Snoopmeisters Archives

December 13, 2005

Dems will dive on Patriot Act

I don't know what the Las Vegas line is on Patriot Act renewal getting through the Senate. Probably the bookies haven't bothered to make one, it's such a foregone conclusion.

Russell Feingold was making noises about filibustering it. As far as I know, no other Democrats have yet indicated they will join him.

If Feingold does try a filibuster, it's another foregone conclusion that enough Democrats will cross the aisle to cut off debate.

And then, when those Democrats are up for re-election, we will see hapless liberals wringing their hands and then trooping dutifully off to vote for these swine, lamely mumbling that a Republican would certainly be worse.

And that, dear friends, is how the machine turns out its predictable product. These poor liberals are, you might say, the "enablers" who allow the monster to have his wicked way.

December 20, 2005

Why won't they... let it expire?

I was quite surprised last week when the Democrats held firm against a cloture vote in the Senate which would have made the vile Patriot Act essentially permanent. Indeed, I had predicted that they wouldn't. Obviously, I put the fear of God in 'em.

Now, all they have to do is stand pat and the whole package of sixteen nefarious provisions will expire. But that doesn't appear to be the game plan. Rather, the senatorial Democrats -- inexplicably including Feingold, who was the lone vote against the original act -- say they want to pass an improved version. Looks like a triangulation stunt to me -- they want to claim that they've done something for civil liberties but also look good on "National Security," whatever that is.

They're shocked, shocked!

Last week's "revelation" that the NSA was conducting illegal domestic surveillance -- illegal even by the very lax standards we have now -- must have surprised many three-year-olds in the more rural states. Much straight-faced manufactured indignation was vented by Democratic legislators. According to the Christian Science Monitor,
In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid acknowledged that he had been briefed on the eavesdropping program "a couple of months ago." But he added that "the president can't pass the buck on this one. It's his program." House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said she, too, had been briefed, and had raised "strong concerns" at the time, according to the Associated Press.
Uh-huh. I bet she did.

December 21, 2005

Arlen Specter offers the Democrats a lifeline

The serpentine Arlen Specter says he's been conducting "secret talks" (with whom, I'd like to know?) about getting the Patriot Act passed, with a fig leaf promise to talk about maybe revising it sometime next year. As I wrote yesterday, the Democrats seem to be looking for a dodge-the-bullet stratagem on this issue; they are scared of being called names, but are also finding that the police state is not universally beloved.

It will be interesting to see whether such an unlikely Pied Piper as ol' Arlen can get any of the rats to follow him.

December 22, 2005

Secret police rescued by Democrats

The Democrats in the Senate had the Patriot Act down on the ground, they had a knife to its throat, and what did they do? Why, they threw away the knife, helped the supine thing to stand up again, brushed its clothes off, and invited it home to meet the family.

More prosaically, they extended it in exactly its present form for six months, when they could have let it expire and made the Republicans come back with a new secret-police act -- an act that would have hopefully faced more skepticism than the Patriot Act did, back in the days after 9/11 when Democrats and Republicans were trying to see who could be more hysterical.

Now, however, the Act represents the status quo and the Democrats will face the burden of painting a civil-liberties smiley-face on it.

Nice work, fellas.


Rahm Emanuel, much and deservedly maligned on this site, was one of the 44 Democratic turncoats who voted for the red-blood and raw-meat House version of the Patriot Act, back on December 14. This is the version Bush wanted. He and Rahm and the 43 other Democratic snoopmeisters would have institutionalized and made permanent a regime of spying and surveillance that the old KGB could only dream of. (And they may yet, unless the Senate Democrats unexpectedly evolve a spine.)

Rahm, let it be remembered, runs a thing called the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), a slush fund for the national party to support the campaigns of nice safe Democrats like Rahm himself.

More Patriot games

How could I have overlooked this gem, from prominent War Democrat Chuck Schumer:
"This is the right thing to do for the country," Schumer said after the deal had been announced. "To let the Patriot Act lapse would have been a dereliction of duty."
Indeed, Chuck. I would only add, duty to whom?

January 10, 2006

Boy, am I in trouble now...

Annoying people on the Internet has become a Federal crime, thanks to our old friend bipartisanship.

The tireless Declan McCullough reports:

Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.

This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

Here's the relevant language.

"Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

The bill cleared the House of Representatives by voice vote, and the Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 16.

Note that about "voice vote" and unanimous approval -- what that means is that our friends the Democrats, paladins of civil liberties, went whole-heartedly along with this very remarkable initiative to criminalize "annoyance." In other words -- if I want to give Hillary, or Chuck Schumer, or Joe Biden, a hard time, I'd jolly well better tell the FBI where to find me. Otherwise, Joe or Hillary or Chuck might be "annoyed," and if I annoyed them under a pseudonym -- like Martin Marprelate, or Junius, or Pasquino of old -- well, I'd be on my way to Leavenworth.

January 12, 2006

Democrats in fig-leaf aprons

Over on Alternet there's a fine story about Pelosi, Reid, Rockefeller, Daschle, Graham et al. keeping quiet about Bush's NSA snooping project, although they knew about it. The only flaw in the Alternet piece is that it isn't sufficiently dismissive of the Democrats' excuse for not speaking out:
They didn't go public with their concerns because they were bound by rules governing classified briefings of congressional members.... As a condition of receiving a classified briefing, the congressional member agrees not to disclose any of the contents.... Pelosi got caught in this bind. If she blows the whistle on the spy program, she ran the risk of being stripped of her security clearance -- and sanctioned by the Republican-controlled House.
Now this is baloney. It's a fundamental principle of ethics and law that you can't be constrained by law to commit an illegal act, or by morality to commit a bad one. If a lawyer learns that his client is planning to murder someone, then he is obliged to violate privilege and prevent the murder.

Same for these collusive Democrats; they're not just cowards, they made themselves accessories.

