WASHINGTON — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency’s program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration’s effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush.
The ruling delivered a blow to the Bush administration’s claims that its surveillance program, which Mr. Bush secretly authorized shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was lawful. Under the program, the National Security Agency monitored Americans’ international e-mail messages and phone calls without court approval, even though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, required warrants.
[Plaintiff's attorney] Jon Eisenberg, said Judge Walker’s ruling was an “implicit repudiation of the Bush-Cheney theory of executive power.”
“Judge Walker is saying that FISA and federal statutes like it are not optional,” Mr. Eisenberg said. “The president, just like any other citizen of the United States, is bound by the law. Obeying Congressional legislation shouldn’t be optional with the president of the U.S.”
The ruling is the second time a federal judge has declared the program of wiretapping without warrants to be illegal.
But Judge [Vaughn R.] Walker limited liability in the case to the government as an institution, rejecting the lawsuit’s effort to hold Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, personally liable.
So, it was illegal, as long argued. Yet nobody will go to jail for it, naturally, because Presidents, particularly George W. Bush, and their men, though theoretically "bound by the law," as Eisenberg says, are still above the law, apparently.
For you Tea Baggers: The comment section below is open so that you can let us hear your arguments as to why you believe that Barack Obama should be allowed to violate the law and the Constitution in order to read your emails and listen to your phone calls, at any time, and for whatever reason he chooses, without ever receiving court approval, the way you used to argue that Bush was allowed to do.
For you non-Tea Baggers in the reality-based world: We'll note here that the Judge in this case also, thankfully, rejected the DoJ's attempt to invoke the so-called "State Secrets Privilege" as "first asserted by the Bush administration and continued under President Obama."
The SSP is what the Bush Administration had twice used to gag FBI whistelblower Sibel Edmonds for so many years, successfully ensuring that her case would never see the light of day in a court of law, despite her appealing the Administration's use of the draconian and (previously) rarely-invoked "privilege" all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Can we assume then that the "State Secrets" the Bush Administration was hoping to keep from seeing the light of day in the Edmonds case were even more of a national security threat than exposing the fact that the Government was spying, illegally, on anybody in this country that they wanted to?
Sorry this took a few days to get posted. Have been busy. As noted last week, on Saturday I made my third appearance in as many years at the annual "L.A. Media Reform Summit" sponsored by CA Common Cause. It was again held at Occidental College, and I was honored to serve as their keynote speaker for the first time this year.
Below is the video of my full speech, in which I discussed the serious crisis we now face as our corporate mainstream media hit full fail mode. That point, as I argued, is exemplified by 1) the massive failures of the old "dead tree" media to meet their constitutional responsibilities to help protect the public from bad guys (as illustrated by the NYTime's months of damaging and flagrant misreporting on the ACORN "Pimp" Hoax, as we've been covering at The BRAD BLOG for months), and 2) the full, rightwing take-over of nearly every inch of the public's broadcast spectrum by a handful of corporations that do not meet their FCC license obligations to manage those airwaves in the public's interest (as we've been covering at The BRAD BLOG and elsewhere for years).
I also discussed your responsibility in doing something about both of those serious problems!
The video is posted below the fold, since it's about 40 minutes in all, and might otherwise get interupted by the main page's auto-refresh routines. Enjoy. And get to work!...
[Updated below with details on the second part of Jacobson's series, just posted at RAW STORY, in which he ties together Hunter's EAC appointment and dubious tenure, representing the RNC's nefarious "voter fraud" fraudster wing (which is to say, pretty much the entire RNC these days!) The second in the series offers important info and a good reminder of the names you'll be seeing again soon, singing the same old phony, discredited "voter fraud" songs once again as November nears, as sure as the sun rises in the East.]
Caroline Hunter, a Bush-appointed Federal Election Commissioner who remains in office, provided misleading statements under oath in an effort to conceal Republican National Committee involvement in vote suppression activities during the 2004 presidential election, a Raw Story investigation has found.
Legal experts say Hunter's submission of such statements under oath is a serious ethical and professional breach which could warrant a bar review and potential disbarment. At the time, Hunter was serving as deputy counsel to the Republican National Committee.
The report goes on to detail how Hunter --- who, as The BRAD BLOG has highlighted over the years, had previously been allowed to serve as a commissioner on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) --- deceptively misrepresented the facts, on behalf of the RNC, in a 2004 voter caging hearing in federal court.
