Sidewalk shadows, The Embarcadero, San Francisco.
Somewhere amongst the light and shadows on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Congress is playing dangerous games with our civil liberties. It appears our representatives are about to capitulate to the Bush administration's Draconian spying efforts, granting AT&T and other telecoms who colluded in spying on innocent Americans' email and phone calls immunity from prosecution. Congress apparently has reached a "compromise" with the Bush administration's insistence on letting the telecoms avoid prosecution. Their idea of a better plan? Taking power AWAY from the courts - throwing out the lawsuits already in play in federal court, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class action suit against AT&T.
Congress instead plans to send the telecoms either to a federal district court judge OR to a secretive and conservative FISA court to insure that "certain criteria was met before they acted on the Bush administration's requests and broke the law." Is it any surprise that any rulings will be foregone conclusions? How much money did the telecom lobbyists pour into the coffers of Bush administration officials and Congress members to get them to go along with such a disingenous plan? Further, the FISA court's only role for the past 30 years has been to sign off government surveillance requests. Where's the objectivity here?
Reports out of Washington suggest that high-ranking Republicans and Democrats are hoping a "compromise" foreign intelligence surveillance bill can be rushed through both the House and the Senate before the July 4th holiday - perhaps as early as Friday, June 20. Please telephone your senators and representatives to remind them that compromise - when it comes to giving telecom companies who illegally spied on Americans immunity from prosecution - not only is unacceptable, it makes a mockery of our justice system.
Meanwhile, Sweden's parliament has voted for controversial laws authorising spying on email and telephone traffic.
More news of note
Not only is John McCain pursuing exactly the same alarmist tactics about Iran that George Bush has favoured, now he's named former New York mayor and failed presidential candidate Rudy Guiliani as his security adviser. Never mind that McCain previously has said Guiliani knows nothing about national security.
The Democratic National Committee responded to the news, blasting both Giuliani and McCain:
"Democrats are not going to be lectured to on security by the mayor who failed to learn the lessons of the 1993 attacks, refused to prepare his own city's first responders for the next attack, urged President Bush to put his corrupt crony in charge of our homeland security and was too busy lobbying for his foreign clients to join the Iraq Study Group. Rudy Giuliani can echo the McCain campaign's false and misleading attacks, but he can't change the fact that John McCain is promising four more years of President Bush's flawed and failed policies on everything from energy security and the economy to the war in Iraq."
McCain fails to grasp concept of the word diplomacy;
mainstreamm media perpetuates erroneous references
In the Columbia Journalism Review, Zachary Roth wonders if John McCain knows the meaning of the word 'diplomacy:'
"Sometimes, the press can unwittingly redefine the entire political debate on an issue just through its choice of language. The ongoing disagreement between the campaigns over the value of talking to America’s adversaries might turn out to be the latest example—and not in a good way.
"In an article that aims to assess how similar John McCain’s policies are to those of President Bush, The New York Times today asserts that McCain “would refuse to engage in unconditional diplomacy with Iran.”
"We’ve noticed that the word “unconditional” has been popping up a lot lately in this context, mostly thanks to the McCain campaign. A press statement issued last month from the McCain camp charged that Barack Obama “has pledged to meet unconditionally with Iran’s leader.” And the Arizona senator recently unveiled a web page that solicits donations by asking: “Is it OK to unconditionally meet with anti-American foreign leaders?”
"But it seems to have filtered into the mainstream press coverage as well. In addition to today’s example, the Times’ “Election Guide” notes that McCain “would not engage in unconditional diplomacy.”
"Of course, the McCain camp has been using the word “unconditional” for a reason. It deliberately echoes the phrase “unconditional surrender” and implies that Obama’s position involves making concessions up front.
"But what is “unconditional diplomacy,” anyway? It appears to be nothing more than diplomacy. The whole point of international diplomacy, as traditionally understood, is to meet with adversaries in order to identify mutual interests. For instance, in February we reached an agreement with North Korea in which we gave them something they wanted—oil, and other economic aid—and in return, they gave us something we wanted—by agreeing to shut down their nuclear program. That’s how it works. Few countries are likely to accede to America’s demands up front, without being offered anything in return. So diplomacy that has any chance of being successful is, by definition, “unconditional.” (Of course, this leaves aside the question of whether to meet directly with the Iranian president Ahmadinejad, or with lower-level figures, which is a separate issue.)
"McCain, for his part, has made it clear, like Bush, that he doesn’t believe in talking to our adversaries. In other words, he doesn’t believe in diplomacy. That’s how the press should characterize his position. And, rather than buying into his campaign’s talking points, it should also make clear, when the McCain camp accuses Obama of wanting to hold “unconditional” talks with America’s adversaries, that Obama has done nothing more than advocate diplomacy."