Archive for category The Constitution
On Wednesday night, CNN’s Erin Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between Katherine Russell, the 24-year-old American widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and her husband. He quite clearly insisted that they could:
BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?
CLEMENTE: “No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.
BURNETT: “So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.
CLEMENTE: “No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”
On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN, this time with host Carol Costello, and she asked him about those remarks. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that “all digital communications in the past” are recorded and stored. “No digital communication is secure,” said Clemente.
Despite the extreme secrecy behind which these surveillance programs operate, occasionally somebody in a position to know tells us the U.S. Constitution is being violated on an unprecedented scale. So what can we do about it?
As it’s written, CISPA won’t protect us from cyber attacks, but it will violate our 4th Amendment right to privacy.
- It lets the government spy on you without a warrant. (read more)
- It makes it so you can’t even find out about it after the fact. (read more)
- It makes it so companies can’t be sued when they do illegal things with your data. (read more)
- It allows corporations to cyber-attack each other and individuals outside of the law. (read more)
We’ve had to listen to a lot of wailing from the Gun Lobby about imagined attacks on the Bill of Rights. This is what a real one looks like.
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939)
I am still wondering why the Democrats didn’t rewrite the Senate rules in 2009 or 2011. But now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he wants to end what amounts to a Republican minority veto power via the “silent filibuster” or the “60-vote rule” that isn’t really a rule. Under our Constitution, all it takes is a 51-vote majority to change the rulebook, and Reid says he has the votes.
“I hope that within the next 24 to 36 hours we can get something we agree on. If not, we’re going to move forward on what I think needs to be done,” Reid told reporters. “The caucus will support me on that,” he added.
There is a package of reforms on the table that will make the Senate able to legislate again. Those reforms are:
- Eliminate the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed;
- Require that those wishing to block legislation or nominations take the floor and actually filibuster— i.e., mandating “talking filibusters”;
- Assert that 41 Senators must affirmatively vote to continue debate rather than forcing 60 Senators to vote to end debate; and,
- Streamline the nomination process so that nominees will get a yes or no vote on the Senate floor, including a reduction of the required 30 hours of post cloture debate on a nominee to 2 hours.
In the last Congress, only 3 percent of the bills introduced in the Senate made it to final passage. This was the most dysfunctional Senate anyone can remember.
UPDATE: No talking filibuster, no 41-vote rule. To say Harry Reid and the Dems folded like a cheap suit is an insult to cheap suits.
Minority rules: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will continue to control the Senate after so-called Majority Leader Harry Reid agrees to a deal that does almost nothing to restrain the abuse of the filibuster.
UPDATE: HuffPo nails it with their headline (see continuation)
Read the rest of this entry »
The NRA is the enabler of death-paranoid, delusional and as venomous as a scorpion. With the weak-kneed acquiescence of our politicians, the National Rifle Association has turned the Second Amendment of the Constitution into a cruel and deadly hoax. – Bill Moyers
The procession of funerals of innocent children under the casual gaze of the gun lobby and 2nd Amendment zealots, reminds us that our public spaces are no longer safe. This is the antithesis of freedom and civic life. Americans must rise up now against this terror and demand basic security for unarmed people.
Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks website on Thursday started publishing more than 100 US Department of Defense documents including the first prisoner treatment manual for Guantanamo Bay.
…Among the documents is the 2002 manual for staff at Camp Delta at Guantanamo, shortly after it was set up by US President George W. Bush to house alleged Al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees from the “war on terror”.
“This document is of significant historical importance. Guantanamo Bay has become the symbol for systematised human rights abuse in the West with good reason,” said Assange, the founder of the website.
He added: “‘The ‘Detainee Policies’ show the anatomy of the beast that is post-9/11 detention, the carving out of a dark space where law and rights do not apply, where persons can be detained without a trace at the convenience of the US Department of Defense.
“It shows the excesses of the early days of war against an unknown ‘enemy’ and how these policies matured and evolved, ultimately deriving into the permanent state of exception that the United States now finds itself in, a decade later.”
Thanks to our partisan right-wing Supreme Court, Arizona’s un-American “Papers Please” law is now going to take effect despite being ruled unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton signed the formal order this afternoon dissolving the injunction she issued more than two years ago blocking the state from enforcing key provisions of the 2010 law.
