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Dodd vs. Pumpkinhead on warrantless surveillance, retroactive immunity of the telcos

Funny when Pumpkinhead becomes a junkyard dog, isn't it? Insofar as a wordy vacuous cipher can be called a dog, of course. From CNN transcript, Pumpkinhead recites the authorized version. His recital is useful, because it illustrates the sheer wrongness that dominates discourse in the Village.

MR. RUSSERT: After September 11th, the government went to many of the private telecom companies in our country and asked them for information, data.

Tweety's first lie: The administration was seeking this power before 9/11.

The government said they were legally justified to it. They wanted to see if there was a nexus between international terrorists and some phone calls made back here to the United States.

Tweety's second lie: The program is and has always been about voice and data -- Tweety even says so just above! -- not just wiretapping. (This has been a problem with the press coverage from the very beginning.) And further, Tweety recites what the administration says without qualification. Surely, at this point, skepticism is more than warranted?

You have been very outspoken about [against] giving those companies immunity from any kind of prosecution, even though they were doing what the government asked them to do.

Tweety's third lie: "The government" has three branches, only one of them is the executive branch.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democratic [sic] on Senate intelligence, has a view much different from yours.

Tweety's bias just showed. The Democrats are in the majority on the Committee, so Rockefeller is the chair, not the "ranking member." Dodd could have broken in, and corrected this obvious "error."

This is what Rockefeller says: “We recognize that private companies who received legal assurances from the highest levels of government should not be dragged through the courts for their help with national security. The onus is on the administration, not the companies, to ensure that the request is on strong legal footing, and if it’s not,” it’s “the administration that should be held accountable.”

Tweety's fourth lie: The telcos have an independent duty to obey the law, regardless of what the administration says or doesn't say.

Why you going after these companies for doing what they thought was in the public interest?

Tweety's fifth lie: FISA provides for criminal penalties; felonies. Intent has nothing to with it.

There you have it. A very compact compendium of Village wisdom on warrantless surveillance, all of it wrong. Wrong on the facts; wrong on the law; and wrong on how the very foundation of our government, the Constitution, works. Tweety's chatter and clutter and chaff is what passes for discourse these days. Reach me that bucket, wouldja hon?

Now Dodd:

SEN. DODD: Well, because not all of them did. There were companies that didn’t comply with that request.

Dodd should name the company: Qwest.

They said, “Give us a court order and we’ll turn over documents.” The court order was never forthcoming here. These companies have very strong, good legal departments here. The idea that companies would turn over thousands, if not millions, of private records, of individuals without a court order is an invasion of that privacy, in my view.

Dodd should drop the Senatorial courtesy and locutions: "in my view," and so forth. Dodd got huge positive feedback for an uncompromising stand, so his language should reflect that.

There’s a, there’s a way to do this, a legal way to do this.

Dodd should name the "legal way"; and say the way has been followed for thirty years, and two political parties, until Bush.

They decided not to do it. They decided they were going to turn over the—these records without any court order whatsoever. That is dangerous in my view.

I think that I and many others know the danger. It's the illegality, the shameless lawbreaking--after Monica, for gawdsake--that concerns me. This is a topic where the exact truth and red meat for the base totally coincide.

There’s been a consistent pattern by this administration on—to, to, to basically trample on the constitutional rights of people. We’ve seen it from the very beginning here.

Detail. Narrative. People aren't outraged without a story or a "hook" they can grab onto. (""Everything including Aunt Molly" might be a good one-liner)

That’s of great concern to me, Tim.

"Concern" is a red flag in Beltway-ese, but not to the country as a whole.

I’m probably spending more time in this campaign talking about that than any other candidate. As I pointed out earlier, when you raise your right hand and take the oath of office, you swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States. And I think we’re being asked a false dichotomy. The dichotomy goes something like this: In order to be safer, we’re going to have to give up some rights. I think that’s a very dangerous proposal here, and too many people are succumbing to it.

Why is it dangerous? Say it!

And I refuse to do so here.

