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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

October 16, 2007


Reach Out and Touch Someone
(Just don't let them know you're doing it)

Have you ever watched Law and Order, CSI Miami or any of the other detective/ crime solving shows on TV? (Of course I have!) Did you ever notice how the detectives "convince" the criminals how it's in their best interests to confess; or how they get the girlfriend, best friend, business partner, etc, to spill their guts even in spite of their Constitutional rights? (Why, that's the best part!) Well then, move over TV crime dramas and welcome Verizon into the fold.

Verizon had legally responded to over 94,000 subpoenas submitted by the federal government to furnish private records including the parties, numbers and IP addresses of their customers. To go along with the legal requests Verizon additionally responded in the affirmative to requests made without subpoenas. The question is," Why?"

You see, had all of the requests being made come without subpoenas, then Verizon could have just stated that they were simply cooperating with government investigations, pinning all of the questions on the government and their actions. However, being that Verizon did receive 94,000 subpoenas forcing them to provide information, one wonders why an additional 720 "emergency" requests, in the form of "national security letters" were also answered with a big "YES".

Verizon, in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, admitted these actions. Both AT&T and Qwest Communications seem to have done likewise.

It should have come to the attention of someone at the big phone carrier that since subpoenas were issued across the board for the majority of records, why weren't the other 720 treated in the same manner? After all, I'm sure that Verizon has a legal department which they could have asked for help, don't they?

"The company (Verizon) said it does not determine the requests' legality or necessity because to do so would slow efforts to save lives in criminal investigations.
"Verizon and AT&T said it was not their role to second-guess the legitimacy of emergency government requests"
-The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/15/AR2007101501857_pf.html)

But it is actually their responsibility to do just that. One of the reasons they employ lawyers is to ask them these questions so they aren't held liable and to make sure the law is followed.

"Public officials, not private businessmen, must ultimately be responsible for whether the legal judgments underlying authorized surveillance activities turn out to be right or wrong -- legally or politically. Telecommunications carriers have a part to play in guarding against official abuses, but it is necessarily a modest one."
-Wayne Watts, AT&T's senior executive vice president and general counsel

But even modest abuses must be answered for. What if the information obtained was used as a weapon against a political opponent? Who is to say what is "modest" and what is "blatant"? if the government is requesting this material without the knowledge of an impartial judge who had already said "okay" to his (or her) part of 94,000 approved warrants, then whose job is it and who, other than those in government should be held responsible?

Just because "someone" in the government tells you to break the law doesn't excuse you from your responsibility when you break it. And break it they did.

And the federal government's claiming that arguing about the spying without warrants would reveal "state secrets" doesn't hold up. First of all, have those at the big communications companies who: (A) Knew of the requests, and; (B) been provided the information, been vetted? And second, are we to believe that the judges who issued 94,000 warrants couldn't have been trusted to approve (or disapprove) of the additional 720 warrants? We know that they had been vetted. So who are we to trust first? The judges or the telecom companies? The Bush administration chose the latter. They violated the law, and so did Verizon, AT&T and Qwest.

And they all should be held responsible.

-Noah Greenberg

Air America

Rush Limbaugh is certainly as evil as Cheney, and spends his time drumming actual lies into the heads of sometimes otherwise innocent people. Such a shame that Air America isn't more widely available. And even where it is available, it appears to me that it can be blocked locally by Republican local governments. Has anyone else ever had that experience? Driving across NJ, you can tell if the town is Dem or GOP, based on the loud interference. Thom Hartmann is doing a great job and I'd love to have his reasonable and enlightening message available to average folks, young people, etc. I was recently in Taos New Mexico, and had very good, loud and clear reception. Taos is the bluest area in the entire country, besting even San Francisco. (Based on the "Purple America" map devised after the 2004 election by a Princeton professor.)

And the minute I drive back into Hunterdon County, forget Air America. Sad.

-Pat Thompson

In response to Pat Thompson, Victoria Brownworth writes:

Pat Thompson is right and then some. Rudy Giuliani is a bigger liar than Bush, more willfully ignorant than Bush, as ready and willing to murder as Bush. Anyone who thinks he won't be more dangerous than Bush should talk to a few of the FDNY folks that he hung out to dry post-9/11. Giuliani is such an opportunist, his picture should be next to the word in the dictionary. He is the black hole of the Republican Party. Be afraid, be very afraid.

In response to, "When Deutsch called Coulter's comments anti-Semitic, she was stunned," Pat Thompson writes:

Ms. Coulter is a revolting, horrible person. Does anyone remember one of the other fake blonds who was always on TV during the Clinton persecutions? She was married to Ted Olson, one of the attorneys for Bush in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case that gave the election to Bush. She died on 9/11 on the plane that supposedly crashed into the Pentagon. Strange coincidence......

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-Noah Greenberg