Archive for December 29th, 2012

by lizard

Congress seems incapable of accomplishing anything, but when it comes to dismantling the citizenry’s civil liberties, Congress puts aside the play-acting of venomous partisanship to empower the federal government to invade our lives.

And lest we forget, back in 2008, it was Obama’s “evolving” FISA position that gave one of the first indications that Obama was just another deceitful politician willing to say one thing, then turn around and do the opposite. The link is to Greenwald’s piece, and it opens like this:

To this day, many people identify mid-2008 as the time they realized what type of politician Barack Obama actually is. Six months before, when seeking the Democratic nomination, then-Sen. Obama unambiguously vowed that he would filibuster “any bill” that retroactively immunized the telecom industry for having participated in the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program.

But in July 2008, once he had secured the nomination, a bill came before the Senate that did exactly that – the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 – and Obama not only failed to filibuster as promised, but far worse, he voted against the filibuster brought by other Senators, and then voted in favor of enacting the bill itself. That blatant, unblinking violation of his own clear promise – actively supporting a bill he had sworn months earlier he would block from a vote – caused a serious rift even in the middle of an election year between Obama and his own supporters.

Democrats have proven themselves worthless when it comes to standing up to the continued assault on civil liberties, so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone who pays attention when Diane Feinstein led the attack on three modest amendments that put a few meager safeguards in place. Here is how Greenwald describes what went down (read the whole article for descriptions of the amendments):

The Democratic Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, took the lead in attacking Wyden, Merkley, Udall and Paul with the most foul Cheneyite accusations, and demanded renewal of the FISA law without any reforms. And then predictably, in virtually identical 37-54 votes, Feinstein and her conservative-Democratic comrades joined with virtually the entire GOP caucus (except for three Senators: Paul, Mike Lee and Dean Heller) to reject each one of the proposed amendments and thus give Obama exactly what he demanded: reform-free renewal of the law (while a few Democratic Senators have displayed genuine, sustained commitment to these issues, most Democrats who voted against FISA renewal yesterday did so symbolically and half-heartedly, knowing and not caring that they would lose as evidenced by the lack of an attempted filibuster).

In other words, Obama successfully relied on Senate Republicans (the ones his supporters depict as the Root of All Evil) along with a dozen of the most militaristic Democrats to ensure that he can continue to eavesdrop on Americans without any warrants, transparency or real oversight. That’s the standard coalition that has spent the last four years extending Bush/Cheney theories, eroding core liberties and entrenching endless militarism: Obama + the GOP caucus + Feinstein-type Democrats. As Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s legislative counsel, put it to the Huffington Post: “I bet [Bush] is laughing his ass off.”

The ever-expanding power of the federal government to invade our lives is one reason I cringe at the potential results of the clamor for gun control. There is already so much surveillance and profiling going on, adding more layers of suppression doesn’t seem like something that would be used to actually keep average people safe from average gun violence, which we seem to be suddenly realizing happens every day in America, like 6 different people getting shot over a 24 hour period in Newark.

Before new legislation is considered, it might be important to ask why existing safety measures, like a federal database already in place is not being utilized:

A federal database with the names of mentally ill people barred from buying guns still lacks millions of records it needs to be effective. A new report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns points to gaps in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

The problem is that 14 years after NICS was put in place, states still aren’t submitting all the required mental health records.

“I think that those states are doing a disservice to their citizens,” says Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was injured in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. “They’re not doing what they can to protect public safety and to keep firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.”

The problem may be one of prioritizing threat assessments correctly. While the systems in place to track people who shouldn’t have guns atrophies, new systems of local/state/federal integration are flourishing, as exemplified by the collaborative crackdown on Occupy Wall Street, brought to you by FOIA and alternative media like Democracy Now:

Juan González: We begin with a look at newly revealed documents that show the FBI monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement from its earliest days last year. Internal government records show Occupy was treated as a potential terrorism threat when organizing first began in August of 2011. Counterterrorism agents were used to track Occupy activities despite the internal acknowledgment that the movement opposed violent tactics. The monitoring expanded across the country as Occupy grew into a national movement, with FBI agents sharing information with businesses, local police agencies and universities. One FBI memo warned that Occupy could prove to be an “outlet” through which activists could exploit “general government dissatisfaction.” Although the documents provide no clear evidence of government infiltration, they do suggest the FBI used information from local law enforcement agencies gathered by someone observing Occupy activists on the ground.

So, just to be clear: actual militants who employ terrorism as a tactic in places like Syria get US government support, while a hodge-podge of domestic activists who gathered together in various encampments get the integrated jackboot from the US police state.

More from the link:

AMY GOODMAN: The heavily redacted FBI records were obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund through a Freedom of Information Act request. We invited the FBI to join us on the program to discuss the latest revelations, but they declined. Instead, spokesperson Paul Bresson issued a written statement saying, quote, “The FBI cautions against drawing conclusions from redacted FOIA documents.” He also said, quote, “It is law enforcement’s duty to use all lawful tools to protect their communities.”

Well, for more, we’re joined by Mara Verheyden-Hilliard. She’s executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which obtained the documents showing how the FBI monitored Occupy Wall Street, joining us now from Washington, D.C.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Mara. Tell us what you found. We’ve got time. Tell us what you found in these documents.

MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD: Well, the documents, as you stated, show that the FBI and American intelligence agencies were monitoring and reporting on Occupy Wall Street before the first tent even went up in Zuccotti Park. The documents that we have been able to obtain show the FBI communicating with the New York Stock Exchange in August of 2011 about the upcoming Occupy demonstrations, about plans for the protests. It shows them meeting with or communicating with private businesses. And throughout the materials, there is repeated evidence of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, American intelligence agencies really working as a private intelligence arm for corporations, for Wall Street, for the banks, for the very entities that people were rising up to protest against.

If that ain’t corporate/state fascism, then I don’t know what is.

Anyway, while Congress tries to figure out how badly regular Americans are going to get fucked by the fiscal fist, their “progress” with FISA is getting predictably buried by corporate media, along with the cointelpro 2.0 mobilized against Occupy Wall Street (read Kevin Gosztola’s deconstruction of an AP story to understand the mechanics of manipulation)

My prediction for 2013: drones over the homeland.

God bless America!

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