February 6, 2006

Go ahead, tap my phone

Bad news, fellow lefties:

The thundering wage-earning multitude that makes up the bulk of white America doesn't fear in the least the "national security" arm of the state. And I say -- why in hell should they?

If our traditions of civil liberty mean anything, this free, white, and twenty-one fearlessness is its daily testament.

Fear the payroll tax arm -- fear the undeclared income arm -- them they fear... maybe. And maybe they fear, or rather resent, the red tape spun around 'em by the pointy-headed tight-assed entitlement bureaucrats if they dare try to get what Uncle owes 'em. But not, definitely not, the national-security arm. Not the guys charged with foreign bomb freak detection detention and extirpation. No indeed. "Hey uncle, if you do anything untie another such arm -- no, make that a dozen -- and let 'em fly everywhere like bats on an August evening." White wagery are not about to tremble and rage over a painless overtap or two.

Law-abidin' patriotic native-born white folks don't figure they got much to fear from Bush and his rampantly lawless security state. So this being a settled fact, obviously the loyal-opposition Demos need to... turn the page here. Right? We may have a unitary presidency headed toward Octavian's villa, but we don't have a unitary state, not by any means. For each of the many mugs of uncle there's a different clutch of popular hate frats and fan clubs.

I expect the lead donkeys have taken trillions of sample polls since that New York Times article came out 14 months too late. I bet they know way better then me the relative sizes of votes on this topic. I think they have put aside the loud cries of the belt way's ingrown hate frats and fan clubs, and polled the vast whiteness of middle America, and that they have digested where stands Mr and Mrs Whitey on this tappy-tap crap, this Aunt Polly issue of warrantless snooping on aliens. The top Demos know damn well that to bleat and bray and snort mist serves no purpose. It's at best just a base warmer where the base is molten already.

Now if this is so then doesn't one obvious question pop out? If its not a majority vote getter why don't they ignore it? Why not face elsewhere for now? Go ahead and let Bush/Cheney put the Bill of Rights under martial restraints. Sure it's illegal. So's smoking pot. At least for now, shut up about it. Put the high treason horse back in the stable. Don't keep pushing it. And even worse, don't split your pants over it. Don't waffle it around like Kerry has. Keep your traps shut, at least till you've regained control of the House. Then, well, then -- you'll try impeaching the bastards anyway, right? So why, instead of coming off like a bunch of wet hens here -- why don't you fire off your best shots?

"Out of Iraq now!" first, of course. Even if Mr and Mrs W don't agree, they will respect clarity and a show of absolute values.

But then go on and hit 'em with the bread-basket issues -- "Elect us and we'll raise minimum wage rates. We'll increase overtime pay We'll protect the industrial base by kiboshing the foreign-exchange fiddling that keeps foreign wage rates underselling yours. We'll make uncle take over your health insurance completely. We'll cut payroll taxes from the bottom up...." And so on.

Why is none of this high up on, say, Rahm Emanuel's or senator Bidenbone's or St Hillary's must-do list? Well, you know why, of course: because it ain't on their donors' can-do list. Hence the pragmatics of symbolism -- futile posturing, beautiful losing, and praying for such a huge pile of elephant plops by November, that the electorate has no choice but to broom all that shit -- and its makers -- right off Capitol Hill.

February 9, 2006

Old Russ and Feathers

Poor Senator Feingold. He's probably the best of the Democratic bunch, but his mind, too, appears to have been poisoned by the Party's master strategists.


"The President suggests that anyone who criticizes his illegal wiretapping program doesn't understand the threat we face. But we do. Every single one of us is committed to stopping the terrorists who threaten us and our families...."
Now this is the purest pandering. As realistic threats to the bulk of Americans go, terror threats rank well below, say, the bird flu and the inevitable LA 'big one.' I mean way down there, below flesh-eating bacteria and maybe even mad cow disease.
"Defeating the terrorists should be our top national priority..."
You hear this bullshit so often that you may be in danger of forgetting it's bullshit. "Top national priority?" Says who? And why? What total nonsense. What grotesque demagogy.

And the donkeys wonder why they need the security cred they can't get. Well, maybe it's because they pander the same nonsense. The same premises are going to lead to the same conclusion.

"And we all agree... we need to wiretap... to do it... In fact, it would be irresponsible not to wiretap..."
He goes on to stuff about trampling our rights -- but hey, the game's already lost.

February 10, 2006

You know my methods, Watson

As predicted here two months ago, the Senatorial Democrats have now apparently done their usual springboard dive on the "Patriot Act." Predictably, Feinstein and Durbin, plus Daily Kos pinup Reid, and apparently several other Demo senators whose names haven't appeared on the wires yet, have signed off on a trivial and cosmetic "compromise" which makes permanent the sixteen noxious provisions of the Act that expired at the end of last year. (Recall that these were saved from automatic extinction at that time because the ever-helpful Democrats gave away atemporary extension.)

Feingold, of course, is complaining about it, and threatens to filibuster. But in a carefully choreographed soap opera, his fellow Democrats will stab him in the back if he does, and he will fall gracefully to the Senate floor, wrapped in the toga of civil liberties.

Russ, old buddy, old pal, it's getting to be crunch time. Which is more important -- party solidarity with creeps like Feinstein and Reid and Durbin, or your principles? In other words -- will you tell it like it is, and say bluntly that you and the American people have been sold down the river by your colleagues? Or will you just make your symbolic gesture, and report for work as usual the next morning?

February 14, 2006

On the outside looking in

JSP draws my attention to this Washington Post item. Excerpt:
Two key Democrats [Jane Harman and Tom Daschle] yesterday called the NSA domestic surveillance program necessary for fighting terrorism but questioned whether President Bush had the legal authority to order it done without getting congressional approval.

[Republican senator Pat] Roberts said he could not remember Democrats raising questions about the program during briefings that, beginning in 2002, were given to the "Gang of Eight." That group was made up of the House speaker and minority leader, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and the chairmen and ranking Democrats of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Harman said the briefings she received concerned "the operational details of the program," which she supported. "However," she added, "the briefings were not about the legal underpinnings of the program."

