Bush’s lethal legacy: more executions By Andrew Gumbel

Dandelion Salad

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
Published: 15 August 2007

The US already kills more of its prisoners than almost any other country. Now the White House plans to cut the right of appeal of death row inmates…
The Bush administration is preparing to speed up the executions of criminals who are on death row across the United States, in effect, cutting out several layers of appeals in the federal courts so that prisoners can be “fast-tracked” to their deaths.

With less than 18 months to go to secure a presidential legacy, President Bush has turned to an issue he has specialised in since approving a record number of executions while Governor of Texas.

The US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales – Mr Bush’s top legal adviser during the spree of executions in Texas in the 1990s – is putting finishing touches to regulations, inspired by recent anti-terrorism legislation, that would allow states to turn to the Justice Department, instead of the federal courts, as a key arbiter in deciding whether prisoners live or die.

The US is already among the top six countries worldwide in terms of the numbers of its own citizens that it puts to death. Fifty-two Americans were executed last year and thousands await their fate on death row.

In some instances, prisoners would have significantly less time to file federal appeals, and the appeals courts significantly less time to respond. On the question of whether defendants received adequate representation at trial – a key issue in many cases, especially in southern states with no formal public defender system – the Attorney General would be the sole decision-maker.

Since Mr Gonzales is a prosecutor, not a judge, and since he has a track record of favouring death in almost every capital case brought before him, the regulations would, in effect, remove a crucial safety net for prisoners who feel they have been wrongly convicted.

Continued…

h/t: Speaking Truth to Power

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A28 “Spell out IMPEACH!” (video)

Dandelion Salad

April 24, 2007
From: lenaw70 My project for A28 “Spell out IMPEACH…

My project for A28 “Spell out IMPEACH!” I encourage EVERYONE to do their research on all the topics in my video. Sorry its hard to read what I am saying but pausing the video may help!

There are still MANY more reasons for impeachment, but I only had a songs worth of time LOL

www.djlena.com will have more information by later in the day on 4-24-07 in the mean time feel free to visit my myspace at www.myspace.com/lenaw70 and view my blogs.

Thank you and I hope you enjoy my video.

DJLenaDOTcom

On Myspace

see:

Impeach Cheney: Peaceman vs The Chenguin by the 35 Percenters (video; Kucinich)

Cafferty File: Unite the Country Impeach Now! (video)

Dennis Kucinich: Desapparacido! by Dave Lindorff

Congress’s Orwellian Compromise By Nat Parry

Dandelion Salad

By Nat Parry
Consortium News
August 15, 2007

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article called “Washington’s Orwellian Consensus,” which faulted Congress for rubberstamping many of George Bush’s sweeping assertions of presidential power, particularly his claimed right to spy on some American citizens without warrants.

The article noted that “the near-term outlook appears to be for a consolidation of George W. Bush’s boundless vision of his own authority” – but added the caveat, “at least until the November elections.”

It now seems that the caveat was not necessary. The implication that a Democratic victory in the 2006 congressional elections might rein in the authoritarian inclinations of the Bush administration appears to have been unfounded.

Despite some attempts at more stringent oversight of the Executive Branch – on issues such as the administration’s no-bid contracts to Halliburton, its politically motivated firing of nine U.S. attorneys, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of football-star-turned-war-hero Pat Tillman – Congress continues to capitulate to the President’s demands for evermore authority on some of the biggest constitutional issues of the day.

The most recent example was the hasty pre-recess passage in the House and Senate of a bill revising the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The “Protect America Act of 2007” amends FISA by lowering the standard by which the President’s subordinates can issue a surveillance order.

The new rules permit the nation’s vast intelligence apparatus to conduct surveillance without a court order against anyone who is “reasonably believed” to be outside the borders of the United States.

“Notwithstanding any other law,” the bill states, “the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General may for periods of up to one year authorize the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States.”

The bill’s proponents insist the targets are foreign terrorists. But the word “terrorist” is nowhere in the legislation, whose broad language simply grants the Executive Branch power to spy on communications of anyone “reasonably believed” to be abroad, including calls and e-mails to the United States.

No Judicial Oversight

Former constitutional law litigator Glenn Greenwald noted the significance of the bill’s vague language on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” As Greenwald explained, the law allows the government to “listen to our conversations, read our e-mails, with no connection to terrorism, with no proof that anyone has ever done anything wrong” – with no judicial oversight.

