Tuesday, November 27, 2007

FISA fight

Yesterday, I received an update from the ACLU stating that there is likely to be a debate on the Senate floor on Dec. 3 on whether or not telecom communities should receive immunity for illegally turning over the private information of their customers to the government. This would be a good time to contact your Senators' offices and let them know that it is essential to our system of government that illegal activity, especially when regarding government/business cooperating to violate civil liberty, requires public accountability. Granting amnesty for telecommunications companies for their complicity in such illegal activity would strike a serious blow for the rule of law and would take away one of the key means that citizens have of protecting their rights from abuse. It might also be a good idea to contact your local media and suggest that they cover this issue if they are not already doing so.

For more on the nature of the debate, see this editorial from the New York Times. And to see the vital importance of this issue, see this post by Glenn Greenwald.

The cooperation between the various military/intelligence branches of the Federal Government -- particularly the Pentagon and the NSA -- and the private telecommunications corporations is extraordinary and endless. They really are, in every respect, virtually indistinguishable. The Federal Government has its hands dug deeply into the entire ostensibly "private" telecommunications infrastructure and, in return, the nation's telecoms are recipients of enormous amounts of revenues by virtue of turning themselves into branches of the Federal Government.

There simply is no separation between these corporations and the military and intelligence agencies of the Federal Government. They meet and plan and agree so frequently, and at such high levels, that they practically form a consortium. Just in Nacchio's limited and redacted disclosures, there are descriptions of numerous pre-9/11 meetings between the largest telecoms and multiple Bush national security officials, including Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden and counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke.

The top telecom officials are devoting substantial amounts of their energy to working on highly classified telecom projects with the Bush administration, including projects to develop whole new joint networks and ensure unfettered governmental access to those networks. Before joining the administration as its Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell spearheaded the efforts on behalf of telecoms to massively increase the cooperation between the Federal Government and the telecom industry.

The private/public distinction here has eroded almost completely. There is no governmental oversight or regulation of these companies. Quite the contrary, they work in secret and in tandem -- as one consortium -- with no oversight at all.
Amnesty would mean the sanction of this undemocratic activity in which not even Congress has any kind of idea of the extent to which illegal activity is taking place behind closed doors. And the fact that the government is using tax payer money to enrich the lawbreakers should push your moral outrage buttons, in and of itself.

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