REID PROMISES BUSH: "WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS, STAYS IN VEGAS!", by Charles Carreon
by Charles Carreon
Hello, Americans. Are you worried about the way our country’s being run lately? Do you get the feeling that corporate interests control everything, and the little person has no say? Are you afraid that both parties have sold out to the lobbyists? Are you sure that the noise about Britney hides something worse than a failing economy, a failed war, and a collapsing infrastructure?
If so, I think it’s time for us to discuss the Protect America Act. This Protect America Act is the largest legislative cowflop I have ever seen, and if the secret jockeying around its enactment and re-enactment are any indication, it is a central part of The Bush Amnesty Package.
The Protect America Act, enacted on August 1, 2007, was born with one of the shortest lifespans ever set on federal law – it was good for only six months, and thus was set to expire on February 1st, three days ago. This Protect America Act is so important to the president that on January 25th he said he’d use his veto to kill it if the Congress renewed it for a mere thirty days. He wants it made permanent, so America will be permanently protected. But just six days later, the Great Decider decided differently, and sat down in Las Vegas to sign a fifteen-day extension of the Act that Congress had quietly slipped through both the House and the Senate without telling any of their constituents.
Now let’s discuss what the Protect America Act is, and why I think it’s really the Bush Amnesty Bill. Most average people haven't paid too much attention to the NSA, that's the National Security Agency — the same NSA that Oliver North used as a cover for dealing cocaine and weapons on behalf of the Nicaraguan fascists we called “contras.” They don't think much about it, because it acts in secret. Sometimes, apparently even before September 11, 2001, the NSA secretly went to AT&T and Verizon and a bunch of other telecommunications companies, the “telcos,” as they're known, and got them to agree to let the NSA tap the telephones and read the email of American citizens. Some evidence has been revealed by an AT&T whistleblower, who says AT&T shared 100% of its customer information and communications with the NSA. That, in case you don't know it, violates the warrant requirement of the 4th Amendment, the one that keeps our “persons, houses, papers and effects” safe from warrantless searches.
There's a special court that the Bush NSA could have asked to issue those warrants. It's called the “FISA court,” that stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and it always issues warrants for wiretaps when requested. FISA proceedings are secret, and have been used to bug the phones of mobsters and narcotrafficers very effectively for years. Not good enough for the Bush NSA. They don't want to respect any law. They just went to AT&T and Verizon and said, “Who's your Daddy?” And the telcos just gave it up for poppa. This is what we call the “domestic spying scandal.”
There's about 50 lawsuits pending against AT&T, Verizon, and other telcos for selling out their customers in this way. I, personally, have already called AT&T and asked for my money back for all the time they let the NSA invade my privacy. I told the AT&T lady that, if I'd checked into a hotel and discovered my room had two-way mirrors, I'd certainly want a refund, and sue for invasion of privacy, too. Makes sense, doesn't it?
But the issue runs far deeper than the simple right to be free from having your privacy invaded, which can be personally humiliating. The point is that the government, especially, must not invade our privacy, because whenever it does, it has run off the rails, and is doing something the Founding Fathers never intended to permit, and erected the Fourth Amendment as a barrier against – the King’s ruthless methods of putting down supposed plots against “the Crown” by imprisoning people without charges, reading their letters, and interrogating their friends and family. The 4th Amendment is so precious to the American legal tradition that we let criminals, even murderers, out of jail because the evidence against them was seized without warrants. The current Supreme Court hasn’t changed that. In courts across America, every day judges let drug dealers walk without batting an eye when a narc makes a bust with evidence seized in violation of the dealer’s privacy.
Nevertheless, reading our emails and listening to our phone calls was such a priority for the Bush gang that they just blithely committed a federal felony. There is no reason to believe they’ve stopped reading our email, or that their focus is on bomb-wielding terrorists. They know their real enemies are votes, not bombs. Don’t forget what we learned in the Attorney-Gate scandal. While the NSA was illegally wiretapping Americans, Alberto Gonzales’ Department of Justice was filling the US Attorney ranks with loyalists who would help local vote-rigging by three methods: prosecuting Democratic candidates to slander them, challenging minority voters with identification requirements, and not prosecuting Republican vote-riggers. So how sure can you be that Republic dirty tricks operatives haven’t already used this information to undermine our electoral process?