The implication is far-reaching, according to Greenwald. “The government can monitor every single phone call that London is making to you in Washington, D.C.,” he noted. “They can listen to every single international call that you make or receive, every e-mail that you write, and e-mail that you receive, in complete and total secrecy.”

With the Bush administration’s track record of targeting those it considers its political opponents or obstacles to its ideological agenda – most recently demonstrated in its firing of U.S. attorneys deemed insufficiently loyal – it’s baffling that Democrats in Congress would cede such sweeping new powers.

Continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Cafferty File: Unite the Country Impeach Now! (video)

Dandelion Salad

August 14, 2007
From: CSPANJUNKIEdotORG

AUGUST 14, 2007 CNN CAFFERTY FILE

see:

Impeach Cheney: Peaceman vs The Chenguin by the 35 Percenters (video; Kucinich)

New Spy Law Broader Than Thought By Robert Parry

Dandelion Salad

By Robert Parry
Consortium News
August 13, 2007

Before the Democratic-controlled Congress caved in on George W. Bush’s warrantless-wiretapping powers, White House lawyers slipped in two provisions to give the President even more authority – and less accountability – than he claimed on his own. And the U.S. press corps largely missed that part of the story.

U.S. news reports mostly parroted the White House claim that the law “modernizes” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance of 1978 and “narrowly” targets overseas terror suspects who call or e-mail their contacts in the United States. But the “Protect America Act of 2007” actually casts the wiretapping net much wider.

The law applies not just to terror suspects abroad who might communicate with Americans at home, but to anyone who is “reasonably believed to be outside the United States” and who might possess “foreign intelligence information,” defined as anything that could be useful to U.S. foreign policy.

That means that almost any American engaged in international commerce or dealing with foreign issues – say, a businessman in touch with a foreign subsidiary or a U.S. reporter sending an overseas story back to his newspaper – is vulnerable to warrantless intercepts approved on the say-so of two Bush subordinates, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

Beyond the breathtaking scope of this new authority, the Bush administration also snuck in a clause that grants immunity from lawsuits to communications service providers that comply with spying directives from Gonzales and McConnell.

Before the “Protect America Act” won final approval from Congress on Aug. 4 and was signed into law by Bush on Aug. 5, one of the few safeguards against Bush’s warrantless wiretaps was the concern among service providers that they might be sued by customers for handing over constitutionally protected information without a warrant.

Compromise Talks

In earlier Capitol Hill discussions of a compromise bill, the administration reportedly had agreed to delete this immunity provision for service providers. However, when negotiations broke down – and Bush made clear he would accuse the Democrats of endangering the nation’s safety – Republicans put an immunity clause back into the final bill.

Then, in the chaotic hours before Congress left for its August recess, Democratic leaders allowed the Republican-authored bill to be rushed through the Senate and the House with centrist Democratic votes ensuring passage.

Though getting almost no attention in the U.S. press coverage, the immunity paragraph reads: “Notwithstanding any other law, no cause of action shall lie in any court against any person for providing any information, facilities, or assistance in accordance with a directive under this section.”

In other words, U.S. citizens, who believe that warrantless surveillance has violated their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, will have no legal recourse against the service provider that collaborated with the government.

This immunity provision is important, too, because the only meaningful safeguard against abuse of the new spying power was that service providers could challenge a wiretap directive through a secret court proceeding.

That process already was weighted heavily in the Bush administration’s favor since the service provider would not know the classified basis for the wiretap directive. That evidence only would be shared ex parte in a secret conference between administration lawyers and the judge.

So, the service provider would have to file a costly lawsuit on behalf of an unknowing customer who might or might not be a legitimate target of government surveillance. In filing the suit, the service provider also risked angering the U.S. government, which often is a major customer with the same service provider.

Now, the new law tilts the scales even further, making the warrantless surveillance legally cost free for a collaborating service provider.

These two features – the expansive wiretap coverage and the immunity provision for service providers – were cited in our Aug. 5 article at Consortiumnews.com. [See “Bush Gets Spying Blank Check.”]

But most major U.S. news outlets, at least initially, followed the lead of the White House in describing the law’s goal as simply tinkering with an outdated law to permit warrantless surveillance of terror suspects communicating with each other overseas (if their conversation went through a U.S. switching station) or to some American.

