Shorter WSJ: George Bush Is Irrelevant and So Is McCain

This WSJ editorial beating up on Dems for their shiny new FISA spine is full of the illogical blathering you’d expect. Take this paragraph, which claims that even with immunity from PAA and even with a FISA court order, the telecoms simply won’t do as they’re mandated to do.

Mr. Reyes claims that existing wiretap orders can stay in place for a year. But that doesn’t account for new targets, which may require new kinds of telecom cooperation and thus a new court order. Mr. Reyes can make all the assertions he wants about immunity, but they are no defense against a lawsuit. For that matter, without a statute in place, even a renewed order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is likely to be challenged as illegitimate. A telecom CEO who cooperates without a court order is all but guaranteed to get not merely a wiretap lawsuit, but also a shareholder suit for putting the company at legal risk.

Apparently, the WSJ believes that even if the telecoms have immunity, it’s no defense against a lawsuit (someone better tell Mitch and Mike McConnell that all their immunity efforts are for naught). And even if the FISA Court issues a warrant under that statute known as "FISA," the telecoms would regard such an order as illegitimate, because there’s no statute supporting it.

And of course, the WSJ parrots the now mandatory claim that ACLU and EFF are really trial lawyers wearing low-paying disguises.

So instead they’re trying to do it through the backdoor by unleashing the trial bar to punish the telephone companies.

I’m most amused, though, by the closing paragraph, which gets to the heart of the panic over FISA.

Mr. Bush has been doing his part in this debate, but his political capital is waning. The Republican who needs to make himself heard now is John McCain. The Arizona Senator is voting the right way, but he seems curiously disengaged from a debate that plays to his national security strengths. The time to speak up is before the next 9/11 Commission. [my emphasis]

Bush’s "political capital is waning" must be GOP-speak for "don’t look now because the Democrats have stood up to Bush."  And, pathetically, the WSJ whines that John McCain isn’t cowering Democrats into unquestioning obedience, either.

It’s like flying without a net, isn’t it, WSJ? When you can’t rely on Bush’s "political capital" to cow others into compliance?

20 replies
  1. Leen says:

    “Don’t look now because the Democrats have stood up to Bush”.

    Let’s hope,pray and push them to continue to do so!

  2. ProfessorFoland says:

    A telecom CEO who cooperates without a court order is all but guaranteed to get not merely a wiretap lawsuit, but also a shareholder suit for putting the company at legal risk.

    Umm, actually, as far as I’m concerned, this is precisely the entire point of the exercise. I want CEO’s to be terrified of wiretapping without a court order.

    It’s a feature, not a bug.

    • nomolos says:

      Umm, actually, as far as I’m concerned, this is precisely the entire point of the exercise. I want CEO’s to be terrified of wiretapping without a court order.

      Yes they should indeed be terrified. Do the boards become liable in all of this? Who are the board members, did they exert pressure, did they have any knowledge? There may well be present/former members of government that are on these boards and who knows what deals they may have made with bushco for proprietary information about other, competing, businesses. There is more danger out there from greedy capitalists than from any so called “terrorists”

    • rosalind says:

      and who can forget this oldie but goodie, the ashcroft comey goldsmith philbin letter from 10/29/07:


      i was so angered by their letter i wrote my response to leahy & spectre in record time, a task made easier by only having to reverse their arguments, i.e.:

      “The carrier immunity provision not only makes a mockery of the rule of law but provides unjust and unfair protection to companies who in a time of national crisis had a greater responsibility to ensure their actions complied with existing constitutional protections and promoted true national interests. Years of expensive litigation and potentially ruinous damages is the proper recourse for citizens whose privacy has been sacrificed at the altar of a national security apparatus run amok.”

  3. wkwf says:

    So much fun in this article, where to start:

    Mr. Reyes’s letter is a political keeper — all the more so because it is so divorced from intelligence reality.

    I guess the article is also a “keeper”, and not just political – all the more so because it is so divorced from ALL reality.

    the quality of the intelligence we are going to be receiving is going to be degraded

    What a stupid comment – still pretending like they don’t have a zero-filter trap to catch every frickin’ byte flowing through this country. The quality of the intelligence depends on the intelligence of the guys who are analyzing the raw data, the quality of the filters you put in place (if you put any at all). Why do we have such morons who know NOTHING about modern telecommunications deciding what laws are going to be passed? Silly question I know. Someone out there has to be feeding them loads of bullshit about how difficult it will be to get more intelligence, etc. I bet the ‘no such agency’ has way more sophisticated tools to analyze raw data than anything the telecom companies have come up with. So what does the gov’t need then? A pipe from the telecom companies boxes into boxes run by the aforementioned agency so they can filter out stuff as they see fit – no more intervention required from the telecoms. So then the govt just says “well yeah, we catch everything, but we only use what we have been approved to use by the courts”. Oh wait, they can’t really tell that, can they? Never mind…

    They get paid a lot of money? No. They get paid nothing.

    And then they stop wiretapping. Forgot to mention that part. Minor detail, really.

    but [Mr. Bush’s] political capital is waning.

    I wonder why… could it be because all his policies and [non]-actions so far have been disastrous? Nah, must be the “anti-antiterror” Dems foiling all his plans. And how come it’s “Mr.” and not “President”? I thought the P-word was kinda standard.