Good. Strong, simple.

If you’re turning over these documents without a court order, Lord only knows what’s in these documents, how much information is there. It seems to me that if you do that, then you have to pay a price for doing so, in my view, so I’m going to vehemently oppose legislation here that would go forward.

But he needs to hammer on the illegality, not the danger. The issue is really simple: Everybody knows that if we break the law, we get punished; our intent doens't matter. So why should the telcos get a "get out of jail free" card? Everybody who's ever had a cable modem installed hates the telcos. They command no respect. Why not go after them?

The other good parts of this bill, Jay Rockefeller and Kit Bond have done a good job, in my view, with the FISA legislation generally. But the idea you get retroactive immunity to some companies who decided to succumb to the administration’s request. Those that did not, in a sense, have been, I’m told by some, have paid a price financially because they wouldn’t step up to the plate and do what the administration asked them to do.

"I'm told by some"? There's a court case! Cite it!

Habeas corpus.

Not on point. Russert won't let him transition, and rightly so:

MR. RUSSERT: What price did they pay?

SEN. DODD: Well, economically, there’ve been some talk of Qwest has suffered economically.

Tell the story!

MR. RUSSERT: How?

SEN. DODD: Well, certain, certain, certain contracts and others that they’ve suffered from. That’s, that’s the reports.

Let me try: "According to a court filing by the Qwest CEO, Qwest lost a multi-million dollar government contract, and then the Bush Justice Department prosecuted him. Now I'm not saying, Tim, that the case was ginned up, but the Justice Department under Gonzales has a track record, and we should look into that." Or something.

MR. RUSSERT: You mean the government punished them?

SEN. DODD: That’s what we’ve heard, as well.

MR. RUSSERT: Can you prove that?

SEN. DODD: Well, it’s—those are the allegations out there. And again, point out to you, not all companies followed that request. They said, “Look, give us a court order.” That’s a basic requirement in these kind of things.

This is the strong point, and Dodd should have hammered at it in the beginning. "Not all the companies complied, Tim. Qwest's CEO checked with his legal department, and they said the program violated the law. Very commendably, Qwest refused to be involved in the program. And, Tim, after that, the Bush administration gave the contracts they were hoping for to other companies, and the CEO ended up going to jail."

And now Tweety absolutely disgraces himself:

MR. RUSSERT: There’ve been suggestions that you exploited this issue politically for your presidential run, and, and they point to this. Here’s your Web site. “Restore the Constitution. We did it! You helped us meet our $100,000 goal in 36 hours. Let’s keep it going.” You used it as a fund-raising tool.

SEN. DODD: Well, no, we get people, people stepped up to the plate through the Internet and contributed and were helpful in the campaign.

MR. RUSSERT: But tied specifically to your criticism of that legislation.

Well, and so fucking what? We were rewarding good behavior! Last I checked, money was the mother's milk of politics. Let the telcos give $50,000 to Rockefeller, and nobody says Boo. Let citizens give $150,000 in small contributions to Dodd, and the Village clutches its pearls and heads for the fainting couch.

Bottom line for me: Dodd's a good man trying to do the right thing, in a corrupt and intellectually bankrupt Village culture. That can't be easy, and we won't forget. But he needs to step up his game. I saw a YouTube of Dodd with the firefighters, he was great. He needs to be as great on the national stage, and in the Senate, he could have a bully pulpit. Lose the Senatorial locutions, figure out how to treat Timmy with the contempt he deserves--Hillary did--and tell the story in simple terms with telling details.

Personally, I hope that Dodd's filibuster happens, and that, for once, the world's greatest deliberative body really does deliberate, and that we have a teachable moment for the American people about standing up for the American people. Again, Dodd needs to elevate his game for that.

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Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

excuse me, but:

dosen't tweety = matthews?

i think russert =s punkinhead.

i appoligse if i'm wrong.

Submitted by lambert on

This is what comes of not having a TV...

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

FYI, the "read more" link is dead, but you can read it all by clicking Comments.