Insider Stories

A week after the bill’s passage, however, the New York Times and the Washington Post published front-page stories explaining how the Bush administration had ambushed the Democrats and pushed through a more expansive law than earlier compromise versions, which had been discussed with congressional leaders.

The Times reported that in late July “the administration lowered its sights, slimming its original 66-page proposal to 11 pages and eliminating some of the controversial plans like broad immunity from lawsuits for telecommunications companies that aided the eavesdropping. …

“By Aug. 2, the two sides seemed relatively close to a deal. Mr. McConnell had agreed to some increased role for the secret [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance] court, a step that the administration considered a major concession, the White House and congressional leaders said.

“But that night, the talks broke down. With time running out, the Senate approved a Republican bill … omitting the stronger court oversight” and other “compromises hashed out over the previous few days.” Pressed up against the start of an August recess, the House followed suit. [NYT, Aug. 11, 2007]

In its account, the Washington Post reported that McConnell had objected to Democratic attempts to limit the new surveillance powers to cases in which the overseas communications involved at least one person suspected of terrorism.

“McConnell wanted no such limits,” the Post wrote. “‘All foreign intelligence’ targets in touch with Americans on any topic of interest should be fair game for U.S. spying, he said.” [Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2007]

In other words, the law’s broad language was not an accident; it was intentional and substantive. The Bush administration’s goal was to scoop up any information that might be interesting to the intelligence community, not just what was needed to protect the nation from a terrorist attack.

It’s also unclear what restrictions apply to the year-long surveillance directives if the target enters – or reenters – the United States. Under the law as written, there’s no indication that the service provider must be notified that the 12-month order should be suspended if the target steps onto U.S. territory.

Conceivably, therefore, a directive aimed at an American traveling overseas might stay in effect after the target returned home, with the service provider continuing to give the National Security Agency access to the target’s phone calls and e-mails.

Angry Base

The Democratic congressional cave-in provoked an uproar among rank-and-file Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office reported receiving more than 200,000 angry e-mails. Stung by the reaction, Democratic leaders promised that the spying law will be revisited in September, rather than waiting around for a required reauthorization in February 2008.

But the Democrats will face the same dilemma that has stymied their attempts to force an end to the Iraq War. The Republicans will be in the driver’s seat because they can filibuster a bill in the Senate, forcing the Democrats to round up 60 votes. Even if a new bill is passed, Bush can veto it, requiring two-thirds majorities in both houses to override.

When the surveillance law expires in February 2008, Republicans will have the leverage of an election year to again frighten Democrats with taunts of “soft on terror.”

The Bush administration also has made clear that it will seek an even more advantageous version, including an amnesty provision that would void lawsuits already filed against service providers “who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,” according to a White House fact sheet.

With the fear card still working on congressional Democrats, President Bush retains hope that he can advance his goal of an all-powerful Commander in Chief, despite political reversals and low opinion polls.

Even with the Democrats in control of the House and Senate, very little appears to have changed in Washington. [For a fuller examination of Bush’s dark vision, see our new book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

see:

Bush Gets a Spying Blank Check By Robert Parry

Palast on PBS’ NOW: ‘The Fix is in’ for 2008 (videos; updated)

Updated with videos, see below.

Originally posted: July 28, 2007 @ 20:47

Dandelion Salad

July 27, 2007

by Greg Palast

Catch Greg Palast on PBS’ top current affairs program.

WATCH THE REPORT HERE

‘NOW’ furthers the story Palast first busted open for Britain’s BBC Newsnight, the scheme to attack voters of color – the ‘Blue’ ones.

For Bill Moyers’ capable successor, David Brancaccio, Palast lays out the latest evidence never before televised.

***

Updated: Aug. 13, 2007

August 13, 2007
From: GregPalastOffice

Catch Greg Palast on PBS’ top current affairs program.

‘NOW’ furthers the story Palast first busted open for Britain’s BBC Newsnight, the scheme to attack voters of color – the ‘Blue’ ones.