The domestic spying scandal really is bad news for Bush, which is why he’s doing deals in Vegas. He and his spy-chiefs could end up answering charges for conducting illegal wiretaps, the sort of charges currently pending against Anthony Pellicano, the private investigator to the stars, who made illegal wiretaps one of his prime offerings. Of course, these prosecutions would be under Federal statute, 50 USC § 1809, the FISA section that provides for 5 years in jail if a government employee “intentionally engages in electronic surveillance ... except as authorized by statute.” While it's ”a defense to a prosecution under subsection (a) of this section that the defendant was a law enforcement or investigative officer engaged in the course of his official duties and the electronic surveillance was authorized by and conducted pursuant to a search warrant or court order of a court of competent jurisdiction,“ that wouldn't give Bushco much comfort, would it, since this is all about warrantless surveillance. But more than likely, as is ever the case, the Bush gangsters would probably go down for obstruction of justice and perjury for trying to cover it all up. These prosecutions could sweep in Alberto Gonzales, Harriet Myers, Dick Cheney, maybe even El Busho himself. Not a matter to be dealt with lightly.
You can hear Dick Cheney thinking — and he knows something about avoiding prosecution, having dodged a bullet with that Scooter Libby case, and letting Harry Whittington take the blame for getting in the way of his birdshot in that little hunting snafu down in Texas. This is not something you can trust the federal judiciary on. Even Justice Roberts, Thomas, and Alito might not save your ass, once you were out of office. They're on the bench for life, and have short memories. No, better go to our pet Congress, and get immunity for the telcos. That'll keep us safe, because if you can't sue the telcos, you're not going to ever be able to pry through NSA secrecy to find out whose ear was actually glued to the receiver while all Americans chatted on gaily, oblivious to the fact that Big Daddy Knows All.
When this was first discovered by the press in December 2005, Congress pretended to really care. But they got buffaloed by the White House into back-door approving the program by way of the Protect America Act, which really should've been called ”Protect The Administration Act.” Sponsored by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, this injects weasel words into the clear language of FISA, allowing warrantless surveillance against anyone, get this — “reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.” That means that as long as the Protect America Act is in effect, FISA is gutted, because if one party to the conversation is “reasonably believed” to be outside the United States, the entire communication can be tapped without a warrant. With servers swapping emails all over the world, and IP addresses the only clue as to their real origin, a case could be made that any email might reasonably be, on one end, coming from outside the US. And does the fact that you receive spam from Nigeria open your whole inbox to surveillance? If so, and why not, then privacy is toast! For an extra dose of irony, consider the fact that Congressmen have communications with foreign-based people every day – communications that they have authorized the Bush NSA to read willy-nilly. Well, I guess that’s what happens when Congress doesn’t have time to read the legislation, or consider its effects.
Are the Democrats naïve? It hardly matters, for if so they were criminally negligent. The Republicans broke the law as it existed, but Congress violated the Constitution when it enacted the Protect America Act. These “representatives” may as well have spilled the blood of the Founders of this nation and spit on the Constitution. They have let the wolf of tyranny in the door and watched it eat the babe of liberty. I guess that’s why they only did it for six months. That salved their jaded consciences some.
You may recall a little dust-up in Congress over the passage of this Benedict Arnold legislation, enough to get it enacted “temporarily,” good for only 180 days from the effective date of August 1, 2007. That meant it was due to lapse on February 1, 2008. Good enough that Cheney, and all the other Bush gang members, slept well through the holidays. And to avoid disturbing that sleep, it's all been hush-hush since then. You didn't exactly hear Rupert Murdoch breaking the news that the Protect America Act was about to expire. The Republicans certainly haven't gone to the electorate to plead their case for the extension of this rule. Sure, it's a little hard to understand the legalese, but for heavens sakes, The Protect America Act was about to expire! Terrorists around the world are licking their chops, ready to send emails stuffed with terrorist plans that no-one will even be able to read! Presumably terrorists are holding their breath, just waiting to see us drop our guard.
