(1) In order to finish the manuscript for my (still untitled) book, I will be taking a "vacation" from blogging here for the next week -- from Monday through Friday (October 22-26). Absent some extraordinary and completely unexpected event (such as, say, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama deciding to share with the world their views on telecom amnesty and Chris Dodd's FISA hold and filibuster), I will likely remain away for the week.
I have, however, arranged three superb writers to guest blog here while I'm gone -- Chris Floyd, Pam Spaulding, and Anonymous Liberal. I don't agree with all of what they (or anyone else on the planet) write, and they are quite diverse in terms of their style and the topics on which they tend to focus. But all three are provocative, smart and insightful and I am certain they will provide excellent commentary while I'm gone. A.L. is a lawyer who will undoubtedly provide comprehensive coverage of any surveillance and amnesty developments.
(2) My interview with the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cindy Cohn, the lead counsel in the pending surveillance lawsuit against AT&T and other telecoms, can now be heard in its entirety here, in podcast. I previously posted some of what I thought were the most significant excerpts here, but I personally found everything she had to say on the topic of these telecom lawsuits to be worthwhile.
It is worth noting here that EFF lawyers -- like lawyers with the ACLU, the CCR, and other civil liberties organizations -- have been working intensely over the last six years to preserve our basic constitutional guarantees from the Bush onslaught -- with far less compensation than they could get in the private sector and typically in obscurity, without much glamour. But the work they do is indescribably valuable, sometimes even heroic, and they rely upon contributions of those who support their work, which -- for EFF -- you can make here if you are so inclined.
What Cohn says conclusively demonstrates how corrupt is the Cheney-Rockefeller amnesty bill and how little Congress actually knows about the behavior they are immunizing. It is difficult to listen to her explain the extent to which the telecoms acted illegally here, the clarity of their lawbreaking, and their knowledge that they were breaking the law, and not became furious at the idea that Jay Rockefeller and Dick Cheney are jointly attempting simply to legislate these lawsuits away.
Along those some lines, earlier this week I interviewed Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), a member of the House Intelligence Committee. I'll write more about that interview when I return -- Holt is very smart and knowledgeable on FISA issues -- and the podcast will be posted in a few days. But the following exchange further reveals how little even Intelligence Committee members know -- let alone members of Congress generally -- about the surveillance actions they are now legalizing and protecting:
GG: One of the questions I really want to ask is this: you referred earlier to the long history of abuse that pre-dated FISA and that gave rise to the bipartisan consensus that we needed judicial oversight on governmental eavesdropping. But one of the things that baffles me about Congressional willingness to amend FISA is that it doesn't seem as though they know very much about whether there have been abuses or really what has been done at all during the five years that the Bush administration was eavesdropping secretly and without warrants.
As a member of the House Intelligence Committee: And here I'm not asking you to tell me what you know that's classified obviously, but I just would like to know: do you know, have you been able to find out or have you been given classified briefings, about which Americans were eavesdropped on, how they were selected for warrantless eavesdropping, what was done with that information? Are you aware of the answers to those questions?
RH: I have been on the Intelligence Committee for 5 years now and there's still an awful lot that I and everyone else on the Committee learns from the press. It is not the way it should be. I'm all for you guys in the press -- I appreciate what the press and the blogosphere does - but we shouldn't have to learn about intelligence -- we on the Intelligence Committee shouldn't have to learn about intelligence from people on the outside, and yet, that has not infrequently been the case.
Now, have we had classified briefings on these things? Sure we have. At first, the President -- when he started his surveillance program -- he evidently told a few members of Congress. And then when the New York Times broke the story -- which, by the way, occurred just two weeks after I went to the NSA and said: "I'm here for you to explain to me that our government is not spying on Americans." And they gave me this long song and dance. Only 2 weeks later did I learn from the New York Times that in fact we were spying on Americans.
And after that, then, the administration had to brief Congress, but my guess is it's still only partial. We haven't had the full story. I'm still seeing things in the newspaper in the last week that my colleagues and I have not been briefed on.
While amnesty and warrantless surveillance are, standing alone, extraordinary measures, the fact that Congress seems well on its way to enacting it despite still being completely in the dark makes it all the more extraordinary.
(3) Via Blue Texan, a new CNN poll shows -- again -- how fringe are the neoconservatives and other assorted warmongers craving war with Iran:
If the U.S. government decides to take military action in Iran, would you favor or oppose it?
Favor - 29%
Against - 68%
Not sure - 4%
And that is true even though overwhelming majorities believe that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon (77-18%) and also believe that Iran "is providing weapons and other support to the insurgents who are fighting the U.S. troops in Iraq" (82-13 %). Yet they still oppose the Cheney/Kristol/Lieberman war with Iran. As Blue Texan says: "This country is teeming with Chamberlains."
(4) John Cole and his readers submitted several questions for the GOP candidates. Some of them are obviously frivolous but I would honestly be interested in hearing the answer to most of them from not only the GOP candidates but also their followers. Relatedly, Mona examines the incomparably audacious pledge of thrice-married, serial adulterer Rudy Giuliani this weekend to defend the "sanctity of marriage."
(5) Naomi Wolf describes -- and celebrates -- a bill introduced last week in the House by Ron Paul to codify the Constitution-defending agenda of two groups: the conservative American Freedom Agenda (founded by former Reagan official Bruce Fein, GOP Rep. Bob Barr and others), as well as the progressive American Freedom Campaign, founded by Wolf, MoveOn's Wes Boyd and others.
Despite their disparate ideological starting points, the two groups share a common agenda, one that really does transcend, or at least transforms, the traditional "Right"/"Left" dichotomy -- a belief in our constitutional framework, the rule of law, checks and balances, and core constitutional liberties. (Steven Taylor has some related thoughts about the frequently meaningless use of the terms "left" and "right" these days).
Regardless of labels, the Republican Party has been taken over by a faction that simply rejects those core American principles, and in many -- perhaps most cases -- the Beltway leadership of the Democratic Party is either indifferent to them or actively complicit in their erosion. Although it is not always evident, there is a strong, pervasive and -- I believe -- growing anger towards the never-ending assault on our basic political values. Irrespective of the source, any meaningful actions designed to defend those principles -- such as Sen. Dodd's "hold" announcement this week and Rep. Paul's bill -- ought to be applauded.
(6) Credit where it's due: Patterico does a very good job in this post highlighting the important parts of a story that ought to receive a lot more attention (via Kevin Drum). The amount of secrecy surrounding what our government does is unprecedented and has enormous ramifications for the kind of country we are, and federal courts frequently cooperate far more than they should in maintaining that secrecy. The story Patterico highlights contains virtually every facet of what our government has been doing for the last six years.
(7) Along those same lines, Greg Djerejian -- former Iraq war supporter, former Bush supporter -- looks at Dick Cheney's war-threatening speech towards Iran, delivered over the weekend, and describes its obviously disturbing (though unsurprising) meaning. The deliberate use by the administration over the past two years when speaking about Iran of language that is verbtaim identical to the language they used about Iraq throughout 2002 and into 2003 was the subject of a lengthy section of my Iran chapter in A Tragic Legacy.