Mixed Telecom Signals

As Ryan Singel points out, Silvestre Reyes went from writing a scathing editorial with Senators Leahy and Jello Jay and Congressman Conyers on Monday, denouncing Bush’s scare tactics, to announcing imminent agreement by the end of the week.

Regarding a compromise deal, Reyes said: "We think we’re very close, probably within the next week we’ll be able to hopefully bring it to a vote."

Seemingly a pretty big turn-around over the course of the week, no?

But there’s more that’s funky with Reyes’ timing. The AP reports his statement was taped Friday, not Sunday.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, in a television interview broadcast Sunday, did not specifically say whether the House proposal would mirror the Senate’s version.


Reyes, whose interview was taped Friday, appeared on CNN’s "Late Edition," as did Blunt.

Friday happens to be the same day that Harry Reid moved to pass a 30-day extension to the PAA.

As we move forward, there is no reason not to extend the Protect America Act to ensure that there are no gaps in our intelligence gathering capabilities. Even Admiral McConnell, the Director of national Intelligence, has testified that such an extension would be valuable. But the President threatens to veto an extension, and our Republican colleagues continue, inexplicably, to oppose it.

“I urge them to withdraw their opposition. I will now ask unanimous consent to take up and pass S. 2664, a bill to extend the Protect America Act for 30 days, and to make the extension effective as of February 15, to ensure that there are no adverse legal consequences from the President’s decision to let that law expire.”

Now I suppose the 30-day extension, made retroactive to February 15, would amount to just a 15 day extension. And I see the value of forcing Republicans to repeatedly refuse to ensure the wiretaps continue.

But which is it? Imminent deal, or two more weeks?

And while we’re talking about weird temporal anomalies, can someone help me with the timing of this passage?

Reyes, D-Texas, said he was open to that possibility after receiving documents from the Bush administration and speaking to the companies about the industry’s role in the government spy program.

"We are talking to the representatives from the communications companies because if we’re going to give them blanket immunity, we want to know and we want to understand what it is that we’re giving immunity for," he said. "I have an open mind about that."

The word "after" suggests that Reyes has seen what the telecoms did, and now is more comfortable with the idea of immunity. Yet the phrase, "are talking" suggests this discussion is still in process. Is this just some kind of AP grammar, or has Reyes already talked to the telecoms? Have his colleagues from Commerce gotten a chance to talk to the companies they oversee, or just a select group of Congressmen whose word we’re being asked to trust? As McJoan notes,

Bully for you, Congressman Reyes, for being able to talk to the telcos about their illegal activities. How about the rest of us? How about the American citizens who were spied on illegally and want to know why? Perhaps Congressman Reyes should consider calling those telco CEOs into a public hearing so that we could all learn about their role in the spying program before sealing that deal, before ensuring that those activities will never be examined by a court of law. And all due respect to the Congressman, his judgment on this matter shouldn’t be substituted for that of a federal court.

If this is all much ado about nothing–as Reyes suggests–then let’s hear it. Let’s hear what assurances the telecoms had that their spying was legal after DOJ had rejected it in March 2004. Because a bunch of Republican lawyers sure thought it was illegal. Did Bush simply not tell them they were breaking the law? Because, if he did, then we surely have the right to know that, too.

45 replies
    • emptywheel says:

      Blame it on Minnesota. I was in Duluth over the weekend (John knows my affection for Duluth), and I just didn’t have the muse or the focus yesterday day to post (and then I had to visit with mr. emptywheel, who I had left behind here in MI).

      • Minnesotachuck says:

        Duluth has become a cool town. Unfortunately, I don’t get up there too often, and when I do it’s usually a too hurried passage through on the way to and from the BWCA. If you ever find yourself in the Twin Cites with an hour or two to spare, by all means let us area readers know and we’ll set up a meet-up!

        PS: The shakes have stopped, thankfully.

  1. buckeye1 says:

    I just called reyes’s office. They acted like they were disgusted with getting so many phone calls. So, I am getting the feeling that the DEAL is done!!!

  2. jayackroyd says:

    One of the things I said to Maloney’s office was that there is no love of the telecommunications companies among voters (having just gotten off the line with ATT Wireless over a billing screwup. Just moved my regular LD to Credo from Vonage, and in doing so found out that they also have wireless service. Time to switch.)

