You are currently browsing the daily archive for November 8, 2007.

1…telecom immunity  (excerpted)

The Senate Judiciary Committee is delaying consideration of a controversial proposal to grant legal immunity to telecommunications companies that facilitated a warrantless wiretapping program.

A committee aide tells RAW STORY it is “likely” the panel will produce legislation that differs from an Intelligence Committee bill. The Intel bill includes telecom immunity, but it remains unclear whether immunity will be struck by the Judiciary committee.

The delay comes as civil liberties groups and grassroots activists have urged the Democratic Congress not to cede to President Bush’s demands that the well-connected industry be spared from lawsuits alleging the illegally violated customers privacy rights.

The Judiciary Committee is meeting Thursday to consider an update to a foreign intelligence law that President Bush has said needs to include a retroactive grant of immunity from ongoing civil lawsuits brought by customers who say they were illegally spied on. Senators on the panel will only consider one-third of the bill today, delaying consideration of the retroactive immunity provision for at least a week, a Judiciary Committee spokeswoman said.

“To make the legislation easier to manage, the Chairman has decided the Committee today will mark up ONLY Title I,” the spokeswoman told RAW STORY via e-mail. “They will turn to Title II and Title III next week. Immunity is in Title II.”

Several senators — including most of the committee’s Democrats and its ranking Republican — have expressed reservations about the proposal to invalidate the court cases, which privacy advocates say are the only way to determine the Constitutionality of Bush’s warrantless surveillance of Americans.

National Journal’s CongressDaily, a subscription-only newsletter, reports that a key Democrat on the committee may now be wavering in her support for immunity.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who sits on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, said she is re-evaluating her support for retroactive legal immunity. She voted to approve it as part of the Intelligence Committee bill.

“I did support [immunity] in the intel bill and I’m giving it further thought,” she said.

(Republican Sen. Arlen)Specter said he does not know if there will be enough votes on the Judiciary Committee to strip the immunity provision.

Specter also has raised concerns about granting immunity to the telephone and internet companies that are alleged to have let the government tap into their networks. On Wednesday, he proposed a compromise in which the government would become the defendant in lawsuits aimed at the telecoms.

“I think it’s very important that the courthouse not be closed so there can be a judicial determination to see if there have been any violations of privacy rights,” Specter told The Hill. “I think the telephone companies were good citizens, and should not suffer from what they did. And my idea is to have the government substituted as the party.”

The committee will resume marking-up the FISA update Nov. 15, but once it does the bill could have several paths to the Senate floor. 

2…whistleblower reveals big brother tactics

AT&T whistleblower: I was forced to connect ‘big brother machine’

David Edwards and Jason Rhine:

A former technician at AT&T, who alleges that the telecom forwards virtually all of its internet traffic into a “secret room” to facilitate government spying, says the whole operation reminds him of something out of Orwell’s 1984.

Appearing on MSNBC’s Countdown program, whistleblower Mark Klein told Keith Olbermann that a copy of all internet traffic passing over AT&T lines was copied into a locked room at the company’s San Francisco office — to which only employees with National Security Agency clearance had access — via a cable splitting device.

“My job was to connect circuits into the splitter device which was hard-wired to the secret room,” said Klein. “And effectively, the splitter copied the entire data stream of those internet cables into the secret room — and we’re talking about phone conversations, email web browsing, everything that goes across the internet.”

Asked by Olbermann how he knew what was being sent along those particular lines, Klein said it was all part of his former job:

“As a technician, I had the engineering wiring documents, which told me how the splitter was wired to the secret room,” Klein continued. “And so I know that whatever went across those cables was copied and the entire data stream was copied…”

According to Klein, that information included internet activity about Americans.

“We’re talking about domestic traffic as well as international traffic,” Klein said. ” And that’s what got me upset to begin with.”

Previous Bush administration claims that only international communications were being intercepted aren’t accurate, Klein says.

“I know the physical equipment, and I know that statement is not true,” he added. “It involves millions of communications, a lot of it domestic communications that they’re copying wholesale, sweeping up into that secret room.”

When Olbermann asked Klein if being involved in the process reminded him of a scene in the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the former technician said he had another movie in mind.

“Actually, I’m a little older so my thought was George Orwell’s 1984 and here I am forced to connect the big brother machine,” he said. “And I felt I was in a funny position, but I needed my job, so I didn’t want to make a fuss a the time. But after I retired, I thought about it some more.” According to ABC News, Klein believes AT&T has similar operations in place in as many as 20 other sites.

He is in Washington to lobby Congress not to pass a proposed telecom immunity bill, which would provide legal immunity to companies who secretly participated in NSA warrantless eavesdropping programs. Some of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies are currently facing an array of class-action lawsuits related to the matter.

The above video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast on November 7, 2007.

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory

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