Daschle said he wants the program to continue but maintained that the warrantless wiretapping of calls.. violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Harman [said] "We're only 36 members total that we're talking about, and those members should decide whether this program fits within the law, and if it does, which I think it does, we should all declare victory. "

In short the Democrats are like sooo down with all this snooping -- they just want to get in on the fun.

February 16, 2006

Dems green-light secret police

So only one Democrat -- Byrd -- and the "Independent" Jeffords joined Feingold to vote against cutting off debate on the Patriot Act renewal. Of course the only chance to stop it was a filibuster, and the decisive rejection of a filibuster by the Senate Democrats amounts to a ringing endorsement of the Act and its bulldozer-like demolition of American liberties.

But of course come the actual, ceremonial vote on the Act, a lot of these Democrats will solemnly cast safely futile votes against it, and return to tell their constituents they tried to stop it.

Amazing that they can conduct this mummery, this mountebankery, this threadbare charade, with such straight, solemn faces.

May 9, 2006

Feinstein anoints the spookmaster

The eagle-eyed Alan Smithee once more:

Just thought I'd pass along this delicious dose of donkey dottiness - courtesy of those mighty media minders at News Hounds:


Dianne Feinstein as Neo Con - Lauds Appointment of Michael Hayden

Reported by Melanie - May 08, 2006

Ignoring the fact that many prominent Republicans are questioning George Bush's selection of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA, Neil Cavuto hosted a segment today (May 8, 2006) titled, "Military Fight!" featuring guest Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Unfortunately, there was no fight in Feinstein. Fox's bookers may have booked a Democrat but it was in name only. The GOP itself couldn't have sent Cavuto a stronger, more positive, pro-Hayden talking head.

May 24, 2006

The ministry of fear

I came up with this on my own -- no help from Hunter's ghost needed:

The problem the donkista head of Orthrus has with us -- "the great middle left" -- is really quite simple: we lefty types aren't paranoid enough.

The Donks need to convince us the Repubs of the Cheney kind are set to criminalize dissent, yes dissent -- any kind of dissent will be equated with terrorism: green dissent, sex habit dissent, immigrant dissent, race dissent, recreational substance dissent, porno dissent.... These will all be tied in by phone and e-mail to terror cells.

The NSA is data mining for... us, all of us. So we need the Donks to win before we're all hauled off by executive order to pre-emptive detention centers.

It's fear that keeps the libs in the tent -- and so, as a corollary, the Donks need the Republicans to be as fearsome as possible.

September 6, 2006


Democrats: The party of "Yes, but..."

J Alva Scruggs sent this along:

Here's a classic tack to the right by Republicans, legitimized and supported by a me-too "counterproposal" from Democrats:
Congress Takes Up Surveillance Bills

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration gave guarded support to several terrorist surveillance bills Wednesday as Congress took up the sensitive issue of how to give legal backing to the president's warrantless wiretapping.

The acting assistant attorney general told a House Judiciary subcommittee that legislation backed by the House GOP leadership showed promise and that the president had expressed support for a measure from Sen. Arlen Specter, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman....

One Democratic alternative, sponsored by Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, makes clear that surveillance must be conducted under the 1978 law but changes procedures to speed up the process.

So let me get this straight. The President, casting aside the figleaf G-string of FISA, has inserted his... Well. Ahem. Let's abandon the metaphor. He's been bugging our phones on an immense, unprecedented scale. He's been doing this in clear violation of the law, and his defense is that well, he's the President, he can violate the law when he feels like it.

And the enraged response of the Official Opposition, aka the Lesser Evil, is... Hang him from a lamppost? Impeach him? Tie his hands with new oversight mechanisms and keep him honest? No, no, you poor naif, none of the above. The Official Opposition says, as usual, that whatever enormity the Greater Evil has committed, we will bless half of it -- but only half! Not a bit more! We are, after all, the Lesser Evil!

Of course, any child can see -- provided that child is not a registered Democrat, and thus brain-dead by definition --any child, I say, can see, that this process will iterate. Two steps forward, one step back, for the Americastapo. Lather, rinse, repeat, and where do you end up, after a surprisingly short time?

September 7, 2006

More national security democrats

J Alva Scruggs writes:
Ben Cardin, who voted for the Patriot Act and, after it had proven to be a disastrously bad expansion of executive power, voted for its renewal has won the endorsement of (god give me strength) "Dutch" Ruppersberger. Cardin is running against Kweisi Mfume, who has stated that he opposes the Patriot Act and would not have voted for it had he been in office.

Endorsement story:


Maryland Democratic Reps. Al Wynn and Elijah Cummings will endorse former Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) on Wednesday in his bid to win the party's Senate nomination in the Sept. 12 primary, a spokesman for Mfume's campaign said.

The Democrats in the Maryland congressional delegation have split along racial lines. Wynn and Cummings, who are black, will back Mfume while Reps. Steny Hoyer, the minority whip, and Dutch Ruppersberger, who are white, have contributed money to Rep. Ben Cardin. Only Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has not given money to either candidate.

About 30 percent of Maryland's population is black and the community is an important segment of the Democratic vote, especially in Baltimore and Prince George's County, which account for more than 75 percent of the Democratic nominee's vote, according to the Baltimore Sun. Forty percent of primary voters could be black.

Patriot Act votes:

Cardin, judging by his public record, is a biddable nonentity. He's running on a platform of "licking cancer by 2015".

Here's a picture of "Dutch". My co-blogger commented that even in a photo-op, he instinctively extends his hand to conceal evidence:

September 8, 2006

Who's the vilest of them all?

Tryng to decide who's the worst Democrat is a constant source of frustration; they keep outdoing each other in squalor. I've decided it needs to be a rotating office, like the Security Council chairmanship: Vilest Democrat of the Day, or Reptile Du Jour.

Today, it's all about Joe Biden, who is not only awful but really, really stupid:

"U.S. Sen. Joe Biden yesterday said Iraq should be subdivided into a loosely federated republic, with each of the country's warring factions given its own area to control.