    IAC, this is primary fodder for ‘10. It be great if one of our video wizards could create a sample ad that would be used by a primary opponent….

  3. Hugh says:

    The only reason that the extension got voted down in the House resulting in the lapsing of the PAA was that Republicans and a few liberal Democrats voted against it. This meant that a majority of Democrats at the time were willing to cave on this issue. Taking into account the Democratic track record on caving in, the bigger surprise would be if they were not arranging for another cave.

  4. portorcliff says:

    Letter to House Reps from Renmin over at DKOS

    We have effectively won the fight on PAA and FISA, if you just stand firm. The PAA expired and the sky didn’t fall. Bush is whining but the telecoms themselves don’t seem to care (see NYT article today) and in their more candid moments even the administration’s intelligence officers concede that expiration of PAA has not endangered America.
    The Fourth Amendment is a bedrock of our liberties. There is absolutely no reason to “compromise” it away. There is not even a political price to pay, in this case — the Republicans, not the Democrats, are responsible for letting PAA expire, and you have been making that case very effectively.
    Given all this, why, Mr. Hoyer and Speaker Pelosi, are you floating trial balloons about voting on the Senate bill rather than making the Senate go to conference in good faith? Why snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? The best outcome is just to let the status quo continue until, hopefully, a Democratic President and enhanced Democratic Congressional majorities are in place next year. Then we can make any necessary technical fixes to FISA without selling out my Constitutional rights.
    Your base takes this very seriously. I have contributed substantial sums to the DCCC in the past and get solicitations regularly. There is no way I will ever contribute again if you sell out the Constitution so unnecessarily, giving Bush a victory he so richly does not deserve.”

    This needs to be 2×4′ed into each House Member who is showing weakening resolve.

      • portorcliff says:

        I also called Reyes’ office in El Paso. I talked to a young man who was attentive as I worked through my apoplexy to articulate my bitter disappointment. He promised to send the message on.

        Does this happen to others? It takes all of my energy to deliver a cohesive and coherent position without the undue influence of rage and sadness.

  5. PJEvans says:

    I e-mailed Pelosi this weekend, pointing out that there’s no real need for immunity and that the telecoms aren’t the ones screaming for it. Also Waxman, same thing, and pointing out that we the people will be without recourse if it passes, and it’s clearly a violation of the 4th Amendment.

    I have no great hopes for this: it’s clear that Cheney has put the fix in. I wonder what he has on the Ds in Congress.

    • JohnJ says:

      it’s clear that Cheney has put the fix in. I wonder what he has on the Ds in Congress.

      Could this be the Dems trying to tell us they are helpless with all the goods that the Big Dick has on them? Are they committing hari kari by letting us vote the incumbents out rather than have the dirt exposed? I am sure that part of the Big Dick’s demands are that they don’t quit and deprive him of the power he has by owning their important positions?

      I realize that is giving their reasoning ability and ethics way too much credit but I am trying desperately to understand what this behavior is about.

      If the Telecoms are NOT the ones behind this push, (they aren’t), Blackmail is still the only reason that I can find that fits their actions.

      • JohnForde says:

        Don’t the Dems recognize that the blackmail will only get worse as long as long as ‘Waterbarding George’ and Shooter can Hoover up every bit of info in the world?

        Just a thought: what if this is not about protecting individuals but rather about predating corporations? Inside information makes getting rich in the markets pretty easy. I’m cynical. But am I cynical enough?

      • phred says:

        I doubt that blackmail has anything whatsoever to do with the current state of affairs in DC.

        I’ve been reading Charlie Savage’s book on the return of the Imperial Presidency (thanks for the tip EW). At every step along the way over the entire Bush administration, Congress has failed to put the brakes on BushCo’s assertion of Presidential power. This is just another step down that path.

        It boggles the imagination that Congress is so willing to cede their institutional authority to the executive branch. But then, I never understood the willingness of Southern Baptist women to cede their authority to their husbands either, and in that case you simply can’t rely on a blackmail argument. There are people who prefer to let authority figures make their decisions for them. Unfortunately, Congress is filled with such people.