For Bill Moyers’ capable successor, David Brancaccio, Palast lays out the latest evidence never before televised.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Shuffling Off to Crawford, 2007 Edition By Frank Rich

Dandelion Salad

By Frank Rich
Truothout
The New York Times
Go to Original
Sunday 12 August 2007

The cases of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch were ugly enough. So surely someone in the White House might have the good taste to draw the line at exploiting the murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. But nothing is out of bounds for a government that puts the darkest arts of politics and public relations above even the exigencies of war.

As Jane Mayer told the story in last week’s New Yorker, Mariane Pearl was called by Alberto Gonzales with some good news in March: the Justice Department was releasing a transcript in which the long-incarcerated Qaeda thug Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to the beheading of her husband. But there was something off about Mr. Gonzales’s news. It was almost four years old.

Condoleezza Rice had called Ms. Pearl to tell her in confidence about the very same confession back in 2003; it was also reported that year in The Journal and elsewhere. What’s more, the confession was suspect; another terrorist had been convicted in the Pearl case in Pakistan in 2002. There is no known corroborating evidence that Mohammed, the 9/11 ringleader who has taken credit for many horrific crimes while in American custody, was responsible for this particular murder. None of his claims, particularly those possibly coerced by torture, can be taken as gospel solely on our truth-challenged attorney general’s say-so.

Ms. Pearl recognized a publicity ploy when she saw it. And this one wasn’t subtle. Mr. Gonzales released the Mohammed transcript just as the latest Justice Department scandal was catching fire, with newly disclosed e-mail exchanges revealing the extent of White House collaboration in the United States attorney firings. Had the attorney general succeeded in enlisting Daniel Pearl’s widow as a player in his stunt, it might have diverted attention from a fracas then engulfing President Bush on his Latin American tour.

Though he failed this time, Mr. Gonzales’s P.R. manipulation of the war on terror hasn’t always been so fruitless. To upstage increasingly contentious Congressional restlessness about Iraq in 2006, he put on a widely viewed show to announce an alleged plot by men in Miami to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and conduct a “full ground war.” He said at the time the men “swore allegiance to Al Qaeda” but, funnily enough, last week this case was conspicuously missing from a long new White House “fact sheet” listing all the terrorist plots it had foiled.

The Gonzales antics are, of course, in the tradition of an administration with a genius for stirring up terror nightmares at politically opportune times, like just before the Democratic convention in 2004. The Sears Tower scenario came right out of the playbook of his predecessor, John Ashcroft. In 2002, Mr. Ashcroft waited a full month to announce the Chicago arrest of the “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla – suddenly commandeering TV cameras in the middle of a trip to Moscow so that this tardy “news” could drown out the damning pre-9/11 revelations from the F.B.I. whistleblower Coleen Rowley. Since then, the dirty bomb in the Padilla case has evaporated much like Mr. Gonzales’s Sears Tower extravaganza.

Now that the administration is winding down and the Qaeda threat is at its scariest since 2001, one might hope that such stunts would cease. Indeed, two of the White House’s most accomplished artificial-reality Imagineers both left their jobs last month: Scott Sforza, the former ABC News producer who polished up the “Mission Accomplished” spectacle, and Peter Feaver, the academic specialist in wartime public opinion who helped conceive the 35-page National Security Council document that Mr. Bush unveiled as his Iraq “Plan for Victory” in November 2005.

Mr. Feaver’s document used the word victory six times in its table of contents alone, and was introduced by a speech at the Naval Academy in which Mr. Bush invoked “victory” 15 times while standing on a set bedecked with “Plan for Victory” signage. Alas, it turned out that victory could not be achieved merely by Orwellian incantation, so the plan was scrapped only 13 months later for the “surge.” But while Mr. Feaver and his doomed effort to substitute propaganda for action may now be gone, the White House’s public relations strategies for the war, far from waning, are again gathering steam, to America’s peril.

This came into sharp focus last weekend, when our military disclosed, very quietly and with a suspicious lack of accompanying White House fanfare, that it had killed a major terror culprit in Iraq, Haythem Sabah al-Badri. Never heard of him? Usually this administration oversells every death of a terrorist leader. It underplayed Badri’s demise for a reason. The fine print would further expose the fictional new story line that has been concocted to rebrand and resell the Iraq war as a battle against Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda – or, as Mr. Bush now puts it, “the very same folks that attacked us on September the 11th.”