Biden said the republic would not be a democracy, but it would not be a threat to its neighbors or a haven for terrorists."

Translation: Israel might generously deign to accept this "solution," and allow us to withdraw some of our troops. But it gets better:

"[Biden] played up his hawkish credentials yesterday, saying he convinced former President Bill Clinton to go to war in the Balkans and said he would put 2,000 U.S. troops in Darfur under NATO command if he were president.

Were the United States to pull out of Iraq with the situation unresolved, the result would be chaos, a regional war and oil at $120 a barrel, he said.

'If we leave Iraq, and if we trade a dictator for chaos, we will pay the price for generations,' Biden said....

'The only mistake I made,' Biden said, 'was underestimating how ridiculously incompetent these guys [i.e. Bush & co. -- Ed.] would be.'"

Biden is not content with redrawing the map of the Middle East, and claiming credit for Clinton's Balkan Guernica; he has some ideas for the home front too:

"We are a nation at war," Biden said. "That makes it all the more incomprehensible that, five years after 9/11, [Bush] has failed to mobilize the American public for the struggle. There is no national energy policy, no national service, no real sacrifice except from our soldiers ... and their families."

At home, [Biden] said he would tighten security at ports and chemical plants and on public transit, hire 1,000 new FBI agents and 50,000 new police officers....

He also pledged to repeal most of Bush's upper-income tax cuts and said he would put those revenues into a fund -- which he estimated would come to $10 billion a year -- for homeland security measures.

Kind of a novel revision of the Robin Hoood schtick -- take from the rich and give to the Sheriff of Nottingham.

September 9, 2006

Nanny says: No dope, kids, and stay safe over there

The indispensable J Alva Scruggs writes:

"On Thursday afternoon, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., succeeded in passing his amendment to add $700 million to funding for the U.S. military's counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan."

Why not just buy it all? Seriously. I bet the entire crop could be had for $700 million and lord knows the farmers need the money.

"And Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., worked with Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to gain GOP support for an amendment that would require the Pentagon to send Congress a contingency plan to protect military and other personnel in Iraq should sectarian violence continue to escalate."

That's just risible. How 'bout bringing them home? That would keep them safe.

November 3, 2006

Kos and the Martial Law Democrats

J Alva Scruggs writes:

The Kossacks are all het up about Section 1076 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent, and the House with Democrats voting for it, 173-22.

Senator Leahy had this to say, a few days before the Senate acted:

We certainly do not need to make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law. Invoking the Insurrection Act and using the military for law enforcement activities goes against some of the central tenets of our democracy. It creates needless tension among the various levels of government – one can easily envision governors and mayors in charge of an emergency having to constantly look over their shoulders while someone who has never visited their communities gives the orders.

A bill that began with such promise in empowering the National Guard now increasingly appears to be shaping up as a double setback for the Guard. That is inexplicable, that is indefensible, and that is wrong. The last thing Congress should be doing is making the National Guard's job more difficult. We urge the Defense Bill conferees to adopt the Empowerment Bill and drop the ill-advised changes to the Insurrection Act.

... and then joined all his fellow Senators in approving it.

One Major Danby, of the Kossacks, has organized this site:

Here's his Kosland diary:

It is, in fact, a very bad provision of a very bad spending authorization. I am quite concerned. The Executive branch already has way too much power and the potential for abuse is immense. What bothers me nearly as much is the blindness of the Kossacks who apparently didn't bother to look at the roll call votes. All the Senate Democrats who were present to vote, voted in favor. There were 22 Democratic (and 1 Republican) votes against it in the House. The continuing acquiescence, not the perfidy itself, is the real problem. That a Kossack is leading the effort to get this overturned is a terrible joke. He and his colleagues will fold just the way the anti-war leaders did.

November 25, 2006

Day of reckoning -- or, well, maybe next week

From Daily Kos:
Investigating Domestic Spying
by georgia10

Eric Lichtblau, who has covered the NSA domestic spying story for the New York Times, reminds us today that while a U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor declared the program to be unconstitutional earlier this year, a rubber-stamp Congress has failed to take any action to halt or properly investigate the program. Come January, things are going to change:

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who will take over as House speaker in January, favors an investigation to determine how the program actually operated and what its legal framework is under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, a senior aide to Pelosi said.
... Lichtblau writes that Democrats are of "mixed minds" about how to proceed. It's important to note that the dispute isn't necessarily on the legality of the program--indeed, most Democrats, or at least the most prominent ones, have expressed their belief that the program violates the law. The question is one of strategy, of how to proceed from a PR point of view. Should Democrats wait until the ruling on the program is upheld, thus bolstering their argument that the program is indeed unconstitutional? Or should they rely on their own investigation and legal analysis? I think the question of strategy is one that doesn't need to be resolved right away.... However diverse the paths of accountability may be, they all will eventually lead to one action: forcing our government to finally follow the law.
Or vice-versa. Anybody want to guess which way these bold Democrats will end up taking us?

November 30, 2006

Full steam astern

From the Washpost:
Democrats Reject Key 9/11 Panel Suggestion
By Jonathan Weisman

It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But with control of Congress now secured, Democratic leaders have decided for now against implementing the one measure that would affect them most directly: a wholesale reorganization of Congress to improve oversight and funding of the nation's intelligence agencies. ...

In 2004, the commission urged Congress to grant the House and Senate intelligence committees the power not only to oversee the nation's intelligence agencies but also to fund them and shape intelligence policy. The intelligence committees' gains would come at the expense of the armed services committees and the appropriations panels' defense subcommittees. Powerful lawmakers on those panels would have to give up prized legislative turf....

"We think this is extremely crucial," [9/11 commission chair] Kean said of a reorganization shifting budget authority to the intelligence committees. But, he added, there are "a lot of old bulls in both parties who just don't want to do it."... [T]otal spending on intelligence would have to be declassified, another commission recommendation that Congress has rejected.