        • JohnJ says:

          Sadly I agree, I am hopelessly trying to console my natural (and intensionally) optimistic view of human nature. I am one of those fools that wants to believe that people naturally try to do what they see as right.

          I am pretty consistently made a fool of in that endeavor.

        • Minnesotachuck says:

          Check Bob Altemeyer’s lay-friendly, online book The Authortarians. John Dean drew heavily on Altemeyer’s work in his book of several years ago entitled Conservatives Without Conscience, about the RighteousReligious Right. You can download Altemeyer’s entire book (legally) as a PDF file from the above link.

          • phred says:

            Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

            JohnJ @ 26, like you, I am an optimist — not that you would know it these days ; ) I just don’t think it’s about blackmail. I really don’t understand the total failure of Congress to defend itself. I wish I did. They seem to forget they represent the public. If they stop doing their job, then we have no representation. Savage’s book is both fascinating and frightening. No President will roll back the power asserted by BushCo. So if Congress or the Judiciary fails to do so, then our little experiment in representative democracy will come to an end.

            • JohnJ says:

              I once read that Congress had NEVER given up a temporary power it gave itself (that was decades ago). I would assume that also applies to all branches.

            • klynn says:

              You know, we need to ask every Dem representative the question,”Please explain your total failure to defend Congress and stand for the balance of powers by changing your stance on immunity?”

              Then follow that with the statement/question, “If immunity is needed, based after-the-fact on receiving documents from the telecoms, then make it an open process with the people and let’s get the real reasons public. The reasons to date have plenty of explanation to defend a vote against immunity. So, give us the new reasons…”

              We must demand answers and transparency.

  6. Ishmael says:

    What can explain this sudden move towards the telecoms? The scary ad blitz against the House didn’t move the polls in any measureable way. No terrorizers emerged out of their caves. The telecoms are continuing to cooperate. Obama and Clinton raised about $85 million last month, the vast majority from online sources, so their is lots of money outside of telecom largesse. I think that Reyes was persuaded much more by compromised Democrats in the leadership who signed off on all this, than anything he saw in Busho documents or telecom representations. Craven self-interest in the Democratic leadership is the only thing that makes any sense to me. But then again, the press can apparently be tamed with lip-smacking good ribs from John McCain and quail wings at Karl Rove’s table, so perhaps I just underestimate how easy it is to buy silence.

    • emptywheel says:

      Except that Dem leaders did NOT buy off on the telecom stuff in March 2004. Harman may have. Jello Jay claims he didn’t (and he also, to his credit, objected to the fact the telecoms were data mining). Pelosi claims she DID object in March 2004. And Reid was not in leadership then.

  7. rincewind says:

    Dangnabit, ew, you were right here in Duluth??? Geez, I feel like the time I missed a phone call from a friend who got comped tix for Springsteen that very night and did I want to go….

    On topic: did those talks with the telecoms happen to include any mention of campaign contributions?

      • rincewind says:

        “met you for brunch” — any time/anywhere Marcy, I promise I won’t swoon or scream (but can I ask for your autograph?) ;>

  8. phred says:

    EW, I for one am glad you were out of town this weekend — I was too, so now I have much less catching up to do than usual ; ) By the way, I left a very late comment on your PFIAB thread below, I’m curious what you think…

    As for Reyes, given his chummy relationship with Rodriguez (CIA Tape Destroyer), I have never had much confidence in his standing up for the Constitution. I hope he surprises me…

  9. JohnJ says:

    Ah ha! Is this what they were waiting for?

    Fire Chief Rickman Eastman tells KING-TV that they found a sign at the scene that may link the blazes to Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group that has reportedly set fires in other parts of the state.

    Terrorist are winning! The are attacking the most important people; the rich! We need to give the Big Dick (I love saying that) more power to spy on Democrats!

    • LS says:

      For ecology freaks, they sure sent a lot of smoke into the air and burned a bunch of beautiful trees too. Doesn’t make sense unless they’ve been protesting developing the entire area, which may be the case, but why risk a forest fire on top of everything?

