Mark Begich

ACLU, Another Civil Liberties Narcissist, Defends Its Own Freedom of Assembly, Speech

Since the Edward Snowden leaks first started, many have called him and Glenn Greenwald narcissists (as if that changed the dragnet surveillance they exposed).

If that’s right, I can think of nothing more narcissistic than ACLU, which is a Verizon customer, suing the government for collecting their call records and chilling their ability to engage in activism.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a constitutional challenge to a surveillance program under which the National Security Agency vacuums up information about every phone call placed within, from, or to the United States. The lawsuit argues that the program violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment. The complaint also charges that the dragnet program exceeds the authority that Congress provided through the Patriot Act.

“This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy.”

Here’s the complaint.

In addition to this suit, Jeff Merkley and others are submitting a bill to force the government to release its secret law.

That Makes Over 21 Requests by 31 Members of Congress, Mr. President

Adding the letter that Barbara Lee, as well as a list of all Members of Congress who have, at one time or another, requested the targeted killing memos.

February 2011: Ron Wyden asks the Director of National Intelligence for the legal analysis behind the targeted killing program; the letter references “similar requests to other officials.” (1) 

April 2011: Ron Wyden calls Eric Holder to ask for legal analysis on targeted killing. (2)

May 2011: DOJ responds to Wyden’s request, yet doesn’t answer key questions.

May 18-20, 2011: DOJ (including Office of Legislative Affairs) discusses “draft legal analysis regarding the application of domestic and international law to the use of lethal force in a foreign country against U.S. citizens” (this may be the DOJ response to Ron Wyden).

October 5, 2011: Chuck Grassley sends Eric Holder a letter requesting the OLC memo by October 27, 2011. (3)

November 8, 2011: Pat Leahy complains about past Administration refusal to share targeted killing OLC memo. Administration drafts white paper, but does not share with Congress yet. (4) 

February 8, 2012: Ron Wyden follows up on his earlier requests for information on the targeted killing memo with Eric Holder. (5)

March 7, 2012: Tom Graves (R-GA) asks Robert Mueller whether Eric Holder’s criteria for the targeted killing of Americans applies in the US; Mueller replies he’d have to ask DOJ. Per his office today, DOJ has not yet provided Graves with an answer. (6) 

March 8, 2012: Pat Leahy renews his request for the OLC memo at DOJ appropriations hearing.(7)

June 7, 2012: After Jerry Nadler requests the memo, Eric Holder commits to providing the House Judiciary a briefing–but not the OLC memo–within a month. (8)

June 12, 2012: Pat Leahy renews his request for the OLC memo at DOJ oversight hearing. (9)

June 22, 2012: DOJ provides Intelligence and Judiciary Committees with white paper dated November 8, 2011.

June 27, 2012: In Questions for the Record following a June 7 hearing, Jerry Nadler notes that DOJ has sought dismissal of court challenges to targeted killing by claiming “the appropriate check on executive branch conduct here is the Congress and that information is being shared with Congress to make that check a meaningful one,” but “we have yet to get any response” to “several requests” for the OLC memo authorizing targeted killing. He also renews his request for the briefing Holder had promised. (10)

July 19, 2012: Both Pat Leahy and Chuck Grassley complain about past unanswered requests for OLC memo. (Grassley prepared an amendment as well, but withdrew it in favor of Cornyn’s.) Leahy (but not Grassley) votes to table John Cornyn amendment to require Administration to release the memo.

July 24, 2012: SSCI passes Intelligence Authorization that requires DOJ to make all post-9/11 OLC memos available to the Senate Intelligence Committee, albeit with two big loopholes.

December 4, 2012: Jerry Nadler, John Conyers, and Bobby Scott ask for finalized white paper, all opinions on broader drone program (or at least a briefing), including signature strikes, an update on the drone rule book, and public release of the white paper.

December 19, 2012: Ted Poe and Tredy Gowdy send Eric Holder a letter asking specific questions about targeted killing (not limited to the killing of an American), including “Where is the legal authority for the President (or US intelligence agencies acting under his direction) to target and kill a US citizen abroad?”

January 14, 2013: Wyden writes John Brennan letter in anticipation of his confirmation hearing, renewing his request for targeted killing memos. (11)

January 25, 2013: Rand Paul asks John Brennan if he’ll release past and future OLC memos on targeting Americans. (12)

February 4, 2013: 11 Senators ask for any and all memos authorizing the killing of American citizens, hinting at filibuster of national security nominees. (13)

February 6, 2013: John McCain asks Brennan a number of questions about targeted killing, including whether he would make sure the memos are provided to Congress. (14)

February 7, 2013Pat Leahy and Chuck Grassley ask that SJC be able to get the memos that SSCI had just gotten. (15)

February 7, 2013: In John Brennan’s confirmation hearing, Dianne Feinstein and Ron Wyden reveal there are still outstanding memos pertaining to killing Americans, and renew their demand for those memos. (16)

February 8, 2013: Poe and Gowdy follow up on their December 19 letter, adding several questions, particularly regarding what “informed, high level” officials make determinations on targeted killing criteria.