To understand how, revisit the president’s trial run of this new narrative, when he announced the surge in January. Mr. Bush had to explain why his previous “Plan for Victory” had gone belly up so quickly, so he came up with a new premise that absolved him of blame. In his prime-time speech, the president implied that all had been on track in Iraq after the country’s December 2005 elections until Feb. 22, 2006, when one of the holiest Shiite shrines, the gold-domed mosque in Samarra, was blown up. In this revisionist history, that single terrorist act set off the outbreak of sectarian violence in Iraq now requiring the surge.

This narrative was false. Shiite death squads had been attacking Sunnis for more than a year before the Samarra bombing. The mosque attack was not a turning point. It was merely a confirmation of the Iraqi civil war that Mr. Bush refuses to acknowledge because American voters don’t want their troops in the middle of one.

But that wasn’t the only new plot point that the president advanced in his surge speech. With no proof, Mr. Bush directly attributed the newly all-important Samarra bombing to “Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents,” cementing a rhetorical sleight of hand he had started sketching out during the midterm election season.

In fact, no one has taken credit for the mosque bombing to this day. But Iraqi government officials fingered Badri as the culprit. (Some local officials told The Washington Post after the bombing that Iraqi security forces were themselves responsible.) Since Badri is a leader of a tiny insurgent cell reportedly affiliated with what the president calls “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” Mr. Bush had the last synthetic piece he needed to complete his newest work of fiction: 1) All was hunky-dory with his plan for victory until the mosque was bombed. 2) “Al Qaeda in Iraq” bombed the mosque. 3) Ipso facto, America must escalate the war to defeat “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” those “very same folks that attacked us on September the 11th.”

As a growing chorus of critics reiterates, “Al Qaeda in Iraq” is not those very same folks. It did not exist on 9/11 but was a product of the Iraq war and accounts for only a small fraction of the Sunni insurgency. It is not to be confused with the resurgent bin Laden network we’ve been warned about in the latest National Intelligence Estimate. But this factual issue hasn’t deterred Mr. Bush. He has merely stepped up his bogus conflation of the two Qaedas by emphasizing all the “foreign leaders” of “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” because that might allow him to imply they are bin Laden emissaries. In a speech in Charleston, S.C., on July 24, he listed a Syrian, an Egyptian, a Tunisian, a Saudi and a Turk.

Against the backdrop of this stepped-up propaganda blitz, Badri’s death nine days later was an inconvenient reminder of the hole in the official White House narrative. Mr. Bush couldn’t do his usual victory jig over Badri’s demise because there’s no way to pass off Badri as a link to bin Laden. He was born in Samarra and was a member of Saddam’s Special Republican Guard.

If Badri was responsible for the mosque bombing that has caused all our woes in Iraq and forced us to stay there, then the president’s story line falls apart. Far from having any connection to bin Laden’s Qaeda, the Samarra bombing was instead another manifestation of the Iraqi civil war that Mr. Bush denies. No wonder the same White House “fact sheet” that left out Mr. Gonzales’s foiled Sears Tower plot and, for that matter, Jose Padilla, also omitted Badri’s name from its list of captured and killed “Senior Al Qaeda Leaders.” Surely it was a coincidence that this latest statement of official Bush administration amnesia was released on Aug. 6, the sixth anniversary of the President’s Daily Brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”

And so the president, firm in his resolve against “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” heads toward another August break in Crawford while Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan remains determined to strike in America. No one can doubt Mr. Bush’s triumph in the P.R. war: There are more American troops than ever mired in Iraq, sent there by a fresh round of White House fictions. And the real war? The enemy that did attack us six years ago, sad to say, is likely to persist in its nasty habit of operating in the reality-based world that our president disdains.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

FISA Revised: A Blank Check for Domestic Spying by Prof. Marjorie Cohn

Dandelion Salad

by Prof. Marjorie Cohn
Global Research, August 10, 2007

Responding to fear-mongering by the Bush administration, the Democrat-led Congress put its stamp of approval on the unconstitutional wiretapping of Americans.

George W. Bush has perfected the art of ramming ill-considered legislation through Congress by hyping emergencies that don’t exist. He did it with the USA Patriot Act, the authorization for the Iraq war, the Military Commissions Act, and now the “Protect America Act of 2007” which amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

FISA was enacted in 1978 in reaction to excesses of Richard Nixon and the FBI, who covertly spied on critics of administration policies. FISA set up a conservative system with judges who meet in secret and issue nearly every wiretapping order the administration requests.

