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House Lets Telecoms Off the Hook

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Posted on Jun 20, 2008

If there was one word that summed up the political tenor of the Bush II presidency, it definitely wouldn’t be accountability. On Friday, this was once again made clear as the House of Representatives passed a bill granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that allowed their networks to be used by the government to eavesdrop on Americans following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 

The Guardian:

“This bipartisan bill balances the needs of our intelligence community with Americans’ civil liberties, and provides critical new oversight and accountability requirements,” House majority leader Steny Hoyer, the senior Democratic negotiator, said in a statement.

“It is the result of compromise, and like any compromise is not perfect, but I believe it strikes a sound balance.”

The new wiretapping deal would allow federal judges to excuse private companies from more than 40 lawsuits accusing them of violating privacy laws and enabling spying without a warrant.

Judges would be required to cancel the lawsuits as long as the US attorney general, Michael Mukasey, certified that the telecom firms were given legal assurances in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

“Providing this liability protection is crucial to the nation’s security,” Mukasey and director of national intelligence Mike McConnell wrote in a letter last night announcing their support for the bill.

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amunaor's avatar

By amunaor, June 23, 2008 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment

THOUGHT CRIMES BILL - H.R.1955, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act of 2007 & now FISA 2008.

H.R.1955. again, Kucinich was only 1 of 6 Representatives to have voted against this dark, nefarious bill which further erodes civil liberties, creating an atmosphere in which anyone suspect of dissent can easily be categorized as a terrorist, and hauled into the celler for interrogation.

When the excrement gets ready to hit the proverbial rotating receptacle, via U.S., Israeli co-opted strikes on Iran, H.R. 1955 should dovetail nicely with the new and improved FISA Bill, enabling the seat of usurped power to round up, or dispense with any dissidents as they see fit.

The goal of any tyranny is to consolidate power through deceptive means. By psychologically raising up the specter of unknown demons in the public mind, generating the necessary fear, it then becomes easy to issue new laws that will supposedly resolve the problem or threat. But, unbeknownst to the public the new laws will certainly never be favorable to the citizen, only to power. Within the ensuing atmosphere of chaos and fear, heightened suspicions will point the finger at dissenting voices as they become a political threat; enemies of the state.

Peace, Best Wishes and Hope

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By Alan Attlee, June 23, 2008 at 8:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let us add to the compendium of Pelosi-isms.
She is of course already infamous for:
“Impeachment is off the table”.  Now regarding
the FISA Ermaechtigungsgesetz she says
“It’s not a happy occasion, but it’s the work we have to do”  For Pelosi, responsibility is always
“off the table” and off the rails.

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By cyrena, June 22, 2008 at 9:38 pm Link to this comment

So reason, You’ve noticed it as well. Yes, I’ve made similar complaints. I agree that it’s been difficult to actually ‘pin it down’ but what you’ve noted..the increase in unregistered posters, and the tone of the discussions is definitely part of it. There is also the ABSENCE of former (and registered) posters who have become disgusted with it, and simply don’t post anymore.

Leefeller brings up the advertising, and that has something to do with it as well. At least I think so. I’ve seen tons of ads for John McCain, and other political ads for other Republicans, but nothing directly sponsored by Democrats or a particular Democratic candidates campaign.

The suggestion of TD becoming one of the ‘mass media’ is…I don’t know..scary but possible. What I DO know, (and I’ve mentioned this before) is that all of these operations, (websites and blogs and comments, etc) have to get revenue from SOMEWHERE. The others that have been around for a really long time, (and have managed to stay true to themselves) have depended on donations, rather than advertising.

SOME advertising I see as helpful, because it provides for some revenue and might lessen the dependency on donations. But, there’s always that ‘line’. Where does one draw it?

And then there’s the fact that TD has always been sort of a ‘self-monitoring’ sort of community, and we generally managed to ‘police’ ourselves fairly well. That’s a good thing, because a full time moderator also costs money. And we see that they aren’t spending these advertising dollars on paying for a full time moderator.

In short, it’s difficult to see TD these days, as the “Progressive Journal of News and Opinion” when we have posts from reactionary political operatives/trolls. The Bill O’Reilly and Clarence Thomas clones who post here can hardly be read as ‘progressive’.

So yeah. It’s been disappointing. I don’t know if things will improve after the election or not. We’ve got lots of rhetoric going on here, and not a whole lot else. Some good stuff is still showing up, in the articles and the comments. It’s just that either pickings are slim, or the BS is crowding it out.