February 8, 2013: Bob Goodlatte, Trent Franks, and James Sensenbrenner join their Democratic colleagues to renew the December 4, 2012 request. (17)

February 12, 2013: Rand Paul sends second letter asking not just about white paper standards, but also about how National Security Act, Posse Commitatus, and Insurrection Acts would limit targeting Americans within the US.

February 13, 2013: In statement on targeted killings oversight, DiFi describes writing 3 previous letters to the Administration asking for targeted killing memos. (18, 19, 20)

February 20, 2013: Paul sends third letter, repeating his question about whether the President can have American killed inside the US.

February 27, 2013: At hearing on targeted killing of Americans, HJC Chair Bob Goodlatte — and several other members of the Committee — renews request for OLC memos. (21)

March 11, 2013: Barbara Lee and 7 other progressives ask Obama to release “in an unclassified form, the full legal basis of executive branch claims” about targeted killing, as well as the “architecture” of the drone program generally. (22)

All Members of Congress who have asked about Targeted Killing Memos and/or policies

  1. Ron Wyden
  2. Dianne Feinstein
  3. Saxby Chambliss
  4. Chuck Grassley
  5. Pat Leahy
  6. Tom Graves
  7. Jerry Nadler
  8. John Conyers
  9. Bobby Scott
  10. Ted Poe
  11. Trey Gowdy
  12. Rand Paul
  13. Mark Udall
  14. Dick Durbin
  15. Tom Udall
  16. Jeff Merkley
  17. Mike Lee
  18. Al Franken
  19. Mark Begich
  20. Susan Collins
  21. John McCain
  22. Bob Goodlatte
  23. Trent Franks
  24. James Sensenbrenner
  25. Barbara Lee
  26. Keith Ellison
  27. Raul Grijalva
  28. Donna Edwards
  29. Mike Honda
  30. Rush Holt
  31. James McGovern

Will Senators Filibuster Chuck Hagel’s Nomination to Get the Targeted Killing Memo?

Eleven Senators just sent President Obama a letter asking nicely, for at least the 12th time, the targeted killing memo. They remind him of his promise of transparency and oversight.

In your speech at the National Archives in May 2009, you stated that “Whenever we cannot release certain information to the public for valid national security reasons, I will insist that there is oversight of my actions — by Congress or by the courts.” We applaud this principled commitment to the Constitutional system of checks and balances, and hope that you will help us obtain the documents that we need to conduct the oversight that you have called for. The executive branch’s cooperation on this matter will help avoid an unnecessary confrontation that could affect the Senate’s consideration of nominees for national security positions. 

And asks — yet again — for “any and all memos.”

Specifically, we ask that you direct the Justice Department to provide Congress, specifically the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, with any and all legal opinions that lay out the executive branch’s official understanding of the President’s authority to deliberately kill American citizens.

But perhaps the most important part of this letter is that it refers not just to John Brennan’s nomination, but to “senior national security positions.”

As the Senate considers a number of nominees for senior national security positions, we ask that you ensure that Congress is provided with the secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations.

There are just 11 Senators on this list:

  • Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
  • Mike Lee (R-Utah)
  • Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
  • Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
  • Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)
  • Susan Collins (R-Maine)
  • Dick Durbin (Ill.)
  • Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
  • Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
  • Mark Begich (D-Alaska)
  • Al Franken (D- Minn.)

And just three of these — Wyden, Mark Udall, and Collins — are on the Intelligence Committee. That’s not enough to block Brennan’s confirmation.

But it may be enough to block Hagel’s confirmation, given all the other Republicans who are opposing him.

Yet More Proof Big Business Is Unamerican

The WaPo notes with some curiosity that the business community did almost nothing to get the debt ceiling passed. It’s a remarkable story: perhaps unintentionally noting that while our banana republic status was being confirmed, the Chamber of Commerce was lobbying not to prevent that, but to get a Panama trade deal; describing a betrayed Third Way executive pissed that business had not done more; describing two centrist Dems and Obama’s Chief of Staff imploring the business community to do more.

With the U.S. government on the verge of a historic default, the country’s largest business lobbying group took to the halls of Congress last week to press lawmakers to support the Panama Free-Trade Agreement.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsored a “door knock,” with 80 members handing out Panama hats to tout a trade deal with a country that has a smaller economy than Akron, Ohio. To critics, the Chamber event illustrates what has been a deafening silence from U.S. executive suites on the gridlock in Washington over raising the country’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

“They haven’t done nearly enough to sound the alarm,” said Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at Third Way, a Washington research group that describes itself as advocating “moderate policy” and has executives from Morgan Stanley (MS) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) on its board. Executives “think this is all Washington theater, and it will all get done in the end.”

[snip]

At a closed-door meeting with Chamber lobbyist Bruce Josten last month, Democratic Senators Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Warner of Virginia upbraided the group and its member companies for not twisting arms hard enough to get a compromise package worked out, according to two people familiar with the discussion whospoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.