And yet, you didn’t hear a word. Although this law is so important that on January 25th Bush threatened to veto a thirty-day version, demanding a permanent extension, he didn’t even mention it once during his State of the Union Address four days later, on January 29th. I suspect that on the 25th, Bush was playing chicken with Reid, threatening to launch invective at the Democrats in his State of the Union address for refusing to make Protect America Act permanent. Bush apparently decided against that, because during the Address, he talked a lot about protecting America, without once referring to the Act itself.
It had been allowed to vanish from the public radar screen. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about when the Protect America Act was going to expire. The New York Times had done nothing to disturb my ignorance. February 1st was Friday. I was drinking coffee at Starbucks as usual, and there isn’t an article in The Times about this relatively important topic. But someone screwed up, because on page A12 of the New York Times, I stumbled over a statement in an article entitled “Senate Democrats' Stimulus Plan Hits Roadblock,” and it said, referring to Harry Reid, Democratic Senate Majority Whip:
Mr. Reid said late Thursday that he had reached agreement with Mr. McConnell on amendments related to the proposed permanent extension of the administration's terrorism surveillance program. Republican leaders had viewed the agreement as a condition for moving the stimulus bill to the floor.
That alarmed me. Every time Harry Reid makes a deal with the devil, I mean the White House, the people end up on the losing end. So I did what every red blooded American blogger can do, and called up Reid's office. They all said they didn't know about it, and had no response. I called Obama's office, following up a lead that he'd skipped a vote on the issue, and they admitted that he had, but also claimed he'd been present on Monday, January 28th, and voted against domestic spying. So I looked up what his vote was, and it wasn't against anything. It was FOR extending the authorization by another 30 days. All the Democratic Senators voted the same way. It seems as if the one thing the Democrats have no stomach for is fighting TODAY. Kick the can down the road until the issue is forgotten, and it can be compromised away without a fight.
Although she's the head traitor in the House, and not a Senator, I figured Nancy Pelosi would have the straight dope, but her people don't even answer the phone. I talked to staff in Clinton's office, Kennedy's office, Max Baucus' office, and many others. They all denied knowing what I was talking about. I called one of the good guys on the issue — Sen. Christopher Dodd, who keeps introducing legislation to kill the immunity deal, but his people knew nothing. Of course I couldn't learn anything from the bad guy, JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER of West Virginia, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who’s pushing hard for permanent adoption of Protect America, and immunity for telcos. Stop me there — a Rockefeller from West Virginia? I thought Rockefellers were New Yorkers. Well, obviously he's not the child of any coal miner's daughter. At any rate, he's the “Democrat” who's really behind all this. Some kinda Democrats they make down in West Virginia. Would somebody go out to West Virginia and yell down a coal mine — “Hey folks — the boss is tappin' yer phone!” But Harry Reid's from Nevada, where you learn to watch your back, so he's a little more careful when he sells out. That must be why none of the Senate press offices could even tell me that the Protect America Act had been extended by fifteen days the very day before. That, and the fact that the President happened to be in Las Vegas when he signed this legislation, which is kind of strange. Doesn’t he usually sign bills in the Oval Office?
Can it be the case that, while all the Washington Senatorial press offices basked in blissful ignorance, Bush just happened to be in Nevada, Harry Reid’s home state – to sign a 15-day extension of the Protect America Act, an extension half as long as one he’d declared unacceptable just a week prior? I mean, I know Harry Reid’s constituency is all based there, but what, did some showgirls hold the president hostage and make him sign? Even weirder, since when do we extend statutes suspending the constitutional requirement of a warrant for a period of two weeks? What the hell is going on here?