  10. lllphd says:

    but isn’t all this telecom immunity jabber really about protecting the administration? wasn’t that your insight, ew? isn’t the telecom stuff simply the smokescreen? well, actually, better put: isn’t the telecom stuff the convenient single smokescreen stone for the telecom AND admin immunity birds? aarghk; sorry to mix those metaphors, but you get the picture.

    the possibility is not an isolated consideration:

  11. Sedgequill says:

    A brash and opportunistic assertion that Article II powers, replete with invocation of State Secrets, trump all else should not been persuasion enough to recruit telecoms and ISPs to participate in surveillance and to produce legally protected information without having been served warrants. CEOs and corporate attorneys should know that Article II is preceded by Article I, and that oaths of office don’t become void when a crisis is declared. The companies that violated law should not be rewarded for assisting an unconstitutional power grab and hoping to benefit by doing so.

    Members of Congress may be so tired of battling over retroactive immunity—it is a very important battle—that they will yield to the administration on most other FISA issues.

  12. JohnJ says:

    Lets take a cue from Rover; why wasn’t this maladmin able to stop this act of terrorism? Send in the national guard….oh wait most of them and their equipment is in…….

  13. JohnJ says:

    OT but THE SURGE IS WORKING; after only 4 months I actually found a job! See there is no recession, (don’t tell my last boss or his boss since they are out of work starting this month).

    Seriously, no one around here is doing any big lay-offs but no one is hiring. They are interviewing, but everyone tells me they can’t get permission to hire.

    Ok sorry, back to the topic.

    I am just trying to throw out ideas here. I still can’t come up with anything that 100% fits. Battered Spouse Syndrome? Stockholm syndrome? Blackmail, no matter how unlikely still does fit.

    • phred says:

      If you haven’t read it, I really do urge you to read Savage’s book Takeover. You will find that in some cases Congress simply couldn’t be bothered to defend it’s prerogatives (in one instance because they were heading out of town for recess). I really don’t think you need to invoke blackmail or Stockholm syndrome or anything else. Perhaps it is a case of herding cats, too many people in Congress with diverse interests to get them to pay attention long enough to the imminent threat to their institution.

      • brendanx says:

        It’s easy to understand why Republicans would fight for their party over something abstract and relatively abstruse like the “prerogatives” of the legislative branch as an “institution”. What’s difficult to understand is why the Democrats won’t fight for the institution in the interest of preserving their own party.

        I’m reading about the Spanish Civil War these days. The Republicans lost in the early days because the bourgeois government wouldn’t unlock the armories to the leftist masses who were willing to fight for that government.

        • phred says:

          I agree it’s easy to understand Republican Congresscritters putting party first, and in the end they invariably do so. It is interesting to note however, that individual Republican Congressmen did object to the broad powers asserted by the executive branch, but in the end, they did not stand up to the WH. It is maddening to read about the various incidents where people saw where things were headed, they would object, but in the end, they would back down.

          Thanks for the comment about the Spanish Civil War. Nothing like a little “cutting off your nose to spite your face”, eh?

  14. Sedgequill says:

    Hey bmaz—

    Despite my light footprint here and in the greater blogosphere, Tom Maguire has called me your acolyte. Let me be clear: I would not follow anyone who would have me as an acolyte.