[snip]

“It’s unfortunate that the business interests have not stepped forward as loudly as they should have,” Bill Daley, the White House chief of staff, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television July 26. “You’ve had a silence from the business community to the political establishment over the last number of years that’s been unfortunate.”

The article later offers the opinion of just one business professor, which attributed the inaction of businessmen to embarrassment that their party, the Republicans, were doing what they were doing, to explain the business community’s inaction on the debt ceiling.

“They’re caught,” [business professor Warren] Bennis said in an interview July 29. “They tend to be Republican and they are embarrassed by what they see from Republicans,” Bennis said. “It’s a real stalemate and CEOs want to stay clear of it.”

Yet nowhere does the article–or people like Kessler, Begich, Warner, or Daley–consider the possibility that the business community got just what it wanted with this debt fiasco.
They never consider the possibility that the business community might be thrilled with inane cuts to the federal government–probably, ultimately, targeted at the social safety net. They never consider the possibility that they business community might benefit from the chaos and uncertainty that this debate generated. They never consider the possibility that the business community might like how this legislative fight made our country even more of a banana republic.

I’d suggest it’s worth considering more seriously. After all, the business community has embraced (you could say, returned to) a model that relies on the insecurity of workers to demand compliance and cheap labor. The cuts this deal will ultimately bring about add to worker insecurity.

And just as importantly, most of these multinationals don’t much care for the US, except insofar as it has a big military to defend “US” business interests overseas. The ones describes that did lobby for a debt ceiling–banksters like JP Morgan or health care companies like Blue Cross or Pfizer–have been beneficiaries of big help from the federal government in recent years. They’re not done looting it yet! But the others are multinational companies; the US is just a convenient place to incorporate.

Moreover, businesses have been pushing an ideology for the last 30 years that the government is dysfunctional and therefore society must cede more control to businesses. Even as businessmen like Rick Snyder and Rick Scott prove failures at governance, the follies in DC still, at least, provide evidence that government is worse.

Of course these businessmen didn’t lobby for a reasonable solution to this false crisis. They liked the false crisis.

“Library” Rhymes with “Bribery,” Ted Stevens Edition

The story of Stephen Payne–who just got canned from his DHS Advisory Committee position because he was selling access in exchange for donations to the Bush Library–makes it clear what a cesspool of political corruption secret and unlimited donations to Presidential libraries can be.

Which is why it is utterly unsurprising that Ted Stevens, a standout in corruption even in Alaska, has placed a hold on a bill designed to make the donations to Presidential libraries transparent.

The argument for keeping the names of donors secret is that some admirers might not want their generosity on public display. But a presidential library is no ordinary charity. It is built with private money and turned over to the National Archives to operate. If requiring disclosure might deter a generous patron with a penchant for anonymity from giving, so be it.

There ought to be a law. Actually, there would be one if it weren’t for Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. A measure requiring disclosure of library donations — during a presidency and for four years afterward — has twice passed the House. But Stevens blocked the measure in March, arguing that it was unfair to "change the rules" on Bush — even as library officials claim they haven’t really started fundraising.

I mean, I can totally understand how, to a guy like Ted Stevens, asking the President to refrain from selling our foreign policy to the highest bidder would seem like "changing the rules."

Which is why I’m glad the Blue America-endorsed Mark Begich, the guy running to replace Stevens, is making it a campaign issue.

The American people deserve to know who is giving money to politicians at all levels of government, but especially the presidency. It’s time for Senator Stevens to stop blocking legislation that would require fundraising for presidential libraries be done out in the open. This move – on legislation that has already passed the House – is yet another instance where Stevens is choosing secrecy over transparency. He should lift his hold and let the light of day into back into Washington.

It’s hard to embarrass a guy like Ted Stevens. But I’m all in favor of piling on the charges of corruption against Mr. Toobz.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel Help me out: is all the outrage abt Germany subjecting US to CI to suggest we don't do the same here? http://t.co/s2Siicat1G
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emptywheel @robertcaruso No reason to believe this came from Snowden.
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emptywheel @jamesrbuk To be fair, I think one could support the case that Rummy is an alien lizard.
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emptywheel RT @ahope71: U.S. Considering Refugee Status for Hondurans, via @nytimes http://t.co/DXdUm0a0MG
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emptywheel @RBrulin worked!
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emptywheel @RBrulin Getting "page not found"
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emptywheel RT @TheAviationist: Armed U.S. Predator drone appears over Iraq http://t.co/8uyUEPHWTj http://t.co/XpfGQTgw7s
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bmaz @stephenlemons @RebekahLSanders @aliarau Yeah, but now it is going to be harder to take my growler boating.
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bmaz Better link for the previous DOJ-OPR tweet http://t.co/4U1gLWhHxm @MonaHol
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bmaz Two "liberal" Obama appointees, Patricia Millett+Nina Pillard join hack Janice Rogers Brown to screw Shirley Sherrod http://t.co/S9WMGtTJND
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bmaz Another suspension+disbarment for former AUSA where DOJ-OPR and David Margolis had whitewashed misconduct http://t.co/2vHBkAjhmO
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July 2014
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