Jacobson quotes election law experts, including two long-time former DoJ Voting Section attorneys, who argue that while the way she couched her sworn testimony may "shield her from perjury charges," the statements she gave may "still pose ethical problems that potentially could result in her disbarment."...
The ends justify the means, say The Yes Men, but only as long as you're going after the right people.
"For O'Keefe and Breitbart to be targeting ACORN is incredibly sad and pathetic," [Yes Men co-founder Mike] Bonanno told Raw Story. "Most of its members are lower-income home owners, so these are model Americans --- pull themselves up by their bootstraps type of people --- people who are often very poor."
In a videotaped conversation with blogger Mike Stark at last month's CPAC convention, Breitbart, probed about the morality of O'Keefe's actions, pointed to The Yes Men as an example of progressive activists using similarly questionable means to attain their goals.
But it's not his and O'Keefe's tactics that The Yes Men take issue with; it's whom they're taking aim at, and the now-extinct community group didn't deserve the treatment, Bonanno alleged.
"It's why you're lying and who's gaining and who's losing as a result," he said. "There are liars and there are assholes. What James O'Keefe is doing is making a lot of lower-income people lose, unfortunately. And it's supported by a bunch of very nasty, mean-spirited people."
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: China beats the U.S. --- again; EPA vetoes mountaintop removal permit for first time; Rightwing's (very mature) response to Earth Hour; Trapped coal miners in China; WV Chamber of Commerce fights against coal miner disability payments... PLUS: Sarah Palin recycles! (2008, that is) ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA': IPCC head cleared of financial wrongdoing; Convictions in Rio Tinto mining bribery case; Mandatory solar power building codes for India; Mysterious whale die-off is largest on record; Emission Control Area created around U.S. and Canadian; EPA to crack down on toxic chemicals in water; Oil giant Koch Industries funds climate change deniers ... PLUS: News Flash: WMO says world still getting hotter ...
Info/links on those stories and all the ones we talked about on today's episode follow below...
If you've not heard, over the weekend it was announced that the felony charges against James O'Keefe --- who famously, never actually posed as a pimp in ACORN offices --- and his three co-conspirators in the matter of attempting to illegally access the phone system of U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in New Orleans, have been reduced to misdemeanor charges.
It's believed likely that the agreement was part of a plea deal. The reduced charges would carry a maximum prison sentence of 6 months and a fine of $5,000, versus the maximum sentence of 20 years for the felony charges.
MORAL 1: If you're going to attempt to feloniously enter federal property under false pretenses in order to manipulate the phone system of a sitting U.S. Senator, make sure a) you're an operative for the Republican, not Democratic, Party (remember: IOKIYAR!), b) you do not have an Arabic sounding name and, most importantly, c) you have as one of your co-conspirators the son of the acting U.S. Attorney in the same state where you are attempting to commit your crime.
MORAL 2: If you get caught and arrested while doing any of the above, even if, as your attorney says, you're just "kid," be sure to be a "kid" who has the ample funding and high-powered connections to employ, for your defense, a superstar GOP attorney such as one who was powerful enough to have represented the U.S. Senate Republicans during the Watergate Hearings nearly 40 years ago and during the witch-hunt investigation of the Clinton administration in the 90's.
My humblest thanks to BuzzFlash and their founder Mark Karlin for both their kind recognition, as well as for their many years of tireless, unflinching, and independent work in the fight for truly progressive values.
Here is their official award announcement, detailing their reasons for granting us the award, in their words, "for Tenaciously Pursuing Stories Exposing the GOP Others Ignore." They also call me a "junkyard dog"...and I like it!
Rand Paul, son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) is running for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senator to replace the retiring Sen. Jim Bunning in the state of Kentucky. Paul, who has been endorsed by the likes of Sarah Palin, is running against Republican Party insider, KY Sec. of State Trey Grayson, who has been endorsed by the likes of Dick Cheney. Primary Election Day is set for May 18th.
Grayson's disturbing history of misrepresenting the truth in regard to certification of the state's electronic voting systems should be of great concern to Paul and his supporters, particularly given the state's rich history of confirmed election fraud by election insiders --- which includes tampering with e-voting systems to change voters votes --- and the fact that much of the state still uses electronic voting systems which are 100% unverifiable in any way, shape or form.
