Saturday, December 15, 2007

Why is Reid not skeptical of Bush's demand for telecom immunity?

I’ll start right at the outset of this by pointing out that Chris Dodd lost to Tom Daschle by one vote to become the Senate Minority Leader, and would have run again but didn't have the votes to beat Reid. Both drational and booman have excellent posts up about Reid screwing over Dodd and the rest of the country on the FISA bill with respect to telecom immunity. With this, instead of asking what could have been if Dodd had one more vote, let’s use this to push for what will be (if Dodd doesn’t win the Presidency, of course).

While their diaries are excellent, I want to take a different angle here, and I have action items directly from Dodd himself at the bottom of this post. What I want to know is, if Bush is pushing so hard for retroactive immunity for the telecom companies in their illegal acts, then why is Reid (and Sen. Jay Rockefeller) so hell bent on going against his own party, including many of the Presidential candidates in order to accommodate this?

Some say that it is because they received money from the telecom companies. While that may be a contributing factor, there are many other ways to not have the telecom companies be completely and totally liable for their illegal actions. There are also a number of ways to do this without also accommodating Mister Bush’s demands with no compromise from him.

Back in August, the Washington Post had an article titled, NSA Spying Part of Broader Effort, which confirmed a number of things that were pretty damning to Bush (emphasis mine):

The Bush administration's chief intelligence official said yesterday that President Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president previously described.

The disclosure by Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, appears to be the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that Bush's order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005.


News reports over the past 20 months have detailed a range of activities linked to the program, including the use of data mining to identify surveillance targets and the participation of telecommunication companies in turning over millions of phone records. The administration has not publicly confirmed such reports.

We know from this, as well as other articles that were released and written about since then that the NSA was collecting data and phone records using the help of the telecom companies as well as Bush’s involvement in this and that this was pretty much unprecedented.

On his website, Senator Feingold has a copy of the letter sent to Reid about adopting a version of the FISA bill that does not include retroactive immunity. And a few months back, a number of articles indicated that the White House “cut a deal with the Senate Intelligence Committee for it to review documents not available to anyone else in exchange for providing retroactive immunity:

Senate Judiciary Committee members yesterday angrily accused the White House of allowing the Senate Intelligence Committee to review documents on its warrantless surveillance program in return for agreeing that telecommunications companies should get immunity from lawsuits.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the ranking Republican, said any such agreement would be "unacceptable," signaling that legislation granting immunity to certain telecom carriers could run into trouble. Leahy and Specter demanded that the documents, which were provided only to the Intelligence Committee, be turned over to the Judiciary Committee as well.

The White House didn’t even really deny this allegation at the time:
Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said yesterday that what the White House did was "not exactly" a quid pro quo but that the intelligence panel "expected to legislate on the liability" and so "we've been accommodative on sharing information."

A week or so back, Troutfishing wrote a diary about secret directives and secret memos that Bush himself signed authorizing torture. Similarly, there are documents that are at least being withheld from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The same committee whose FISA legislation will be railroaded by Reid for the Senate Intelligence Committee bill that gives immunity to the telecom companies.

But if the Senate Intelligence Committee can review these documents and come to the conclusion that retroactive immunity is necessary, then why can’t the Senate Judiciary Committee see those documents as well?

And more importantly, what is in those secret documents that (1) Bush doesn’t want anyone to see unless they promise not to hold anyone responsible for illegal data mining and wiretapping, (2) does it in fact, lead right back to a directive by Bush himself for the telecom companies to break the law and (3) won’t this shelter Bush from being held directly accountable for not only breaking the law, but authorizing (or forcing) others to break it as well?

We need to know what Bush is hiding, what he ordered and told the telecom companies to do and if he directed them to break the law. We also need to know why Harry Reid is allowing this to happen against the will of his party and the American people, and why he is covering for Bush’s potential criminal acts.

*****Action Items From Dodd*****

Here is the link to Chris Dodd’s website link for action items, and here is the text from his site:

Today, that FISA fight we've all been waiting for begins.

In a few hours, Majority Leader Harry Reid will ask for something called a "motion to proceed" on FISA, effectively disregarding Chris Dodd's "hold" on the bill.

Remember when this all started playing out? A lot of people rushed to send out strongly worded press releases about how committed they were to "supporting a filibuster."

Call or email the Senators that pledged to support a filibuster and ask them to be there when it happens to pick up the ball after Chris Dodd can go no longer.

Leadership is demonstrated through action.


Let's see what we can do. And while we are at it, ask what secret Executive Orders and other documents Mister Bush is hiding from what he says is a "legal" program.

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