  15. JohnLopresti says:

    In a computer upgrade recently some spring cleaning on the electronic desktop resulted in my rearranging the chronicles of the current presidency. Several relationships among the historical documents were apparent, renewing once again the sense that this president under color of emergency authority has attempted to skip many of the checks and balances laws on the books. I had the impression it was Chuck Shumer’s interchange with Jim Comey in the famous hearing about the hospital visit which elicited first in a public arena the revelation that ‘the program’ puttered along with only whitehouse counsel approval during the time following Comey’s refusal to reauthorize it, though the specificity of this observation is obscured by Comey’s own reluctance to talk about it in public, instead having me draw substantially from the available online analyses of his vague allusions, after he seemingly had blurted out more than he had intended regarding the rudderlessness of the legal status of the wiretapping program; most of what people took to be his forthcomingness I thought guarded and prescreened divulgations accompanied by feigned political outrage on the part of committeemembers at that hearing; Comey certainly clammed up by the time the House had occasion to ask followup questions at the lower chamber’s own hearing with him as a reluctant ‘witness’. I agree with the original comment by ew in the post above that the ‘after’ could be AP syntax, maybe authored by a journalism school graduate who momentarily lapsed into imprecise terms; but also, touring Reyes’ colorful website with much historical and demographic rambling prose about the 2 million population area which is his district 16 in TX around El Paso, and reading of his background careers from which he retired to run for congress somewhat more than a decade ago, it seems also feasible that his asynchronous ‘after’ remark has more bilingual syntax than it appears to have, because the usage is also viable in English, albeit differently nuanced. His region has nearly 3/4 population of Hispanic descent. Spanish syntaxes for addressing chronologic relationships in constructs depicting events past carries a great burden of the speaker and reader’s needing to have a grasp of archaic grammar and highly inflected forms of verb tenses not available in English, and, indeed, commonly avoided by ordinary speakers of that language. In sum, I think his remarks were politicized, but rendered in a hybrid syntax which muddied even further his purposeful obfuscation regarding his plans, which he is coordinating under the direction of Pelosi, and with parallel effort linked to Reid’s roadmap for extracting maximum advantage from the process of preserving the rights which innure to private citizens and businesses under tort claims with respect to first and fourth amendement matters, and extending to the other areas the ACLU addresses in its courtbrief in the Hepting matter now in Vaughn Walker’s court. Like the penalty phase relief Exxon just last week continued to seek in Scotus in the Valdez oilspill matter these many years after the event, telcos want to avoid fines for which they are liable; Nacchio seems to have been the only one to try to argue in support that obligation, though certainly his company, too, had to cooperate in order to stay on the vendor list for government contracts and stay out of jail; but Seidenberg at Verizon made initial complaints, at least in media, when the wiretap story was published, though much of his rhetoric later seemed proven vacuous, as all the telcos were onboard with only minor gradations of reluctance to participate. I hope Pelosi stays firm; she can take the heat; and Reid can remain adequately aloof from the atavistic resoluteness which is a principal trait of laws manufactured in the House of Representatives. There was one idea last week spoken to the media by a member of the house who was not privvy to the documents the committee Reyes leads had reviewed, nor were the proceedings of the secret meetings on the wiretap programs divulged to the plenary membership of the House; the member, whose article I am not finding at the moment, regrettably, had suggested the entire lower chamber meet in executive session excluding the public, a rare process, solely for the purpose of discussing on the floor what has been confidential information held private in committee, concerning the several months when the telcos skipped their legal obligations and simply tapped phones as the president demanded. I think the House’s attempt to nullify the Senate’s overly compliant initiative to cancel law retroactively in the form of ‘immunity’, promises to serve as one of the few counterbalances the public has in matters such as this, which border on security issues, but which also serve as political ploys by an administration whose short shrift given to mere legality is legion in many initiatives. The House should stand firm, and override Reyes’ wishes if he decides to err on the side of favoritism for the telcos. This comment is wending toward the other thread about the now debilitated foreign intell advisory board, about which I located an interesting membership roster, there.
    For a succinct summary of the drift of TX politics in the past ten years written by the Supreme Court in the gerrymander case which partly reversed the DeLay countergerrymander see the first few pages of the LULAC v Perry opinion published in 2006, syllabus edition there; AJ Anthony Kennedy wrote the first section.

    • Nell says:

      As interesting as I found this, it was impossible to make it past the first two sentences. Just as so often before.

      Paragraph breaks and white space are used for a reason. What’s the aversion to using the Enter key?

      Please, John. Please.

  16. JohnLopresti says:

    [email protected] correction Hepting is related but the aCLU proper case was the one that was remanded and squelched from the appeal to scotus to limbo eventually in aclu v nsa.

  17. agentofgoldstein says:

    “We are talking to the representatives from the communications companies because if we’re going to give them blanket immunity, we want to know and we want to understand what it is that we’re giving immunity for,” he said. “I have an open mind about that.”

    I read that as, Cheney has been nice enough to show me the transcripts of some embarrassing phone calls I’ve made, an I am opening up to a deal as they show me more of my (for now) private conversations.

    I have often heard from Bushies that I should have no problem having my communications recorded if I have done nothing wrong. If thats their argument, then the same should go for the telecoms. What are they afraid of? We are now learning “they” is the admin, not MaBell.

    And since these companies have been kind enough to copy all thats bouncing around for 7 years+, I’ll trade them immunity for turning over the copies of all those missing RNC emails.

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