But that wasn’t good enough for Bush. In 2001, he secretly established his “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” with which the National Security Agency has illegally spied on Americans. Instead of holding hearings and holding the executive accountable for his law-breaking, Congress capitulated once again to the White House’s strong-arm tactics. As Congress was about to adjourn for its summer recess, Bush officials threatened to label anyone who opposed their new legislation as soft on terror. True to form, Congress – including 16 Senate and 41 House Democrats – caved.

The new law takes the power to authorize electronic surveillance out of the hands of a judge and places it in the hands of the attorney general (AG) and the director of national intelligence (DNI). FISA had required the government to convince a judge there was probable cause to believe the target of the surveillance was a foreign power or the agent of a foreign power. The law didn’t apply to wiretaps of foreign nationals abroad. Its restrictions were triggered only when the surveillance targeted a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or when the surveillance was obtained from a wiretap physically located in the United States . The attorney general was required to certify that the communications to be monitored would be exclusively between foreign powers and there was no substantial likelihood a U.S. person would be overheard.

Under the new law, the attorney general and the director of national intelligence can authorize “surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States .” The surveillance could take place inside the U.S. , and there is no requirement of any connection with al-Qaeda, terrorism or criminal behavior. The requirement that the AG certify there is no substantial likelihood a U.S. person will be overheard has been eliminated.

By its terms, the new law will sunset in 180 days. But this is a specious limitation. The AG and DNI can authorize surveillance for up to one year. So just before the statute is set to expire around February 1, 2008, they could approve surveillance that will last until after Bush leaves office.

There is provision for judicial review of the procedures the AG and DNI establish to make sure they are reasonably designed to ensure communications of U.S. persons are not overheard. But that requirement is also specious. They must submit their procedures to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court 120 days after the effective date of the act. The court doesn’t have to respond to their submission until 180 days after the effective date of the act, and the standard of review is appallingly low. It’s limited to whether the government’s determination is “clearly erroneous.” Even if the court were to find the proffer clearly erroneous, the AG and DNI have another 30 days to fix it. That takes the entire review process beyond the 6 month sunset period. Meanwhile, the surveillance can continue.

The Supreme Court held in the 1967 case of Katz v. United States that government wiretapping must be supported by a search warrant based on probable cause and issued by a judge. In 1972, the Court, in U.S. v. U.S. District Court (Keith), struck down warrantless domestic surveillance. The Court has recognized the “special needs” exception to the warrant requirement. The special need must be narrowly tailored to the problem. However, the new law is much too broad to come under this exception. Congress eliminated any need that the person surveilled be a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. The government need only show it is seeking “foreign intelligence information.” There is no requirement of any connection with terrorism. The special needs exception also requires an absence of discretion in the implementing authority. There is unlimited discretion now as long as the target is reasonably believed to be outside the United States .

The AG is required under the new law to report to Congress semi-annually, but only on incidents of non-compliance. Can we really trust Alberto Gonzales to be forthcoming about compliance with this law? Senator Christopher Dodd told Glenn Greenwald at the YearlyKos convention last week that neither he nor the other senators have any idea of how the Bush administration has been using its secret program to spy on Americans.

Finally, the new law requires telephone companies to collect data and turn it over to the federal government. It also grants immunity against lawsuits to these companies, many of which are currently defendants in civil cases.

Indeed, the mad rush to push this legislation through last week was likely a preemptive strike by Bush to head off adverse rulings in lawsuits challenging the legality of his Terrorist Surveillance Program. On August 9, a federal district court in San Francisco will hear oral arguments by lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild in CCR v. Bush. And on August 15, Guild lawyers and others will argue Al-Haramain v. Bush in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In six months, when the “Protect America Act of 2007” is set to expire, there will be even more political pressure on Congress to appear tough on terror in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. We cannot expect a Congress that so easily caved in to the fears hyped by the Bush administration to stand firm in support of the Constitution.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and President of the National Lawyers Guild. Her new book, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, has just been published by PoliPointPress. Her articles are archived at http://www.marjoriecohn.com/.