Police can now demand to see proof of citizenship or legal residence. You will be arrested and taken to jail if your “papers” are not in order. If you visit Arizona, bring a passport. Or better yet, don’t visit Arizona!
The Atlantic has a completely unsurprising look at gun violence stats in America. Which means the gun nuts will all scream and yell and say the stat and conclusions are all wrong…
Congressman Chaffetz, we get it. You don’t like the Obama administration, and you’re frustrated that all the investigations of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform have failed to turn up any wrongdoing. But you are not going to find a way to arrest the U.S. Attorney General for the first time in history. Especially because the Bush administration created this mess, and AG Holder shut it down as soon as he found out about it.
Appearing on a Friday afternoon Fox News broadcast, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) suggested that House Republicans may direct the House Sergeant at Arms to arrest Attorney General Eric Holder, provided they exhaust all other options for obtaining Justice Department documents that are now protected under executive privilege.
“If you actually look at the statute… [it] does say that you shall do this,” he explained. “And they’ll say, well, the precedent is that it hasn’t been done in the past. Again, we’ve got to get past this so-called precedent and do what the law says. The law says [the Sergeant at Arms] shall pursue it, so [Holder] has got a difficult situation on his hands.”
Interrupting him, Fox News host Megyn Kelly noted that “there is an option” before House Republicans that could see Holder arrested. “You gonna do that?” she asked.
“That would be fairly dramatic, but yes,” Chaffetz said. “Three options: going through the U.S. attorney, going into civil court or have the Sergeant at Arms take control of the situation — which I think some people are going to say we ought to do — but we’re going to exhaust the other ones first.”
While he is correct that a contempt citation could lead to an official being arrested, it has never happened before in U.S. history. Even during the Bush administration, when prominent Republicans were held in contempt, the House leadership refused to go that far.
If the country ever again should elect a Republican President, I truly hope Democrats will remember. During the Bush administration, it often seemed that the Dems didn’t want to take any action against high officials, the President or the VP — no matter how many crimes they committed in broad daylight. By contrast, when in opposition the GOP doesn’t hesitate to initiate impeachment or contempt of Congress proceedings without any evidence whatsoever!
This morning, the partisan right-wing U.S. Supreme Court went against all precedent and upheld the constitutionality of part of the Arizona “papers, please” law (SB 1070). [It may be an exaggeration to say the law was upheld, see comments and update below]. I assume this law will now go into effect in Arizona. The only thing I can do about it will be to stay the hell out of Arizona as long as they have this racist policy in place. I wrote an e-mail to the Arizona Office of Tourism this morning.
It remains to be seen if copycat laws in Utah, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina will be allowed to go into effect. Every person in Arizona and states that pass S.B. 1070-like legislation will be required to carry proof of their legal status at all times or face the possibility of being detained. In practice it will be people of color that bear the brunt of these policies.
The encouraging news is that the first year after passing S.B. 1070, Arizona saw an estimated $141 million in losses from conference cancellations. The impact on the tourist industry from this first year alone totaled more than $250 million in economic output and close to 3,000 lost jobs. Ongoing economic impacts on Arizona tourism might encourage them to rejoin the Land of the Free.
UPDATE: David Dayen on FDL:
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer put on a brave face and described the ruling as a “victory,” because it did not quite invalidate the entire law. However, it left wide open an overturning of the one key provision that remains. That’s the “show your papers” part of the law. If actual Arizona implementation violates federal statutes or results in unconstitutional equal protection violations, it can be challenged again. In Arizona, the home of Joe Arpaio, that is almost certain to happen; this law can and will be revisited at a later date. Having most of the law thrown out before implementation isn’t anything that could conceivably be described as a “victory.”
Fox News reacted to news that the Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona’s controversial immigration bill, SB 1070, by citing arguments that the one provision that was not immediately thrown out is “the heart of the entire bill,” while Fox Nation claimed the decision was a “defeat for Obama.” Fox’s attempt to find a silver lining is unsurprising, as it has long been a staunch supporter of the statute. But the court’s decision was overwhelmingly against the bill and the remaining provision could eventually be overturned.