Norm would probably prefer you don't wonder about the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program, ponder the Patriot Act, think about the implications of the Military Commissions Act, worry about National Security Presidential Directive 51 or vex yourself over the implications of the Thought Crimes bill. You should just trust your government to know what's good for you. After all, serious men like Norm are deeply concerned about your safety and the aforementioned items are merely to protect your freedom. You do love freedom, don't you?
Norm signed on as a co-sponsor of Sen. Susan Collins' (R-ME) bill S.1959 The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and Prevention Act of 2007, known henceforth at the Thought Crime bill. This could also be called the Bill to establish the 'Round Up All The Arabs' Commission. Or the 'Excuse For Repressing The Lefty Blogosphere' Bill. Even better might be the 'Never Mind Those Crackers With Nooses And Shotguns, Was That An Arab Over There' Bill. I think that this bill is an excellent way for the Republicans to sneak through extensions to the Military Commission Act, the Patriotic Act and the FISA bill to further erode American's basic civil rights. Norm isn't just going to go along with it, he's co-sponsoring it.
The bill has two distinct parts. The first establishes a Commission. The second establishes a think tank of sorts to study how better to hunt down Arabs, suppress internet democracy, perform datamining of raw data obtained via illegal wiretapping and such noble efforts.
Here are the findings of the bill:
`(3) The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.
`(4) While the United States must continue its vigilant efforts to combat international terrorism, it must also strengthen efforts to combat the threat posed by homegrown terrorists based and operating within the United States.
`(5) Understanding the motivational factors that lead to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence is a vital step toward eradicating these threats in the United States.
`(6) The potential rise of self radicalized, unaffiliated terrorists domestically cannot be easily prevented through traditional Federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts, and requires the incorporation of State and local solutions.
`(7) Individuals prone to violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence span all races, ethnicities, and religious beliefs, and individuals should not be targeted based solely on race, ethnicity, or religion.
I find it strange that Norm is silent about his co-sponsorship of the Thought Crime bill. It's not that Norm isn't above shameless self-promotion. There is nothing on his Senate and his campaign sites about it. Strangely, Collins' senate and campaign sites have nothing on it either.
Maybe they think that it'll sneak through the Senate just like it snuck through the House. The House voted 404-6 for it without any debate.
Might it be that he and Collins don't want it to get out that our government is once again working to strangle our civil rights just a little bit more with a McCarthy-esque permanent committee and a Thought Crimes think tank?
The word force is not explicitly defined by this bill. Force is always placed next to violence as in "...planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised..." Is force just being used as a synonym for violence or is this intentionally vague so that nefarious members of the Thought Crimes Commission can find more insidious interpretations?
Might non-violent civil disobedience by protesters at the Republican National Convention next August be considering using "force"? Does the moral force of angry peaceniks disturbing Republicans with non-violent civil disobedience during the Convention count? The Republicans have repeatedly abused the notion about who an enemy is. They have claimed that anyone not supporting the war as terrorist sympathizers and/or traitors. Why not just push the envelope of the Thought Crime Commission established by this bill to include people organizing protests of the RNC08? Why not harrass these people by dragging them before the Thought Crimes Commission.
Members of suspect political, religious and social groups, or Americans who might even know people the commission suspects - which certainly will include nonmainstream political parties, certain public advocacy groups, some churches and many mosques - can expect the "commissioners" will want to know ... "are you now, or have you ever been ... associated with extremists, violent radicals or homegrown terrorists?"
For those who do remember history, this should sound uncomfortably familiar. These are the kinds of questions Americans were compelled to answer when testifying before another "legislative commission" during the anti-communist McCarthy-era witch-hunts.
In late September of 2006, Republican Congress passed the Military Commissions Act. Norm voted for it. They passed it with little fanfare becaue the Mark Foley Page scandal broke the next day. It was days even weeks later that people began to realize what they'd done. They'd eliminated habeas corpus.
Habeas corpus is the right to demand a court hearing to determine if there is sufficient reason to hold someone in jail or prison. The foremost example of the elmination of habeas corpus is Jose Padilla. The Bush Administration held an American citizen without charge, without representation and without the ability to question why he was being held. Then they passed a bill to make this sort of behavior okay ex post facto.
Padilla's indefinite detention, without access to an attorney, has civil libertarians up in arms. That's why the Cato Institute, joined by five ideologically diverse public policy organizations -- the Center for National Security Studies, the Constitution Project, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, People for the American Way, and the Rutherford Institute -- filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Padilla v. Rumsfeld, now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York.