Haven't yet checked out the reponse to this latest betrayal on Daily Kos and myDD -- anybody else feel like slumming a little?

December 9, 2006


J Alva Scruggs passed this along:

Legislators may reconsider suspending habeas corpus for detainees

WASHINGTON - President Bush's victory in getting the rules he wanted to try suspected terrorists could be diminished.

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee signaled this week that he'll join prominent Democrats in seeking to restore legal rights to hundreds of suspected terrorists confined at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

While the measure to restore the right of habeas corpus has almost no chance of passing before Congress adjourns later this week, the message is clear: When Democrats take over in early January, the issue could resurface.

J Alva comments:
Partial restoration of Habeas Corpus is really keen. Peachy even, but the entire Military Commissions Act is bad news and needs to be repealed. "Moderating" its effects is impossible. It's beyond fatuous to try to ensure proper procedures for activities that are illegal to begin with.

I checked a few blogs and it doesn't look like the liberal are buying any effort at sincerity from Leahy, yet. But I doubt anyone would care to take the bet that "half a loaf" arguments are coming down the pike.

August 6, 2007

Dems: Go ahead, tap our phones

Democrats in the House and Senate endorsed a major expansion of warrantless electronic snooping over the weekend -- the "Protect America" act, also know as "FISA modernization". Apparently the nugatory existing constraints on warrantless wiretapping were felt to be far too much of a burden for the Secret Police, and so Repubs and Dems came together for a joyful shower of largesse on what is referred to, drolly, as "the intelligence community."

Gory details available here.

The vote in the Senate was 60-28, with 12 "not voting". Democratic "yeas" were Bayh, Carper, Casey, Conrad, Feinstein, Inouye, Klobuchar, Landrieu, Lieberman, Lincoln, McCaskill, Salazar, and Webb. Missing in action were Boxer, Dorgan, Harkin, Johnson, and Kerry.

In the House, 41 Democrats crossed the aisle and 9 went AWOL (including Tom Lantos; detained in his sacophagus, perhaps). The measure passed 227-183.

February 28, 2008

A question of competence

ACLU calls out US over 'absurd bloating' of terror watch list

More that 900,000 people are currently listed as suspected terrorists on the US government's "do not fly" list, and that number will grow to beyond 1 million by summer, says the American Civil Liberties Union.

"If there were a million terrorists in this country, our cities would be in ruins," Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program, stated in a press release from the group. "The absurd bloating of the terrorist watch lists is yet another example of how incompetence by our security apparatus threatens our rights without offering any real security."

"....Homeland Security's handling of the watch lists is typical of this administration's blundering approach to the war on terror," said ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Tim Sparapani.

This is reagent-quality liberalism, isn't it? All the totalitarian premises are explicitly endorsed -- the dire threat of "terrorists", the legitimacy of a "war on terror", the need for a "watch list". In fact the only problem with the secret police is that they're incompetently managed. Liberals would run the Inquisition much better.

May 3, 2008

stop the presses

Scruggs passed along this gem from 'digby':
I have to assume that the telcoms have been secretly monitoring members of congress and the Bush administration's communications and are blackmailing them. There is just no other adequate explanation for this immunity nonsense to keep coming back over and over again.

Here 's Jane Hamsher:

According to the ACLU, there is rumor of a backroom deal being brokered by Jay Rockefeller on FISA that will include retroactive immunity. I've heard from several sources that Steny Hoyer is doing the dirty work on the House side....

They really, really want this to go through. In fact, their insistence is becoming so desperate that there is simply no more reason to doubt they are hiding something..... These corporations must be knee deep in spying on Americans and their corrupt congressional puppets must know it.

You amaze me, Digby. The telcos are" knee-deep in spying"? Say it ain't so.

The bit about "blackmail" is also rather touching. Does Rupert Murdoch "blackmail" Bill O'Reilly into behaving the way he does? No, Digby, Murdoch is O'Reilly's employer. Now apply that paradigm to Congress and see how well it works!

June 18, 2008

To the amazement of every three-year-old...

No comment needeed:

Spying on Americans:
Democrats Ready to Gut the Constitution To Protect Their "Constituents" -- The Telecoms

....Congressional Democrats are preparing to gut the Constitution by granting giant telecom companies retroactive immunity and liability protection on warrantless wiretapping by the Bush regime.

... "Congressional leaders and the Bush administration have reached an agreement in principle on an overhaul of surveillance rules."

.... According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the compromise would be very similar to the last proposal by Sen. Christopher S. Bond , R-Mo., to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md. Sources said the major change is that a federal district court, not the secret FISA court itself, would make an assessment about whether to provide retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies being sued for their alleged role in the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program....

Without clear standards for determining whether immunity for these privateers is even justified, the courts will be forced to issue virtual get-out-of-jail-free cards to corporate executives and their shareholders, thus freeing them from any and all liability, should companies claim they had "received assurances" from the state that its spying program was "legal."

Indeed, no warrants at all would be required when the administration and their outsourced private "partners" choose surveillance "targets" under "exigent," or urgent circumstances. Needless to say, such "exigent" circumstances are determined by executive branch "intelligence officials,".... According to the ACLU,

Allowing phone companies to avoid litigation by simply presenting a "permission slip" from the president is not court review. This is immunity pure and simple because the companies are NOT being judged on whether they followed the law. A document stating that the president asked them to conduct warrantless wiretapping is not enough justification for violating the basic privacy rights of Americans. ("Facts on Senator Kit Bond's (R-MO) FISA Proposal," American Civil Liberties Union, June 13, 2008)
... Back in January, [Democratic Senator Jay] Rockefeller defended the actions of the telecom companies....

June 22, 2008

Long shot

Here's (aka

Dear MoveOn member,

On Friday, House Democrats caved to the Bush administration and passed a bill giving a get-out-of-jail-free card to phone companies that helped Bush illegally spy on innocent Americans....

Last year, after phone calls from MoveOn members and others, Obama [vowed] to "support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies." We need him to honor that promise.