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By Leefeller, June 22, 2008 at 9:13 pm Link to this comment


On thing I have noticed is one hell of a lot of advertising. Maybe TD is becoming one of the mass media?

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By reason, June 22, 2008 at 5:59 pm Link to this comment

Truthdig has changed in someway that is hard to define. I am not sure how to describe the change but change, it has. More and more some of the articles tend to be “fluff” rather than the hard hitting articles I was used to.  I see a fewer of the registered posters but it seems there are many more “unregistered” posters making comments. It is good to have new posters and new views but much of what I am seeing seems to be more of the nature of personal and political attacks (some of which make little if any sense). I sometimes post comments but I do so to further debate and try to respect others views. Truthdig is less about debate and more about politcal spin in the last month. I am losing repect for Truthdig in some ways.

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By boggs, June 22, 2008 at 5:36 pm Link to this comment

If we are determined to change things then we must see that certain closet republicans in democrats clothing don’t get re-elected by the democrats.
NANCY PELOSI….Stephanie Sandlin-Herseth
Nick Lampson of Texas, Lincoln Davis f Tennessee,Gene Taylor of Missouri,Jim Marshall of Georgia, James Matheson of Utah, Vic Snyder Arkansas, and Jim Costa, CA.
There are many many more. We have to weed them out. They are infiltrating our party with fascist ideology.

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By dicl, June 22, 2008 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We have the power elite and the masses, nothing else. Mills had it right in his book “The Power Elite” . The so-called “partys” are part of the power elite. There is no difference in their policies, as is clearer now than ever.

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By AnAmericaninGermany, June 22, 2008 at 10:44 am Link to this comment

The idea of laws, morality, and doing the right things has certainly been replaced by greed, cover ups, and doing the expedient thing to get whatever one wants.  The party does not matter… it is no different from the play ground to the White House. 

America is Rome.

I weep.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, June 22, 2008 at 6:55 am Link to this comment

By cyrena, June 21 at 8:12 pm #

I agree wholeheartedly with you cyrena, parsing words doesn’t change the acts of kdnapping and torture.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, June 21, 2008 at 10:15 pm Link to this comment

We need to check all of our House and Senate people voting records and call them on it, or vote the bums out. I will start with Pelosi.

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By cyrena, June 21, 2008 at 9:12 pm Link to this comment

I agree with you John Hanks.

“... Real politics has a lot more going for it than picking the latest commissar.  THIS IS MORE REAL POLITICS.  COMMUNICATING WITH LIKE MINDED PEOPLE IS REAL POLITICS.


Yes, I do believe you’re right about this. Same for the ‘education’, and that’s not to say that I don’t believe it to be very valuable.

But, I know that formal/institutionalized ‘education’ alone, is not enough. So, this is the kind of education that does do more good than we might imagine. It doesn’t help everybody, because some are hopeless, and that’s part of the politics. Still, the conversation IS helpful, as much as any other education.

Speaking of which, it might be helpful to know that ‘rendition’ in terms of the illegal ‘war on terror’ IS illegal. Rendition is kidnapping, and there’s never been a time when kidnapping WASN’T illegal. (at least not in the past 100 years, if you want me to narrow it down a bit).

Now extradition IS perfectly legal, if the involved states have those agreements in place. And, THAT’S the way to legally apprehend and legally try a person for alleged crimes, regardless of where they take place. Then, the criminal can be made accountable for their crimes, via whatever the punishment might be.

That’s why we used to have this democracy thing, which basically means that we are governed by the rule of law, and NOT the rule of men or women who make their own laws, or disregard the ones that have already been agreed upon.

Kidnapping/rendidtion, is ILLEGAL. SO IS TORTURE! These are what we call HIGH CRIMES, as recognized by the WORLD.

Now of course we’ll get the usuals to step right up and tell us how what the Bush Thugs are doing with the torture, isn’t really torture at all. It’s ‘enhanced interrogation’.

But, they will be wrong. It is what it is, and it’s yet ANOTHER of the worst crimes that the Bush Cabal has committed.

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By Thomas Mc, June 21, 2008 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Shocker, the Left suddenly realizes that the Democrats were never really on their side.


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By koossie, June 21, 2008 at 7:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

troublesum - did you or anyone else see the picture of obama wearing a flag lapel pin? puke!

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By c.d.embrey, June 21, 2008 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Barack Obama’s statement supporting the FISA amendment suggests he is slowly moving to the center…”

Obama has always been center/right, though not as far right as HRC (who is farther right than McCain).

Bob Barr (Libertarian candidate) wants to get out of Iraq and restore the constitution. Whats this? the Libertarian candidate is more liberal than Obama!!!