Of equal concern are the hand-marked paper ballot systems used in other parts of the state. Those electronic systems are also at risk to both simple, nearly undetectable manipulation by insiders as well as tallying errors, and have been found to feature serious security flaws highlighted in the past by the state's own former Republican AG. Even admissions by one of the voting machine companies, Diebold, that systems in use in the state did not meet certification requirements, were largely dismissed, and all but ignored for years by Grayson, the state's chief election official who will be overseeing his own election against Paul in May...
Just a quick note to mention I'll be presenting Saturday's (3/27) keynote address at the "Media Reform Summit" sponsored by CA Common Cause here in Los Angeles at Occidental College @ 11am. The theme of this year's conference is, appropriately enough, "Preserving Democracy."
After appearing on panels at each of the past two year's conferences, I'm honored to have been invited back to offer this year's keynote and am much looking forward to it. (Here's some video/text-transcript from my first appearance two years ago, on a panel alongside then-Congresswoman, now-Sec. of Labor Hilda Solis.)
If you're in the 'hood and can drop by, please do! I'll work to make it worth your time! More details, including directions, other speakers/panels, etc. are all available here...
I had the pleasure to appear on San Francisco public radio's "Friday Media Roundtable" on their Your Call program today (heard on KALW in San Francisco and KUSP in Santa Cruz).
Along with the NYT's massive ACORN "Pimp" Hoax fail, we also discussed and critiqued media coverage of healthcare insurance reform, the latest in the U.S./Israel diplomacy theatrics, and even a bit on the guilty verdict for Kentucky election officials yesterday. Joining me on today's panel, along with host Sandip Roy, were Alex Wayne of Congressional Quarterly and Sherine Tadros of Al Jazeera English.
The audio is posted below, and I believe it's well-worth giving a listen to --- particularly in regard the direct disagreement that Wayne and I got into over the media's failure (as I see it, though he didn't), to have covered the substance of healthcare insurance legislation, while devoting an inordinate amount of coverage to the politics of that debate instead.
(Continue reading below for more on that, more on how the NYT's Public Editor Clark Hoyt illustrated the very crux of the media's failure on so many stories of importance to the public, and for the audio of the show itself)...
All eight defendants in Clay County, Kentucky's election fraud trial have been found guilty today by a federal jury. Six of those eight were high-ranking election officials, including the county clerk, a circuit judge and the school superintendent. The conspirators were charged with having manipulated federal elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006 by buying and selling votes and manipulating electronic voting machines.
According to AP, each of the now-convicted felons could face up to 20 years in prison for what prosecutors had described as a conspiracy to manipulate elections for decades in the rural, heavily Republican county.
In additional to federal racketeering, several of the defendants were also convicted of charges that included mail fraud, extortion and laundering money used to buy votes.
The BRAD BLOG has been following this story since the conspirators were originally arrested in March of last year, and as details of the election officials' manipulation of ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting machines has emerged...
With the Senate having now passed the final reconciliation changes to the health care reform bill, the Republicans from their "Tea Party" wing to their high priest of hallucinatory fantasy; Glenn Beck, are about to pay a historic price for the biggest miscalculation in American political history since Charles Lindbergh sided with the Germans. The pundits all have it wrong. Obama's victory on health care reform will result in the Democratic Party retaining the majority in both houses of Congress as well as Obama winning a second term.
Disclosure: As a former Republican and Religious Right leader who quit the movement in the mid 80s (for reasons I explain in my book Crazy For God) let me tell my progressive friends and all reality-based people why and how the Republican Party just consigned themselves to defeat by (amongst other things) opposing health care reform...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Lights Out this Saturday for Earth Hour; Hottest summer Down Under; It's official, liquid corn is bad for you; Ford saves money by saving energy... PLUS: Fun with sausage-making: Climate change legislation in the wake of health care reform ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA': Disputed island 'vanishes,' say scientists; Oilfield co. failed to report fracking violations; The 12 Most Pesticide-Laden Fruits and Veggies; Downsizing Detroit; NASA: Global cooling is bunk; It's official: China takes lead over U.S. in clean-power investment... PLUS: The Economist on the science of climate change ...
Info/links on those stories and all the ones we talked about on today's episode follow below...