Various matters

The best hope for holding the president accountable for illegal warrantless eavesdropping. The L.A. Times kills a key story at the administration's behest. Exaggerating the terrorism threat.

Published March 7, 2007 1:11PM (EST)

(1) Wired's Ryan Singel covers issues of privacy, government secrecy and domestic surveillance as well as anyone around, and his specific coverage of the various litigations surrounding such issues is as comprehensive as can be. His Wired blog, 27B Stroke 6, is always informative and I highly recommend it.

Singel has an article in Wired News from a couple of days ago about the lawsuit which may present the best opportunity for obtaining a final judicial ruiling on whether the President's warrantless eavesdropping program is illegal. The principal impediment for lawsuits challenging the legality of the program under FISA is standing -- specifically, so the argument goes, because the government's eavesdropping activities were undertaken in complete secrecy, nobody can prove that they were subject to warrantless eavesdropping, and they therefore lack "standing" to challenge the legality of the program.

If Judge Diggs Taylor's decision is to be reversed by the Sixth Circuit (where the appeal is pending), it is (in my view) highly likely that it will be on the standing issue. Though it may sound petty, and though it presents an outrageous Catch-22 (since Bush officials here have broken the law in secret and are now trying to benefit from that secrecy by arguing that nobody can sue them because nobody can prove they were actually injured), "standing" is an important concept because it serves to limit the jurisdiction of courts.

The Founders did not want courts to be able to run around as some floating, superior body resolving every dispute. That is why Article III limits the jurisdiction of courts to actual "Cases" or "Controversies." They are empowered not to adjudicate any matter that is in dispute, but instead only those cases where one party is injured by the actions of another (hence, the general requirement that a plaintiff prove he has suffered specific/unique injury from a government act in order to have "standing" to challenge the legality of that act).

But as Singel documents, there is a lawsuit -- brought by lawyers representing a Saudi charity under investigation for terrorist ties -- in which the plaintiffs can prove that they were subjecft to surveillance, because the Bush administration inadvertently turned over the "top secret" documents which reflected that fact. I wrote about this case previously here.

Singel's analysis as to why this case presents a genuine threat to the administration is superb. And on his blog, Singel provides links to some of the key documents in that lawsuit. The President and multiple Bush officials unquestionably violated the criminal law by eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by FISA, and it is vital to ensure accountability for that criminal conduct.

(2) In a separate post, Singel discusses the matter of the former AT&T official who claims he has knowledge of ATT's efforts to monitor the Interact activities of Americans in collaboration with the Bush administration. As Singel notes, the editors of the LA Times killed the story at the behest of the administration.

(3) Whatever else you might think of him, John Stossel has an excellent article in Real Clear Politics this morning, entitled Fear of Terrorism Overblown?, in which he notes that various political movements, the "terrorism industry," and the media all work in confederation, with some shared motives and some disparate ones, to greatly exaggerate Americans' fears of terrorism beyond what is remotely justified by reason. That is not news to many people, but it is always encouraging when the exploitation of the terrorist threat -- one of the principal weapons used by those who have sought to radically alter our country -- is discussed in mainstream venues.

(4) The New York Sun, which is essentially the house newspaper for American neoconservatism, has an article today entitled AIPAC Will Press for Hard Line on Iran Regime. To many people, that story is the equivalent of "The Sun Will Rise Tomorrow" -- something obvious, natural and expected -- but there are still large segments of the political landscape which want to vehemently deny any such connection between AIPAC and other right-wing Jewish groups on the one hand, and the pressure being applied on American politicians in both parties on the other to take a hard-line against Iran.

And along those lines, Eric Alterman, who has been writing about these issues long before most people were willing to do so, a few weeks ago posted an excellent discussion of AIPAC, its attempts to influence U.S. foreign policy, and the various controversies always provoked whenever anyone even gets near this discussion.

(5) At his Talking Points Memo post, The Horse's Mouth, Greg Sargent documents how the "fake Hillary Drawl" story went from The Drudge Report straight to CNN, and how the "reporting" at CNN was not just utterly slothful, but relied upon Drudge's distortive work almost completely.

What Sargent did here is called "reporting." Whatever one wants to call what CNN does when it engages in this behavior, it is something else entirely. One of the most significant, revealing and (therefore) under-discussed confessions of the last several years is the following passage in the book by ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin and former Washington Post National Editor John Harris:

Matt Drudge is the gatekeeper... he is the Walter Cronkite of his era.

In the fragmented, remote-control, click-on-this, did you hear? political media world in which we live, revered Uncle Walter has been replaced by odd nephew Matt. . . .

Matt Drudge rules our world . . . With the exception of the Associated Press, there is no outlet other than the Drudge Report whose dispatches instantly can command the attention and energies of the most established newspapers and television newscasts.

So many media elites check the Drudge Report consistently that a reporter is aware his bosses, his competitors, his sources, his friends on Wall Street, lobbyists, White House officials, congressional aides, cousins, and everyone who is anyone has seen it, too.

As documented here many times, so many of these national journalists are unbelievably arrogant about what they think is the lofty and elevated status of their profession. It is unfathomable that they can continue to believe that in light of what two of their most influential and well-connected figures acknowledge is the dynamic that drives what so many of them actually do.

(6) This post from HTML Mencken should put an end to the brewing notion that any substantial part of the right-wing movement, let alone its leadership, has shunned Ann Coulter in light of her remarks this week.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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