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By Johnny, June 21, 2008 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The talking points memo blog has started a protest against the congressmen and senators who support telecomm immunity. Don’t send ANY campaign contributions to ANY of these congressmen or senators, Democrat or Republican, during the month of July. Pass it on!

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skulz fontaine's avatar

By skulz fontaine, June 21, 2008 at 10:48 am Link to this comment

One more thing, it is comprehensively dreary that ‘we the people’ are left with so few choices. One choice is disgustingly corrupt, the second choice is spineless and craven. The American people are better than what we are offered by the Repukes and the Democraps. Period. America is NOT the Walt Disney version of Wal-Mart happy happy joy joy. However our Congress, both the House of Lords and the Imperial Senate, are joined at the hip to the corporate/special interests and breaking that lip-locked incest remains the plaguing ‘what to do’ of our time. The “elite” are NOT listening and there is no evidence that they are about to begin that listening process anytime soon. I realize that this is mostly off topic to the telecom outrage but, the ‘grant of immunity’ to the telecoms besides being ex post facto bull-sheet, is just another example of how detached our wondrous “leadership” in America has grown to be. Hmmm, the “elite” are fat and sassy are they not?
Lastly and this is off topic too, JBlack? Like in Jack Black and the Heart Attack? Just being off topic nosy.

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By skulz fontaine, June 21, 2008 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

Dear JBlack:
I agree with you. While “rendition” may not be in and of itself illegal, it is odious and comprehensively evil. What would be the outcry were say, Donny ‘death’ Rummy, to be “renditioned?” Well, I wouldn’t say squat but there are any number of the knee-jerking warmongers that would howl like a cut cat. I also agree with you that the Repubs and the Democraps are two faces of the same evil. The “war party” as is so aptly defined by Mr. J. Raimondo, is the problem. This November’s election may very well not be the salvation any number of Americans think it will be. Bob Barr appears promising at the present. However should Obama give serious consideration to partnering with Chuck Hagel, that just might be the glimmer of promising hope that America is sorely in need of. It would be a start. Congress? Congress-creepers need a sound slap upside their treasonous heads. Boot the entire corrupt greedy lying lot of them and start over. Then America can start the process of dumping the two political parties that have that ugly stranglehold on the political process and try something/anything new and different. New and different, what a novel concept.

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By felicity, June 21, 2008 at 9:13 am Link to this comment

I’ve concluded that the ONLY definitions applicable to “Democrat” or “Republican” are:  A Democrat is Not-A-Republican;  A Republican is Not-A-Democrat.

FISA was put in place to prevent future ‘Nixons’ from using and abusing their office to spy on the American people.  Specifically, “the act was created to provide Judicial and congressional oversight of government’s covert surveillance activities of foreign entities and individuals in the US.”

What’s not to like about that?  Well, if you want information about an individual that you have no right to have, there’s a lot not to like about it.  It’s the pesky word ‘oversight’ that sends would-be abusers - whether they live in the OO, the halls of Congress or on the bench - into hizzy fits. Is it reasonable to conclude that they’ve got past, present or future would-be crimes to hide?

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By Paolo, June 21, 2008 at 9:06 am Link to this comment

The reason the Democrats are so glad to go along with all this is that they want to have their share of arbitrary executive power, too. They know it’s very likely their candidate will be in the White House in six months. So, if they collude with Republicans in allowing way over-the-top, illegal spying, their response is, “so much the better.”

The D’s and R’s are just two wings of the same party.

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By John Hanks, June 21, 2008 at 8:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I know the scam.  The Republicans do the crimes and the Democrats drive the getaway car.  I only vote Democratic because I know it is one of the evils of two lessers, but still the lesser of two evils.  I don’t like the crooked bastards.  That is just the way they set it up.

Real politics has a lot more going for it than picking the latest commissar.  THIS IS MORE REAL POLITICS.  COMMUNICATING WITH LIKE MINDED PEOPLE IS REAL POLITICS.


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By Sang Ze, June 21, 2008 at 6:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s time to clean house - and senate - and executive offices - the whole lot of them. Until this is done, we can forget about any future for our children on this planet. I came close to backing Obama, but now I cannot in good conscience vote for anyone connected to either of the dominating parties.

