the Clinton administration no longer asserted that it had the authority to conduct warrantless physical searches. By contrast, the Bush administration has claimed that it is not bound by the corresponding FISA provision requiring warrants for domestic eavesdropping.


It's clear that the Presidents recent outburst "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, it's just a peice a paper" wasn't just a slip of the lip... it betrays just how deep the contempt the neo-con agenda has for personal and civil liberties, it displays just how much contempt they have for judicial review -- and lastly, it shows their utter contempt for the American people.

It's seems that finally, America has begun to notice.

Vyan