Marjorie Cohn is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Marjorie Cohn


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Colbert: With the Dark Side legalized, how can we do the unthinkable to win? (video link)

Dandelion Salad

by David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Raw Story
Published: Wednesday August 8, 2007

“Legalizing warrantless surveillance is actually a dangerous step backwards,” complained Stephen Colbert on Tuesday’s Colbert Report, pointing out that “just five days after 9/11, the Vice President Cheney told us what it would take to win the war on terror, explaining, ‘We have to work the dark side, if you will. Spend time in the shadows…'” Continue reading

Gelding Congress: House Censure Would be the Final Cut of the Knife by Dave Lindorff

Dandelion Salad

by Dave Lindorff
Tuesday, 07 August 2007

The do-nothing Democrat-led Congress, fresh from handing President Bush the power to spy on Americans without any judicial oversight, and just weeks after providing full funding for the continuation of the bloody war and occupation in Iraq, is now mounting an all-out campaign to co-opt and bury the growing grass-roots campaign to impeach President Bush and Cheney.

With 19 members of the House now signed on as supporters of Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich’s bill to impeach Cheney (H Res 333), a group which includes six, or more than a quarter of the House Judiciary Committee, and with polls showing clearly that a majority of Americans want impeachment of the president and vice president, it is getting harder and harder for the party leadership to keep a lid on this movement.

Last week, one such effort was made, by having Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), a known opponent of impeachment who showed his true colors by actively twisting the arms of key legislators in the Washington State Senate to prevent an impeachment resolution from coming to the floor there last spring, introduce a bill calling for the impeachment of… Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. This bill, which quickly garnered 20 co-sponsors, was a clear effort to siphon support away from Kucinich’s more serious Cheney impeachment bill. But as some of Inslee’s co-sponsors started to also sign on to the Kucinich Bill, and as the Kucinich Bill continued to gain co-sponsors, it has become obvious that the Inslee diversion wasn’t working. In fact, the very act of filing a bill to impeach Gonzales effectively neutralized all the arguments Inslee himself, as well as party leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others had been making to explain their opposition to impeachment. Obviously if impeaching Bush or Cheney would “detract from the Democrats’ important legislative agenda,” or “interfere with the effort to end the Iraq War” (sic), then so would an impeachment of Gonzales. Obviously, if impeaching Bush or Cheney would be “divisive” and “hurt Democratic chances in 2008,” then so would an impeachment of Gonzales.

So now the Democrats are trying another tack—having both houses introduce censure motions against Bush, Cheney and Gonzales.

Continued…

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Glenn Greenwald & Marjorie Cohn on FISA and Wiretapping (link)

Dandelion Salad

August 07, 2007

Democrats Capitulate to President Bush as Congress Gives Government Broad New Powers to Conduct Warrantless Surveillance on American Citizens 

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Bush Gets a Spying Blank Check By Robert Parry

Dandelion Salad

By Robert Parry
August 5, 2007

Eager to leave for its August recess, Congress handed George W. Bush another blank check on executive power, letting him order up spying directives against a vast number of people, including Americans, if they are physically outside the United States.

The “Protect America Act of 2007” sets the standard for a surveillance order – which can last for up to one year – as simply that it be “directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.”

The bill’s advocates claim it is intended to intercept communications when at least one party is linked to a terrorist group or a terrorist affiliate and is outside the United States. But the bill’s language doesn’t limit the surveillance to “terrorists” or “enemy combatants” – indeed those words are not mentioned in the legislation.

Nor does the bill, which was drafted by the Bush administration’s national security team, specify what happens to a one-year surveillance order against a target if the person then enters – or returns – to the United States. The vaguely worded act gives broad discretion to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

Its key language states: “Notwithstanding any other law, the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General may for periods of up to one year authorize the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States.”

Continued…

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Alberto Gonzales and Coup Against Democracy By Ramzy Baroud


Dandelion Salad
By Ramzy Baroud
08/03/07 “ICH

The name of Alberto Gonzales is rapidly becoming synonymous with all that has gone wrong under the Bush administration. Repeated media discussions of the US Secretary of State in the most contentious tones have served to lay the blame for all the ailments that infected American democracy under Bush squarely on one man’s shoulders.

President Bush himself, Gonzales’ loyal boss, friend and the hand behind all the stunts and tricks that Gonzales so indefatigably performed to defend and justify the unjustifiable, remains immune to any meaningful criticism.