Can you call Senator Obama today and tell him you're counting on him to keep his word? Ask him to block any compromise that includes immunity for phone companies that helped Bush break the law.

Obama's presidential campaign: (866) 675-2008

What, do you think, are the odds of Obama doing bupkis about this bill?

July 9, 2008

Dem congress: kiss your privacy goodbye

As expected, the Senate has overwhelmingly voted -- 69-28 -- to expand the scope of government snooping, and incidentally to give the telephone companies retroactive immunity from prosecution for their own role in illegal surveillance since 2001. Twenty-one Democrats, including Obama and Feinstein, joined the majority.

The vote on the bill follows equally lopsided votes on amendments:

An amendment sponsored by Mr. Dodd to strip the immunity provision from the bill was defeated, 66 to 32.

Two other amendments were also rejected. One, offered by Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, would have required that a district court judge assess the legality of warrantless wiretapping before granting immunity. It lost by 61 to 37. The other, which would have postponed immunity for a year pending a federal investigation, was offered by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico. It was defeated by 56 to 42.

So it's fair to say, I think, that the results are conclusively in as regards the usefulness of electing Democrats. The Most Important Elections In History, held back in 2006, were supposed to put an end to at least the most glaring horrors of the Bush presidency and his Republican congresses. Instead, what we have gotten from our nice new Democratic Congress is the continuation of Bush's war, and the retrospective blessing of Bush's crimes.

Who said bipartisanship is dead?

August 7, 2008

Hoover's work is never done -- or is it?

The other day I was arrested -- not literally, as we have to note these days, but metaphorically -- by a line from the faux-Barack backhand rebuke Father Smiff passed along to all us anti-hope croakers here on the pwog pond. It comes after a supple gesture toward the new enhanced donkey-senate consensualized surveillence powers of the imperial presidency; and it comes in passing, playfully:

"You may rest assured it is quite unlikely that I will need to exercise these powers for any purposes beyond my own personal amusement"

With that, the muggish look of the cold war's eminence-butch flashed inside my head -- attached, with Hume-ean swift succession, to a passage from a now culturally misplaced magnum opus: The American inquisition:1946-1960, by the late great and now almost memory-holed Cedric Belfrage:

"In his first 40 years [Hoover] paid the Communist Party his highest compliment by concentrating his forces upon it -- for if he knew little else, he understood that the threat lay where there were organization and strategic experience."

So long as the grand old red-headed party had hooks into both the brain and brawn of America, factories and colleges alike, iron-knuckled rough-traders like Hoover worked every switch in sight, day and night, to shock 'em senseless.

I wonder if, in his declining years, this darkest of dark crossdressers felt at peace with his homeland. He had his former shadow-faced frontman glowering back defiantly at the trendies, Scotch in hand, from the White House balcony; and there seemed to be enough hard hats ready to hit the streets and bash up the Joe College furry freak fuzzers -- or not?

Even after his great triumph over the likes of Bill Foster and Harry Bridges, was he still quivering atop his high heels -- quivering with foreboding and sclerotic rage at the rising spectre of... Noam Chomsky?

April 8, 2009

Snoopmaster Obie

Obama Administration Quietly Expands Bush's Legal Defense of Warrantless Wiretapping

In a legal filing on Friday, Obama lawyers claimed the government is shielded from lawsuits by a 'sovereign immunity' clause in the Patriot Act.

In a stunning defense of President George W. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, President Barack Obama has broadened the government's legal argument for immunizing his Administration and government agencies from lawsuits surrounding the National Security Agency's eavesdropping efforts.

In fact... the Obama Administration has gone beyond any previous legal claims put forth by former President Bush....

For the first time, the Obama Administration's brief contends that government agencies cannot be sued for wiretapping American citizens even if there was intentional violation of U.S. law....

"[B]eyond even the outrageously broad 'state secrets' privilege invented by the Bush administration and now embraced fully by the Obama administration, the Obama DOJ has now invented a brand new claim of government immunity, one which literally asserts that the U.S. Government is free to intercept all of your communications (calls, emails and the like) and -- even if what they're doing is blatantly illegal and they know it's illegal -- you are barred from suing them unless they 'willfully disclose' to the public what they have learned," [Salon columnist Glen] Greenwald wrote Monday....

February 25, 2010

Big Brother, B.Ed.

Item in a news roundup from Alternet:

Schools Accused of Spying on Kids Through Webcams

... Lawyers for Harriton High School student Blake Robbins plan to ask a judge Monday to order the retention of all data on 2,300 laptops issued to students by the Lower Merion School District, near Philadelphia, the Associated Press reports.

The Robbins family launched the lawsuit after an assistant principal confronted Robbins with evidence of "improper behavior in his home," and showed him a picture from inside the home, taken by the webcam.

This follows pretty naturally from the idea -- which the culture seems, strangely, to have accepted -- that the schools should be total institutions, charged with forming kids' attitudes and character, as well as teaching them to read. How, after all, can this mission be discharged if kids are allowed to escape the Panoptical eye for sixteen hours out of the 24?

One interesting wrinkle:

Internet privacy lawyer Parry Aftab told ABC that the school district may have crossed the line from education to policing.

"Schools have very limited authority under the Constitution to deal with things that are off-premises after hours and have nothing to do with the school itself, so in this case I think the school was out of bounds, literally," she said. "Schools are schools, police are police, and they never should meet."

So let me get this straight -- snooping on the kid through his computer's webcam would have been OK, if it were the police doing it? And this from a "privacy lawyer"?

Oy veh.

May 1, 2010

Pwog panopticon

Trust a liberal to come up with some nightmarishly elaborate techological scheme for controlling people's lives. Here's the latest:

Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint....

The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment.

It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.

“The cardholder’s identity will be verified by matching the biometric identifier stored within the microprocessing chip on the card to the identifier provided by the cardholder that shall be read by the scanner used by the employer,” states the Democratic legislative proposal.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a civil liberties defender often aligned with the Democratic Party, wasted no time in blasting the plan.