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skulz fontaine's avatar

By skulz fontaine, June 21, 2008 at 6:21 am Link to this comment

Amerika’s Congress sticks it to ‘we the people’ AGAIN. The Bushy-bush-bush nightmare continues. War criminals to the right of us, war criminals to the left of us and the special interest/corporate fascists are laughing all the way to the bank.  Illegal wars of naked aggression, illegal rendition, illegal detention, John Yoo, torture, Scooter Scum-bag, Dick the shotgun, and George the genocidal! Our government is craven and overt in their sordid corruption and Nancy Pelosi is a silly and stupid cow! The Republicans are undeserving, the Democrats are worse than undeserving, and what do we do? The seminal question remains. How to wake up a cringing and beaten senseless American people. It would appear that the fascists have won. But then again, this is Amerika and it is better to “look victorious” than to actually “be victorious.” Viva la Revolution!

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By troublesum, June 21, 2008 at 6:19 am Link to this comment

Obama voted for the Patriot Act when it came up for renewal two years ago.  He had no reservations about it.

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By Jim Yell, June 21, 2008 at 5:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No I didn’t think the Democratic politicians were free of blame and in fact I blamed them, but it was Bush/Cheney who set the country on this road, who lied to us to steal the oil from Iraq, which still is the only Moslem country that did not have direct blame for 9/11.

Yes nothing has changed, but that is because a large part of the entrenched Democratic leadership has an eye on their own portfolioes and not on the interests of the large majority of Americans and the future of the country. The hook will probably be in trying to preserve their own wealth they will lose it and the rest of the country too.

Still with the entrenched two party system what chance for change do we have? Donald Kaul said it years ago, “They are all in it together.”

Although I understand the strategy that Obama is using which has brought him to the conclusion that he can’t oppose this obscenity, I think it is the wrong thing for him to do and if by some misbegotten logic Hilliary become vice-presidential candidate, I may wonder if it is even worth voting at all. I have voted every time since I was early 20s. The system is letting us all down and the Republican lies have poisoned everything.

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By jackpine savage, June 21, 2008 at 5:46 am Link to this comment

So i did a little looking around…

Indeed, this bill does give immunity to government agents who ordered the wiretapping.

And like i said below, the “progressive” web sites/news outlets have never discussed this aspect of the bill(s).  Maybe they went along with it because if there was some illegality and punishment for warrantless wiretapping we might very well see that lion of liberalism, Bill Clinton in the dock.  What?  You didn’t know that he was ordering wiretaps without a warrant as early as 1998?

So if you add up the Democratic Party’s complicity (that’s a kind characterization since most of that legislation came from the Dems, not the Reps.) in the “financial modernization” that has brought us a housing crisis worse than 1932 and soaring commodity prices; the ease with which they throw away our foundational right to privacy; and their willingness to flush their children’s money down the toilet in Iraq without so much as a whimper what do you get?

You get the end of both the Republic and the Empire.

Tell me again why i should be voting Democratic?

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By nrobi, June 21, 2008 at 3:39 am Link to this comment

Did anyone actually think that the House of Scammers and Schemers was going to keep the Telecom industry honest and upright?  Did anyone actually think that this Legislative branch would uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, in the face of such underwhelming evidence that the government needed to spy on its citizens without the benefit of warrant or need? 
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the House as it is today,  the lackeys of an imperial presidency, which is not going to be held accountable for the actions that are clearly illegal and immoral. This administration is going down in history as the worst offender of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights ever known, and to top it all off, the Legislative Branch of our government, will be known as the worst appeasers of the notion of an imperial presidency to have graced those hallowed halls. 
No accountability will ever happen, even though the evidence is clear that the shrub and Darth Vader, ordered the illegal and immoral breaking of laws and treaties. 
The House of the Executive Branch of government, as it should now be termed, not the House of the people, should be ashamed at the way they have caved into the demands of the king and it is high time that the people’s house be returned to the people. We need a “house” cleaning, everyone who voted for this bill including and up to the leadership, especially Nancy Pelosi, needs a new job, one which does not involve responsibility for anything other than catching stray dogs and cats.
It is infuriating that the “people’s representatives” are not listening to the people and taking the side of a man, who is not in the least accountable for his actions.  Should the people be outraged enough, at this blatant and illegal attempt to subvert the Constitution, I would hope that they would carefully consider the votes of their “representatives” in the House and vote them out of office in the next election.

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By John Hanks, June 20, 2008 at 8:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When they gather statistics, they will better know how to manipulate the markets.  Bush has demonstrated that totalitarian crooks don’t need facts or a case to make someone disappear.