Bush is well known for his habit of awarding sensitive posts to old friends, as if the prime objective of the president of the United States is to protect the administration’s secrets and rubber stamp whatever compulsive policies he and his self-serving neoconservative associates concoct. Although appointed to the post in February 2005, Gonzales has been a member of Bush’s team for years; he served as Bush’s General Counsel from 1994 to 1997, when the president was governor of Texas. Then, he served as Secretary of State for Texas for two years, before going on to join the state’s Supreme Court. Finally he worked with Bush again for five consecutive years as White House Counsel. Considering the president’s reputation of favouritism and staunch loyalty to those faithful to him, Gonzales’ ascension to the 80th Attorney General of the United States, replacing John Ashcroft, only seemed a natural progression.

True, Bush’s loyalty cannot be contested; however, it is really the only attitude that can be expected of him towards individuals with too much knowledge of sensitive matters that he wouldn’t desire to become public. Gonzales’ successful, albeit illegal, efforts to help Governor Bush be excused from jury duty in 1996 (made possible by the convenient overlooking of the 1976 misdemeanour drunk driving case) is merely the tip of the iceberg. While the latter was exposed during the 2000 presidential campaign, there are many facts which can easily be deduced to fall in the realm of ‘known unknowns’, to borrow a favourite term of former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

While the Bush administration had innumerable spin doctors, Gonzales was the man who knew the law well and thus knew how to manipulate it well. He played a major role in abusing the same laws that he once vowed to safeguard; the total politicization of the Justice Department and the dismissal of the eight attorneys who had the courage to question the constitutionality of the administration’s conduct in December 2006.

Perhaps Gonzales’ unwarranted acts have generated a lot more attention in the last a few months as both Democrats and Republicans are in need of a punching bag, where Bush and Cheney have proved untouchable. Another reason could be that Gonzales’ past legal concoctions were justified as part of the administration’s ‘war on terror’: so what if Gonzales had to circumvent national and international law – repeatedly and unabashedly – to ‘save American lives’?

And circumvent the law Gonzales most certainly did. Starting with the drafting of Executive Order 13233 in November 1, 2001, which restricted the Freedom of Information Act, and thus access to records of former presidents – to his arguments that effectively cancelled Article III of the Geneva Convention, denying suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban militants held in Camp X-Ray the right to be treated as combatants – to his re-interpretation of the principles of the Geneva Convention that made possible the case for the torture and humiliation of Iraqis and others. Gonzales’ role in the Bush administration’s war on democracy at home, and his imperial war abroad, is unquestionable.

Gonzales is still around precisely because of this role, not in spite of it.

Gonzales’ July 24 appearance before the Senate’s Judiciary Committee was a disgrace by any standards. Even Republican members of the committee rightly doubted the man’s integrity, and the testimony made by a Gonzales subordinate, FBI Director Robert Mueller, contradicted his boss’ own accounts. Members of both parties are now up in arms; Republicans fear that Gonzales’ sinking reputation will harm their political positions further, and Democrats, not daring to take on the President himself, are instead confronting a man who was merely responsible for providing the legal wrapping for the administration’s illegal acts.

Tom Raum, an analyst with the Associated Press, reasoned that Bush continues to stand by discredited Gonzales because his advisors “are mindful of the fact that it could be next to impossible to win Senate confirmation this late in his term for any possible replacement.” Indeed, the department’s No.2, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty has just resigned; his decision is attributed to his role in the dismissal of the dissenting attorneys; another, William Mercer, withdrew his nomination for the department’s third-highest job in June, knowing fully that his nomination would be rejected by the Senate, according to the New York Times’ Philip Shenon and Jim Rutenberg. They quote Rich Galen, a GOP consultant: “There is a body of thought among Republicans that gives Gonzales great credit for drawing fire and putting up with it so the others in the Bush Cabinet can do their jobs. Because, if Gonzales is gone, they (Democrats) will just look for a new guy to go after.”

Whether or not Democrats find their “new guy”, the horrific violations of international human rights and of the US constitution will continue unabated, further ravaging the standing of the oldest Republic, and turning into shreds a democratic system that was once a torch of hope to aspiring democracies everywhere.

Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of www.PalestineChronicle.com  . His work has been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide, including the Washington Post, Al Ahram Weekly, Le Monde Diplomatique and Japan Times. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). Read more about him on his website: www.ramzybaroud.net

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.