“.... Every worker in America will need a government permission slip in order to work. And all of this will come with a new federal bureaucracy — one that combines the worst elements of the DMV and the TSA,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU legislative counsel.

That's a nice line about the TSA and the DMV -- better than I would have expected from the generally toothless ACLU.

The proposal, a 26-page PDF document, is kinda fun to read, in a horrifying way. You can just see see some poor wanker of a Hill-rat congressional staffer sitting up nights concocting this ecstasy of techno-porn, which incidentally is watermarked with the names of Reid and Schumer.

It's a little incoherent, and about fifteen pages in, the Hill rat has become so boned that he (it's gotta be a guy) drops the cautious passive voice and starts talking about what "we" are going to let people do, and keep them from doing, and just how exactly we're going to go about it.

The gist of the idea is that the card contains some "biometric" information about your physical body -- a thumbprint, say, or a retinal scan -- along with your social security number and, well, who knows what other information about you?

You get one by going down to some government office and satisfying them that you are who you are and giving them the "biometric" info -- which is supposed to go right onto the card and then be forgotten and never stored anywhere else, and if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

In theory, of course, the card is not supposed to be used for any other purpose than for an employer to verify your eligibility to work here in the land of the free -- and again, how long do you think that restriction will last?

There is a strange inconsistency: the "locally stored" part of the scheme's preposterous acronym means that in principle, all the employer has to do is "locally" verify that your thumbprint or retina matches the one stored right on the card, without ever having to check a database anywhere. But then there's this:

The cardholder’s work authorization will be verified by matching a digital encryption key contained within the card to a digital encryption key contained within the work authorization database being searched.
To the extent that one can extract any meaning from this sentence at all, it seems to imply that there will in fact be a "work authorization database" somewhere (the blether about "encryption keys" is meaningless and technologically illiterate). Now each time this "database" is "searched", its proprietor -- presumably Uncle -- has yet another surveillance data point about you.

Well, who cares, really? He already has so many. And this is precisely the line of argument advanced by Demo Dick Durbin:

“The biometric identification card is a critical element here,” Durbin said. “For a long time it was resisted by many groups, but now we live in a world where we take off our shoes at the airport and pull out our identification. People understand that in this vulnerable world, we have to be able to present identification.”
A more perfect example of the Ratchet Effect could hardly be imagined. Bush makes us take off our shoes, and then the Democrats come along and tell us that hey, you're already taking off your shoes, might as well drop trou and assume the position while you're at it.

But of course there is nothing so horrible that a Pwog can't be found to praise it, as long as some Democratic senator's hell-spawn staff has cooked it up:

Angela Kelley, vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said the biometric identification provision “will give some people pause.”

But she applauded Democrats for not shying away from the toughest issues in the immigration reform debate.

“What I like about the outline is that Democrats are not trying to hide the ball or soft-pedal the tough decisions,” Kelley said. “It seems a very sincere effort to get the conversation started. This is a serious effort to get Republicans to the table.”

The "Center for American Progress". I feel an essay about "progress" taking shape somewhere in my head. Progress toward what, exactly?

May 3, 2010

Look on the bright side

Here in Lockdown Land, it appears that yesterday's Times Square car-bomb will result in -- you guessed it -- still more policing, on the sound principle that something which has been shown not to work will certainly work if you do more of it.

But there's always a silver lining. Maybe there'll be fewer tourists.

August 6, 2010


Shown above is one Adrian Lamo -- yes, that's his real name, apparently. Lamo is the police informer who says that he turned in Bradley Manning, alleged source of the Wikileaks Afghanistan material.

Lamo appears in the clip below, taking some very slow pitches from the aggressively, pugnaciously reactionary BBC, and swinging groggily at each one about five seconds after it passes over the plate. (There's a few seconds of setup; wait for it.)

Droll, eh?

There is much rich material here, as well as a few puzzling questions.

Lamo works with a maildrop "organization" called Project Vigilant, headed by one Chet Uber. (Yes, that's really his name too. Dickens couldn't do better.) Project Vigilant's seal tickles me:

(I particularly like the garbled motto.)

Project Vigilant claims to be a mighty network of hundreds of mad-skill'd volunteer super-"hackers", collecting mountains of information from your friendly local ISPs, discovering threats to "national security", and generally acting as a sort of pasty-faced auxiliary police force.

In fact it appears to consist of a handful of cop buffs and self-promoters like Lamo, who has a thorougly bad reputation in the esoteric world of infosec and its penumbra of script kiddies.

(One mailing-list correspondent of mine, a familiar of this milieu, writes: "Lamo can eat a bag of dicks. I hate that douche.")

The big question, of course, is why Manning would have taken an obvious creep like Lamo into his confidence -- which is the story Lamo tells. The evidence offered to back up this claim are a few short decontextualized snippets extracted from emails and AOL chats between the two. (Apparently Wired magazine has the full texts but won't make them public.)

I suppose it all could have happened just as the public story so far suggests: all this material was readily available to a relatively low-level staff guy like Manning(*); he idealistically gave it to Wikileaks; and then was naif enough to confide in Lamo. But it will be interesting to see how the story develops.

The other interesting thing, to me, is the existence of people like Uber and Lamo in the first place. Apparently there's so much runoff into the social waters from the activities of the cops, the spies, the snoopers and surveillers, that it's nourished a malodorous algal bloom of hangers-on, informers, unofficial volunteer secret-police trolls, parasitic entrepreneurs hoping for spilled swill from the national-security trough, and a richly repellent inventory of other loathesome creepy-crawlies.

Welcome to Obama's America, a land where everyone not a screw is either an inmate or a stoolie.


(*) This isn't as improbable as it may sound. Lots of large bureaucratic organizations -- I have worked for a few -- tend to think of information security in terms of an Iron Wall between inside and outside. On the supposedly secure "inside", access and trust are far too widely distributed. I've never been in the military, but it would surprise me if this mind-set didn't exist there, perhaps even more strongly than in the corporate world.