    It feels like the WSJ took the best of all the bullshit spewed about FISA and compiled it into this handy little guide for all those who are struggling to justify their nonsensical rhetoric.

  4. FrankProbst says:

    Um, has anyone EVER won a civil suit against a company for obeying a court order? Bmaz?

    I love how they try to obscure the issue here: People aren’t suing because they were spied on with a court order; they’re suing because they were spied on WITHOUT a court order.

  5. cboldt says:

    I haven’t heard the “foreign-to-foreign communications have been shut down” in nearly the volume I expected. I think that’s the strongest argument for modification to FISA, a need to account for entirely foreign traffic passing through US-based hardware.

    It was also the argument that seemed most effective at obtaining August 2006 passage of the PAA.

  6. Hugh says:

    It is all something of a logical mess, isn’t it? How is it exactly that telecoms would abet the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping programs for years beginning before 9/11 knowing that they faced lawsuits down the road, lawsuits which if we are to believe the WSJ editorial would preclude just such participation? What part of “court order” were telecom CEOs and their vast and expensive legal expertise too stupid to understand?

    I often point this out but the WSJ editorial is another example of the Right wing strategy of constructing a narrative, then sticking to it, and repeating it endlessly, regardless of how thoroughly and how often it is debunked.

  7. JohnJ says:

    Wow, I’m impressed! The Dem backbone has at least a little cartilage: both the House AND Senate are holding pro forma sessions.

    (Sorry can’t get the link to TPMuckraker to work, it’s the latest story.)

    No recess appointments or other crap this week.

  8. JohnJ says:

    Oh well, the whole point may be moot: SCOTUS just turned down the ACLU as having “no standing”.

    So WTF? Why are they continuing? Just to keep from losing ANYTHING at all costs?

  9. JThomason says:

    Whew, that signing in was an ordeal.

    Anyway, EW you are on fire with the forensic dissection of C. Rice’s rhetoric and now stripping down the code of the WSJ. Maybe its just euphoric recall from last February’s triumphs. In so many ways the WSJ is a talking points memo for Republican interests. The strategy is always deflection–just having something to say to divert attention away from the issue. I have just had too many dialogues with a family member who depends on the Journal for his bluster not to be convinced that this is part of its role.

    By deploying misleading information tactically in this way the resources of the alternative point of view are consumed in addressing intentionally anti-constitutional if not irrational inhumane positions. Take for example the meme that because waterboarding is “psychological” and not “physical” it causes no real harm as if any science, complex as it may be, concerning the mind/body nexus did not exist. Its the kind of political theater necessary to maintain a culture of political and economic intimidation.

    Still the point is, aside from the technical basis of the standing issue, that there is another way to see and understand the motive of the rhetoric that seeks to justifiy and defend the politics of fear and intimidation while clouding the ultimate issues. You are as adroit as anyone writing today to in deploying this skill.

    Keep it up.

      • JThomason says:

        Hey thanks. Yep New Mexico, where after the pristine Valle Vidal up on the Colorado border was saved by an act of Congress in the last couple of years from the invasive drilling onslagut under leases of reserved natural fuel gasses stemming the from the homesteading and mining laws of the 1870’s and of particular interest to this administration. Fortunately, Tom Udall was able to put together a coalition in this case after a momentous public outcry.

        Still, where the rubber hits the road on this issue, while VP Cheney is tying up DC traffic with his prolific motorcade to get his dog over to the vet, is that these gas leases are being aggresively exploited all along the west face of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in both Colorado and New Mexico as well as the Chaco Canyon region. The gas wellheads required for such enterprise are particularly invasive as they are placed at short intervals, scar the land with extensive access networks, require intensive mechanical service and are maximized by the use of underground explosives. The state of New Mexico has defensively enacted a one year moratorium on new wellheads, which the Feds and their lessees and purchasers are routinely ignoring.

        At risk is the pristine serenity of mountain hamlets like Crestone, Colorado, of the San Luis Valley, a mecca of spiritual retreats and home to bison, deer and elk and the mysterious archeologically significant Chacoan Domain. And lo and behold it appears to me that the principle contractor exploiting these reservations is one Halliburton Corporation. Go figure? Oh how to keep the public distracted from such things.

        So that’s the news from the great Southwest. Other than that I have been buried under much snow and dallying about trying to survive the mountain life. I think, in retrospect, the journey over here to FDL makes sense especially because of the increased exposure that has followed. It took me a bit to see how this would work though.

        I suppose I have been heartened by the contempt citations, if such a thing can be heartening. But then Constitutional Justice has her ways.

  10. klynn says:

    Let me get this straight WSJ…

    Bush is doing all he can on immunity but no one is listening because his lying has caught up to him and his alliance with Cheney just tanks him political capital is spent. So, McCain needs to become the “New Voice” on immunity because he is, after all, gaining momentum so he’ll be heard on this?

    Did anyone think when they wrote this?

    I say go for it McCain. Listen to the WSJ…You showed up to vote against the Constitution. A vote against the Constitution is a vote against security of American citizens.

    Obama showed up and voted for the Constitution, which means he trumps you on security of American citizens.

    Really, who at the WSJ thought this argument would work? Goodness, send them to head up the McCain campaign!!!

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