Oct. 6, 2007
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is going to be changed, and then referred to the Judiciary Committee, according to Rep Silvestre Reyes, D-TX, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The revision, he said, would not shield telecom companies for warrantless spying on US citizens from liability. Bush & Co. aren’t happy, but the White House has refused to hand over documents requested by the House regarding domestic surveillance. Therefore, said Reyes, exemption from lawsuits will not be part of this bill.
While some (lobbies?) in Congress are still fighting for liability protection, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has already proceeded with a class-action suit against AT&T, stipulating that AT&T wiretapped and conducted data-mining of US citizens for the National Security Agency. The White House has never admitted to this practice, but in a newspaper interview, the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell slipped when he said “the carriers…that assisted us in the past”, inadvertently intimating the practice of domestic surveillance.[i]
So that’s why the documents have not been released. Torts anyone?
And then there’s $ecretary of $tate Condo Rice…remember how she didn’t want to testify in front of congress regarding the 9/11 investigation? She then refused to discuss pre-Iraq war intelligence, and again refused to testify about the CIA operative Valerie Plame outing. Apparently, she still thinks this is a not a government of checks and balances and refuses to testify about 1) corruption in the Iraq war effort and 2) the disappearance of unaccounted US fund$.
Are there any rules governing our government?
There is the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Henry Waxman, D-CA, and he is getting a little annoyed by this and said “Secretary Rice is going to have a confrontation with this committee.”[ii] I would pay to see that, but I’m not holding my breath. Instead what Waxman got was Larry Butler, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs. Larry refused to answer questions about Iraqi attempts to fight corruption except in closed session. To this Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-MA noted the irony of the Office on Accountability and Transparency withholding information.
Further, it was not until the House committee requested information from the State Dept. that the dept. classified the information that had been requested.
And then there’s a little thing about a company called Blackwater and Heir Heiness’ Condo has refused to turn-over documents requested by the committee.
What rules? No, Hu rules.
Too heavy? There’s hope: Al Franken is running for a Senate seat from Wisconsin. His fund drive has been doing well, which led the incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman to say “It’s difficult to compete with the checkbooks of the Hollywood elite.”
As Franken used to say on Air America, “I make the punch lines here!”
Just in case you think the government really doesn’t care about the average citizen, the House passed a bill 386-27 to help people that might lose their home to foreclosure. According to Congress Daily “debt that is forgiven after a mortgage foreclosure … is considered income for tax purposes.” That is: if you are forgiven $100,000 on a house you bought but cannot make the payments, then $100K would be considered income on which you would have to pay taxes. Under the new bill, that would be eliminated. ‘Arbusto’ Bush is against the bill, which only highlights his consistent regard for the less fortunate.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
At last, the last: the Senate has passed a bill that would prohibit the import and use of asbestos. Remarkable, considering how long asbestos has been known to be injurious to living organisms. Is exporting OK?
To the House it goes, and they deserve it….
[i] By Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times “Spy chief’s disclosures stun Congress”, August 24, 2007 http://www.latimes.com/
[ii] This and much of the information included here is culled from, (but should not be held responsible for) the National Journal/Congress Daily. http://nationaljournal.com/pubs/congressdaily/