January 18, 2011


This is kinda old news, but I don't get out much, and I just found out about it.

Steve Jobs, the patron saint of hipsters, has filed for a very "creepy" patent, so described by my friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Steve Jobs Is Watching You: Apple Seeking to Patent Spyware

It looks like Apple, Inc., is exploring a new business opportunity: spyware and what we're calling "traitorware". [The company is] preparing to apply for a patent on technology that [provides] a roadmap for how Apple can — and presumably will — spy on its customers and control the way its customers use Apple products....

Essentially, Apple's patent provides for a device to investigate a user's identity [and] would allow Apple to record the voice of the device's user, take a photo of the device's user's current location or even detect and record the heartbeat of the device's user....

This patented device enables Apple to secretly collect, store and potentially use sensitive biometric information about you....

Here's a sample of the kinds of information Apple plans to collect:

  • The system can take a picture of the user's face, "without a flash, any noise, or any indication that a picture is being taken to prevent the current user from knowing he is being photographed";
  • The system can record the user's voice, whether or not a phone call is even being made;
  • The system can determine the user's unique individual heartbeat "signature";
  • The user's "Internet activity can be monitored or any communication packets that are served to the electronic device can be recorded"; and
  • The device can take a photograph of the surrounding location to determine where it is being used.
In other words, Apple will know who you are, where you are, and what you are doing and saying and even how fast your heart is beating. In some embodiments of Apple's "invention," this information "can be gathered every time the electronic device is turned on, unlocked, or used." When an "unauthorized use" is detected, Apple can contact a "responsible party." A "responsible party" may be the device's owner, it may also be "proper authorities or the police."

Apple does not explain what it will do with all of this collected information on its users, how long it will maintain this information, how it will use this information, or if it will share this information with other third parties. We know based on long experience that if Apple collects this information, law enforcement will come for it....

You thought all those surveillance cams on every streetcorner were bad? Well, Mister Skinny Jeans, you're gonna have a way-cool surveillance cam in your pocket.

This item is from, blush, August '10. I haven't found anything more recent. Have any other shoes dropped? Anybody know?

I note also that Jobs is taking another health-related leave from running Apple. I doubt that his absence will make the outfit any less evil, and I'm basically too kind-hearted to wish ill-health and early death on anybody. Even Bill Clinton.

But there is a side of me that hopes I see less of Jobs. A lot less.

February 19, 2011


Most of you all prolly saw this but it's still kinda nifty:

"A feud between a security contracting firm and a group of guerrilla computer hackers has spilled over onto K Street, as stolen e-mails reveal plans for a dirty-tricks-style campaign...

The move was in retaliation for assertions by HBGary Federal chief executive Aaron Barr that he had identified leaders of the hackers' group, which has actively supported the efforts of anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks to obtain and disclose classified documents...

The e-mails revealed, among other things, a series of often-dubious counterintelligence proposals aimed at enemies of Bank of America and the US Chamber of Commerce... The proposals included distributing fake documents and launching cyber-attacks... ...Several of the documents focus on ChamberWatch, a union-backed organization that criticizes the business lobby and many of its members. The documents include personal details about activists who work for the group and suggestions for targeting its reputation, including planting fake documents, tying the organization to radical activists or creating "fake insider personas" on social media.

ChamberWatch, one memo said, is "vulnerable to information operations that could embarrass the organization and those associated with it..."

And it wasn't a solo operation; two other outfits were in on the "proposals". One in particular caught my eye: "...Palantir chief executive Alex Karp, a self-described progressive...
severed ties with the lead firm HBGary Federal, and placed on leave an engineer involved in the project pending a review."
-- Cue the echo chamber --
"Palantir does not make software that has the capability to carry out the offensive tactics proposed by HBGary... Palantir never has and never will condone the sort of activities recommended by HBGary."

September 6, 2011

Spiking the story

Fascinating item in the Times today -- fascinating for several reasons:

When Shamai K. Leibowitz, an F.B.I. translator, was sentenced to 20 months in prison last year for leaking classified information to a blogger, prosecutors revealed little about the case. They identified the blogger in court papers only as “Recipient A.” After Mr. Leibowitz pleaded guilty, even the judge said he did not know exactly what Mr. Leibowitz had disclosed.

“All I know is that it’s a serious case,” Judge Alexander Williams Jr., of United States District Court in Maryland, said at the sentencing in May 2010. “I don’t know what was divulged other than some documents, and how it compromised things, I have no idea.”

So we now have judges who are trying and sentencing people without knowing what they are supposed to have done. Truly we live in an age of miracle and wonder.
Now the reason for the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the Obama administration’s first prosecution for leaking information to the news media seems clear: Mr. Leibowitz, a contract Hebrew translator, passed on secret transcripts of conversations caught on F.B.I. wiretaps of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Those overheard by the eavesdroppers included American supporters of Israel and at least one member of Congress, according to the blogger, Richard Silverstein.

In his first interview about the case, Mr. Silverstein .... said he had burned the secret documents in his Seattle backyard after Mr. Leibowitz came under investigation in mid-2009....

...Mr. Silverstein took the blog posts he had written based on Mr. Leibowitz’s material off his site after the criminal investigation two years ago.... He said the transcripts also included a three-way conversation between a congressman from Texas, an American supporter of the congressman and an embassy official; Mr. Silverstein said he could not recall any of the names.

One imagines that Leibowitz -- to whom be all honor, by the way -- regrets now that he didn't have the שכל to give his material to some bloody-minded resolutes, like, say, Wikileaks, rather than this squishy self-censoring Tikkunist Silverstein. My man Julian Assange, we can confidently say, would not have burned the documents and strangely forgotten the name of a US Congressman having ex parte communications with the Israeli Embassy, communications I'm sure we would all dearly love to hear.

About Snoopmeisters

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in the Snoopmeisters category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Slowly I turned is the previous category.

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