Wiretaps on Two Democratic Governors: No Problem!

The FBI had wiretaps all over the Democratic Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, and the Democratic Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer.



Nobody cares!

The most corrupt and anti-Constitutional Justice Department since Richard Nixon installed electronic eavesdropping equipment directly in the Governor's office in Illinois.

So what?

David Broder says

"Unaware that Fitzgerald had obtained court orders allowing him to tap Blagojevich's phone and bug his office, Blagojevich indulged himself in obscenity-laden talk about how he would use the Senate appointment to enrich himself and his wife."

No big deal! Right, Dave? Bug the Governor's office! Why not?

"Fitzgerald began to close in on Blagojevich. A number of the governor's pals, including developer Tony Rezko, were indicted and convicted."

Blago knows Rezko! And that's all it takes to bug the Governor of Illinois, according to the Dean of the Washington Press Corps, and "high priest of political journalism" David Broder!  

Remember Watergate?

Maybe somebody in that famous office knew somebody who was convicted of something, just like Blago knew Rezko.

Maybe somebody in those Watergate offices fooled around with a high-priced call-girl, once upon a time, just like Eliot Spitzer.

Bug them all! Tap their phones! Install cameras in their underwear drawers! It's all okay, according to the Dean of the Washington Press Corp, and the networks, and even the so-called "liberal" blogosphere.

But for some strange reason, Richard Nixon didn't get a free pass for Watergate.

Reporters in Washington investigated. Senators were enraged! And one fine day, Richard Nixon waved goodbye from a helicopter on the White House lawn.

But that was then, and this is now: All it takes is a little blather about "national security" and you can bug anybody!

Separately, the NSA was also able to access, for the first time, massive volumes of personal financial records--such as credit-card transactions, wire transfers and bank withdrawals--that were being reported to the Treasury Department by financial institutions. These included millions of "suspicious-activity reports," or SARS, according to two former Treasury officials who declined to be identified talking about sensitive programs. (It was one such report that tipped FBI agents to former New York governor Eliot Spitzer's use of prostitutes.) These records were fed into NSA supercomputers for the purpose of "data mining"--looking for links or patterns that might (or might not) suggest terrorist activity.

Now you can put a "national security" wiretap on the Governor of New York, for calling a call-girl.

Does that sound like "national security" to you?

Maybe David Broder, "Dean of the Washington Press Corps" and "high priest of political journalism" could devote one of his syndicated columns to this peculiar question:

What was Eliot Spitzer's weenie doing in an NSA supercomputer?


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    wiretapping (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by txpublicdefender on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 10:43:34 AM EST
    I don't know enough about the ins and outs (no pun intended) of the Spitzer case to comment, but with Blago, they got court orders for wiretaps based on probable cause presented to the chief federal judge of the district, following long-established DOJ policy.  And, at this point, there is nothing to suggest any impropriety.  We are talking about Patrick Fitzgerald here, not exactly the poster boy for the Bush DOJ.  I'm not opposed to wiretapping, as long as proper constitutional and legal procedures are followed.  The problem with the Nixon and the NSA wiretapping wasn't that they wiretapped at all, in my opinion, but that they completely skipped over that part about having to make a showing to a disinterested magistrate that the 4th Amendment requires, and instead just decided that their belief that the person might be a terrorist or, in the cae of Nixon, that the person was a political enemy, was enough to intercept their phone calls.

    Details about the chronology... (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jacob Freeze on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 01:08:52 PM EST
    The chronology of these charges is tedious to follow, but there's a substantial article on the "Raw Data" feed at Fox News, and no, I'm not a big fan of Fox. Here's about 1/5 of it, and I'm including a big chunk to illustrate the fact that Blago is being charged with different crimes and even a different category of crime, based on the bug and wiretap, different from the charges that precede the wiretap:

    * After an October 6 meeting with Harris and Individuals A and B, during which Individual B sought state help with a business venture, Blagojevich told Individual A to approach Individual B about raising $100,000 for Friends of Blagojevich this year. Individual A said he later learned that Blagojevich reached out directly to Individual B to ask about holding a fund-raiser;

    • Also on October 6, Blagojevich told Individual A that he expected Highway Contractor 1 to raise $500,000 in contributions and that he was willing to commit additional state money to a Tollway project - beyond $1.8 billion that Blagojevich announced on October15 - but was waiting to see how much money the contractor raised for Friends of Blagojevich; and

    • On October 8, Blagojevich told Individual A that he wanted to obtain a $50,000 contribution from Hospital Executive 1, the chief executive officer of Childrens Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which had recently received a commitment of $8 million in state funds. When the contribution was not forthcoming, Blagojevich discussed with Deputy Governor A the feasibility of rescinding the funding.

    On October 21, the Government obtained a court order authorizing the interception of conversations in both a personal office and a conference room used by Blagojevich at the offices of Friends of Blagojevich. The FBI began intercepting conversations in those rooms on the morning of October 22. A second court order was obtained last month allowing those interceptions to continue. On October 29, a court order was signed authorizing the interception of conversations on a hardline telephone used by Blagojevich at his home. That wiretap was extended for 30 days on November 26, according to the affidavit.

    Without going through it word by word, it's important to notice than everything resembling a cash bribe precedes the wiretap and bug. Cash was allegedly discussed October 6 and October 8; the bug and wiretap went up two weeks later.

    Cash payments don't figure in material arising from the bug and wiretap, and the basic flavor of what they have recorded is captured in this segment:

    Also on November 12, in a conversation with Harris, the complaint affidavit states that Blagojevich said his decision about the open Senate seat will be based on three criteria in the following order of importance: our legal situation, our personal situation, my political situation. This decision, like every other one, needs to be based upon that. Legal. Personal. Political. Harris said: legal is the hardest one to satisfy. Blagojevich said that his legal problems could be solved by naming himself to the Senate seat.

    There's not much question that Blago was trying to squeeze some advantage for himself out of the Senate appointment. But the wiretap doesn't seem to support previous allegations about bribery, and the material presented by the US Attorney doesn't offer any additional support for those allegations.

    This comment is getting outrageously long, but there's one more fairly significant aspect of the authorization for the bug and wiretap that any decent courthouse reporter would cover:

    Every governor is constantly bombarded by charges of corruption and bribery, but it almost never never never happens that a governor's office is bugged. This isn't so much a question about law as written; it's more about law as practiced, but if the practice of law changes radically in favor of prosecutorial intrusion, the letter of the law won't save the Fourth Amendment.


    Broder is a sheet sniffer (none / 0) (#1)
    by Salo on Wed Dec 17, 2008 at 09:20:10 AM EST
    It's all he does. As if Cheney failed to profit from war