I’ll tell you what’s going on. This fifteen-day extension shows the President and his cronies are dealing very seriously on this issue. They know they could go to jail, and give the whole witch-hunt-for-terrorists business a bad name. Everything could unravel around this one. Meanwhile, the Democrats are helping to keep the fire damped down over this domestic spying thing, supposedly to come out of this Congressional session with a few extra bucks for groceries and rent for regular folks. Remember, everyone’s been quoting that Clinton-era saying, “It’s the economy, stupid.” So in a deal that some might call cynical, Reid is getting a few bucks for regular folks in exchange for cutting the Bush gang loose for their crimes against our constitution, our privacy, our dignity as Americans.
It is often said that justice delayed is justice denied. Certainly it’s the purpose of the Bush gang to deny Americans the justice that should be served on them, and delay is their method. Harry Reid is ready to give them all the delay they need. The deal he referred to having reached is contained in Senate Bill 2557, that Reid introduced on January 28th. It would extend the Protect America Act four months, until “July 1, 2009.” Hell of a lot better than 15 days. In fact, you could divide the dollars directed to poor people by the stimulus package by 120, the number of days by which Senate Bill 2557 will extend the Protect America Act, and determine just how much it cost the Republicans to buy each day of delay. But it will be worth every penny. Warrantless surveillance will remain the law of the land well into the summer, by which time the nation will be wrapped up in presidential campaign fever, and the last Bush holdouts will be deploying their parachutes. The Bush gang is betting that Congress will be less willing to confront the issue four months from now. Meanwhile, they will enjoy the power to violate our privacy in ways we don’t even understand.
The Democrats know what they’re doing, but as usual, they’ve got an outdated strategy. It was the economy, stupid, but it’s gone way beyond that. It’s about having government we can trust, from the Congress to the President to the Supreme Court. Right now, we have none of it. We have a president who lies, a Congress that runs in fear from the word “terror,” and a Supreme Court that worships government and reduces the individual to a pawn. Congress is afraid to reveal the depth of the traitorous conduct that they have let the Bush regime perpetrate. That’s why they enacted the Protect America Act in the first place – to give Bush the cover he needs to get out of office without being impeached, and to retire in safety, without being indicted.
The media disinformation campaign is going great. The gutting of the 4th Amendment has gone all but unnoticed. Good liberals like me think that the point is whether the telcos will get amnesty, overlooking the fact that the Protect America Act itself is the elephant in the room. I started out from that viewpoint when I began researching this report, and ended up deciding that the whole “amnesty for telcos” issue is a sidetrack. Sure, the telco lawsuits are the most likely avenue for an investigation that would lead to discovering who, in the Bush gang, put all this stuff in motion. But only idiots with media credentials really ask themselves, “who authorized this?” That’s like asking if Reagan authorized North to supply the Contras with weapons in defiance of a law making it strictly illegal to provide that assistance. Of course Reagan authorized it – that’s why North did it. And of course Bush authorized domestic spying – that’s why he’s willing to stretch his immunity deal out for fifteen days.
Realizing that the worms that would come out of this domestic spying garbage can, if it were opened, would be large enough to eat all of Washington DC, the two houses of Congress are as ready as two mutts in an alley to do the deed. Eventually, they’ll grant the telcos immunity from lawsuits, because that’s all the Republicans will need to keep the lid on the scandal. But are they so messed up that they might permanently adopt the Protect America Act? It’s one thing to let the Bush gang go free when they deserve to swing on the end of a rope. It’s quite another to burn the 4th Amendment right out of the Constitution for the rest of the life of our nation.
Here’s what I think – anytime somebody is bargaining in the area of fifteen days, they’re weak. And when Bush cuts his demands from vetoing a 30-day deal to signing a 15-day deal, there has got to be some invisible sweetener – an unspoken quid pro quo, something more than the mere four month extension bill that Reid is proposing. Something that, in essence, is granting Bush and his affiliated criminals amnesty for running America into the ground, ruining our economy, our national pride, our ability to stand together as Americans proud to be Americans. It all turns round this Protect America Act, I’m sure. Call Harry Reid now at 202-224-3502, and tell him you heard about the secret deals in Vegas. Tell him to ditch his amnesty plans for Bush, let the Protect America Act expire, and save our Constitution.