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By cyrena, June 20, 2008 at 8:47 pm Link to this comment

An excerpt from Time Magazine’s piece:

“Behind the Compromise on Spying”

•  “…Pelosi had another reason for backing the compromise: unlike some on the left, she actually believes domestic surveillance laws needs updating in light of the new terror threats. “We can’t go without a bill,” she said on the House floor Friday, “That’s simply just not an option.” Existing U.S. surveillance law, passed in 1978, needs to be improved, she believes, not just to protect Americans at home but to protect U.S. troops in the field. “Our troops in the field depend on timely and reliable intelligence,” she said….”,8599,1816911,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

This is the part that has absolutely NO validity. The earlier part was pure political pragmatism in all of it’s standard ugliness, since Pelosi is among the most ‘practiced’ in real politick. In other words, political expediency at the risk to, and sacrifice of,
the basic ideology that provides the foundation of our democracy, which is the rule of law.  That was the part about her wanting to get this whole thing out of the ‘atmosphere’ in time for the elections. So at least there was a ‘reason’ for that, albeit politically and morally corrupt.

But there is absolutely NO need to update or otherwise CHANGE the basic premise and practice of FISA. It does not, and never has, prevented legitimate intelligence surveillance. It requires a warrant from an oversight court, and that works fine. If they have to change some of the wording to close loopholes that the new technology has brought about, then they can do that. But there is no need to mess with the basic premise of FISA. If the state or any branch of the government wants to spy, then they need a warrant from the FISA judge. Period. And if any agency or other branch of the government comes to a telecom with such a request, then they need the warrant in their hands, (or otherwise accessible) or the telecom says..NO! Not without a warrant. If they agree without that, then they SHOULD be sued for breaking the law. End of story.

This has ZERO to do with georgie’s fake ‘war on terror’ or any threats of ‘terrorism’ that haven’t always existed. So, Pelosi is just full of shit as always. She’s also got a lot of AT&T;stock too. (or so I’ve heard).

Jackpine Savage, I’m with you on wishing I was ‘immune’ to government intrusion.


Do you know where we can find Obama’s statement on the FISA Amendment. I thought it would be on his website if he’d made such a statement, but I can’t find it there.

I’m waiting to see how he casts his vote whenever the Senate gets to it next week. According to the article that I referenced here, it’s supposed to sail right through that 49/49 Senate breakdown.

So, we’ll see, eh?

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By samosamo, June 20, 2008 at 8:24 pm Link to this comment

This is at least another top reason to vote out the incumbents in the house and senate come november. And to think back in november 2006 when the dems gained a majority, not veto override, but a majority and would have some power to hold or pass through legisation so that the majority of people that put these people in office over the entrenched republicans looked at 2007 and onward with stars in their eyes because now the government would get back to the people. CRAP! Never a more traitorous group ever elected by the people except for the current administration has taken to the halls of congress and immediately set up shop for the corporations in america.
Vote them out!

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By srelf, June 20, 2008 at 8:24 pm Link to this comment

When “national security” is invoked, they can get away with just about anything.
As the rule of law breaks down, so does the citizen-government social contract.
Quest did not comply with the efforts of the NSA to set up this system of spying, unlike the lapdogs like AT&T;and Verizon. So, I’m afraid it’s not as simple as “they were ordered to do it by the executive branch.”

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By Don Stivers, June 20, 2008 at 7:58 pm Link to this comment

Vote all of the incumbents out of office.  Like Jackpine Savage, let’s hope the people who ordered the wiretaps are not given immunity.

What a bunch of pukes we have running our country.  Compromise indeed.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, June 20, 2008 at 7:54 pm Link to this comment

Breaking arbitrary laws is an American pastime.

I dislike my tax dollars being wasted on several layers of federal beaurocracies which don’t improve the public schools, heathcare, roads and infrastructure.

We have far too many resources searching the world for imagined boogeymen.

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By KYJurisDoctor, June 20, 2008 at 6:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Barack Obama’s statement supporting the FISA amendment suggests he is slowly moving to the center, while his Democratic colleagues in the U. S. House and Senate (particularly in the House) demonstrate that they are INCAPABLE of delivering on their promises which got them control of Congress! OsiSpeaks[dot]com

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By jackpine savage, June 20, 2008 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment

Surprise!  Anyone heard if this bill grants retroactive immunity to the government officials who ordered the wiretapping too?

I could care less if the telecoms get immunity; they were ordered to do it by the executive branch.  They should have said “no” but they would never do that.  I am concerned that government officials will get away with doing the real wrong.

And there’s the rub.  The “news” (remember, there’s no truth in the news and no news in the truth) has not talked about the real immunity issue.  Even on the progressive sites, it’s always called “telecom immunity”.

I wish that i was immune to government intrusion…

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