(Cato Institute's 2003 statement)
Padilla was eventually convicted in a sham trial after being held for 3 1/2 years. The key pieces of evidence were his Al Queda training camp application and references to "football" and "tourism" as code words for violent jihad as well as "zucchini" and "eggplant" instead of weapons. These code words were only used a few times in 300,000 wiretap intercepts from 1993 to 2001. He was supposed to be masterminding a plot to detonate dirty bombs in America. Non of his confessions under torture were admissable.
Padilla's attorneys fought for years to get his case into federal court, and he was finally added to the Miami terrorism support indictment in late 2005 just as the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to consider President Bush's authority to continue detaining him. Padilla had lived in South Florida in the 1990s and was supposedly recruited by Hassoun at a mosque to become a mujahedeen fighter.
So the Republican Congress passed the Military Commission Act after the Bush Administration had been holding people without any rights and torturing them. I'll let Keith Olbermann explain this further. You can read the transcript here.
To once again rely on someone more articulate than I, I give you Garisson Keillor. I would note that while Garrison writes about non-citizens, Jose Padilla was a US citizen and the Bush Administration declared a US citizen an enemy combatant.
The Senate also decided it's up to the president to decide whether it's OK to make these enemies stand naked in cold rooms for a couple of days in blinding light and be beaten by interrogators. This is now purely a bureaucratic matter: The plenipotentiary stamps the file "enemy combatants" and throws the poor schnooks into prison and at his leisure he tries them by any sort of kangaroo court he wishes to assemble and they have no right to see the evidence against them, and there is no appeal. This was passed by 65 senators and will now be signed by President Bush, put into effect, and in due course be thrown out by the courts.
It's good that Barry Goldwater is dead because this would have killed him. Go back to the Senate of 1964 - Goldwater, Dirksen, Russell, McCarthy, Javits, Morse, Fulbright - and you won't find more than 10 votes for it.
Three Republican senators made a show of opposing the bill and after they'd collected all the praise they could get, they quickly folded. Why be a hero when you can be fairly sure that the court will dispose of this piece of garbage.
If, however, the court does not, then our country has taken a step toward totalitarianism. If the government can round up someone and never be required to explain why, then it's no longer the United States as you and I always understood it. Our enemies have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They have made us become like them.
I got some insight last week into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky. I walked in, was met by two burly security men with walkie-talkies, and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics. I was there on a book tour for "Homegrown Democrat," but they thought it better if I didn't mention it. So I tried to make light of it: I told the audience, "I don't need to talk politics. I have no need even to be interested in politics - I'm a citizen, I have plenty of money and my grandsons are at least 12 years away from being eligible for military service." And the audience applauded! Those were their sentiments exactly. We've got ours, and who cares?
The Methodists of Dallas can be fairly sure that none of them will be snatched off the streets, flown to Guantanamo Bay, stripped naked, forced to stand for 48 hours in a freezing room with deafening noise. So why should they worry? It's only the Jews who are in danger, and the homosexuals and gypsies. The Christians are doing fine. If you can't trust a Methodist with absolute power to arrest people and not have to say why, then whom can you trust?
(9/19/07) Norm voted against restoring habeas corpus.
In December 2005, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales confirmed that the Bush Administration had a program to wiretap Americans without a warrant. This is illegal. You can find a timeline of all the events here. The Bush Administration claimed that the FISA courts set up to monitor wiretapping were too much red tape and inhibited their ability to "protect Americans." In August of 2006, a Federal court ruled in favor of a suit brought by the ACLU that the program was illegal and should be immediately halted.
“There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all ’inherent powers’ must derive from that Constitution,” Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.
“The public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution,” she wrote.
The Bush Administration appealed and the warrantless wiretapping hasn't stopped. There are numerous other ongoing legal challenges to the Bush Administration's as well as hearings in Congress that looked like they might actually jeopardize their ability to perform warrantless wiretapping. So in August 3, 2007 Bush demanded that Congress pass an update to FISA to make what he'd been doing (arguably since even 2001) legal. Neocons within his Administration would have sole oversight of the program. The FISA courts would be out of the picture. He even dispatched Department of National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell to Capitol Hill to threaten that attacks would occur during the August recess if they weren't able to intercept terrorist communications in an effort to scare Democrats.
It worked. The Democrats caved and Norm voted for the Protect America Act of 2007. Few in either house read the bill. The President signed it into law and thankfully, it only lasts 6 months. The Senate will be considering a new FISA bill soon.
Norm claims to have "supported efforts" to investigate the illegal wiretapping though I can find no evidence or statements by him. A constituent posted Norm's response to his letter demanding Norm protect his right to privacy.
