Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Former Bush Attorney: Parts of Wiretapping Program "Illegal"

Let us hope that every elected representative will reflect on this testimony when they re-consider authorizing FISA in its recently "disabled" form. This from the Center from American Progress on yesterday's incredible testimony by a former Bush Attorney:

Jack Goldsmith, a former Bush administration attorney, told Congress yesterday that President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program was "the biggest legal mess [he] had ever encountered" and after leading an internal review, he "could not find a legal basis for some aspects of the program." Contradicting testimony by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who said there were no "serious disagreements about the program" within the administration, Goldsmith stated, "There were enormous disagreements," with the internal fight culminating "in a threat by Goldsmith, [former Deputy Attorney General James] Comey, and others to resign en masse if the program were allowed to continue without changes." Goldsmith added that Vice President Cheney's counsel David Addington had "told him that his position might mean failure to halt a new terrorist attack that would leave him with the blood of thousands on his hands." Goldsmith's testimony also emphasized the reluctance of the White House to allow any oversight of its wiretapping program.

And let's not forget the telecommunication industry's unquestioning and obedient complicity in the illegal program. This from the Associated Press:

The FISA court is meant to balance the government's need to periodically collect intelligence inside the United States and the U.S. public's right to privacy. Secret FISA court orders can compel telecommunications companies to cooperate with government surveillance requests and indemnify them from lawsuits.

The Bush administration has asked Congress to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated. Around 40 lawsuits related to the surveillance are pending in federal courts. The administration has refused to give Congress details on the companies' involvement.

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee went to the companies themselves, asking AT&T, Verizon and Qwest for details on the government's secret surveillance program. Of the three, reportedly only Qwest rebuffed the government, insisting on a FISA court order first.The law prohibits telecommunications companies from sharing customer records without a court order.

The committee asked in letters sent Tuesday whether the companies allowed government agencies to install equipment on telecommunications lines to copy private Internet traffic, whether they have provided information on customers' networks of associates to the FBI, and whether they have ever been offered legal indemnity or compensation for cooperating with surveillance requests.

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