Whether the government acted properly is a different question from whether a private person has acted properly in responding to the government's call for help. I have supported efforts to investigate the legality of the wireless surveillance program, and believe that if any wrongdoing is found, measures should be taken accordingly.
As you may know, the FISA Amendments Act of 2007 (S. 2248) was introduced by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) on October 26, 2007 . This bill seeks to amend the FISA Act of 1978 in order to modernize and streamline its provisions, which is necessary for our country to enhance our nation's capability to prevent future terrorist attacks. S. 2248 also includes a retroactive liability protection for telecommunication companies that assisted our government in a warrantless surveillance program in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the U.S. The bill was approved by the Intelligence Committee on a bipartisan bas i s and currently awaits consideration by the full Senate.
I support national intelligence activities undertaken by the federal government which are lawful and necessary for the pursuit of terrorists. I recognize that we need to strike a balance between preventing another terrorist attack and defending civil liberties. For this reason I am a strong proponent of Congressional oversight of surveillance activities.
Norm is not particularly concerned about our right to privacy nor the telecom companies that broke the law and cooperated with the Bush Administration.
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) has a significant disconnect when it come to your privacy. One one hand he supports the Bush Administrations warrantless wiretapping of American's phone calls and emails. On the other hand he is deeply concerned about the government losing people's private data.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, sent letters to 24 Cabinet agencies Feb. 22 requesting a written timeline for when they will meet all four requirements laid out by the Office of Management and Budget in a June 2006 memo.
(Federal Computer Week)
So does government bureacracies losing citizens' private data fit Norm's limited circumstances when he supports oversight?
- When it is someone or some institution that conservatives hate. Norm relentlessly pursued corruption in the United Nations Iraq Oil for Food program.
- The second circumstance is when conservatives have thrown one of their own under the bus to avoid answering bigger questions. Heckuva Job Brownie is the perfect example.
- The third circumstance is oversight where conservatives will not be targeted or in any way harmed. For example, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s (SIGIR) oversight of U.S. efforts in Iraq.
It appears bureacrats losing private data fits the first and third qualification: Republicans want to shrink government until it can be drowned in the bathtub and no Republicans will get hurt by this crackdown.
You know Norm would never miss an opportunity to spew some Norm-speakTM upon the masses, so brace yourselves:
"The findings released in this report are very troubling -- indicating that agency after agency has failed to make securing citizens' personal information a high priority," Coleman said in a statement. "We need to know when the agencies are going to have the protections in place to stop the numerous data breaches we have seen over the past few years."
The loss or theft of personal data can inconvenience or embarrass the people whose information is compromised, but the biggest concern is the potential for identity theft and other fraud. In 2006, identity theft of all varieties -- not merely cases associated with federal data breaches -- accounted for $49.3 billion in losses to people and organizations nationwide, according to the GAO report.
What's disengenous about Norm's quote has nothing to do with the fact that it is outrageous that the government doesn't have better data protection. It's what's been missing throughout the duration of Norm's senate tenure. It's that Norm has completely dropped the ball on protecting us from the Bush Administration devious and constitution-shredding destruction of our right to privacy.
Norm was the chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 2005 when the NY Times broke the wiretapping story. He could have called anyone before his committee and made them testify under oath. He held no hearings. He completely abrogated his oversight responsibilities. He merely repeats the conservative talking point that the Bush Administration is working hard to protect America. Benjamin Franklin provided the best retort when he said that "those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."
Evidence arose in 2006 that the Bush Administration was wiretapping Americans prior to 9/11. Yet, Norm either ignored it or couldn't be troubled by it if he did hear about it.
The NSA, with full knowledge of the White House, crossed the line from routine surveillance of foreigners and suspected terrorists into illegal activity by continuing to monitor the international telephone calls and emails of Americans without a court order. The NSA unintentionally intercepts Americans' phone calls and emails if the agency's computers zero in on a specific keyword used in the communication. But once the NSA figures out that they are listening in on an American, the eavesdropping is supposed to immediately end, and the identity of the individual is supposed to be deleted. While the agency did follow protocol, there were instances when the NSA was instructed to keep tabs on certain individuals that became of interest to some officials in the White House.
So when Norm talks up how "very troubling" this danger to our privacy is, take it in context. The last sentence in the following quote is amazingly ironic:
(Federal Computer Week)
At least the data the Bush Adminstration is harvesting in the massive computers at the NSA isn't getting lost or anything. Well ... at least as far as we know ...
Details to come ...