An editorial in the New York Times requests clemency for NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In retrospect, Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not.
...When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government.
The editorial concludes with:
...President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.
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CBS reports that the PRISM program is an arm of the Stellar Wind program.
A top-secret arm of the controversial Stellar Wind program set up in the wake of 9/11 is allowing the National Security Agency and the FBI to tap directly into the central servers of nine major Internet companies to extract audio, video, photos, emails and documents that let analysts track an individual's communication, CBS News has learned.
The program, called PRISM, was established in 2007, according to The Washington Post, which broke the story Thursday evening. CBS News senior correspondent John Miller said it doesn't deal with names but was designed as a way for the government to track suspected terrorists. It culls metadata from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple and will soon include Dropbox.
The Stellar Wind program was revealed a few years ago by NSA Whistleblower William Binney and James Banford. (video here.) He says it is a domestic spying program: [More...]
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Sen. Harry Reid pulled the FISA bill today saying there were too many amendments to consider before the Christmas recess.
Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat and presidential candidate, spent much of the day attacking the idea of giving immunity to the phone companies, and he took credit for the delay.
“Today we have scored a victory for American civil liberties and sent a message to President Bush that we will not tolerate his abuse of power and veil of secrecy,” Mr. Dodd said in a statement.
“The president should not be above the rule of law, nor should the telecom companies who supported his quest to spy on American citizens,” he said. “I thank all my colleagues who joined me in fighting and winning a stay in the rush to grant retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies who may have violated the privacy rights of millions of Americans.”
The ACLU calls today's action "a clear win for civil libertarians."
“The ACLU wants to thank Senator Dodd and all of the senators who joined the effort to protect civil liberties. Senator Dodd was joined by nine other senators who voted in a midday procedural vote and 15 Senators who signed a letter asking for the Judiciary Committee’s bill to be given preference over the Intelligence Committee’s bill.
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Update: Consideration of the bill has been postponed to January due to the number of proposed amendments and lack of time to consider them.
Update: Here's the transcript of Dodd's speech.
The Senate is debating S. 2248 to overhaul FISA. The bill contains retroactive immunity for the telecom companies.
A vote will begin shortly on whether to accept the bill. Right now they are moving to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed.
You can watch live on C-Span3.
Update: The Roll Call vote is happening. The room looks more than three-quarters empty. By unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum requirement is waived. 60 votes are needed to move forward with the bill. Clerk calls roll.
Sen. Leahy is expected to file a substitute bill stripping the telecoms of immunity.
Vote tally: Boxer, Feingold, Cantwell, Brown, Harkin, Wyden, Cardin, Kerry, Menendez and Dodd voted in the negative so far. Leahy and Durbin voted yes, as did Feinstein, Schumer, Kennedy, Specter, Levin and Ken Salazar. Again, this is the motion to invoke cloture to allow the bad Senate Intel Committee bill to proceed.
Vote total: Cloture is invoked. 76 to 10. Motion is agreed to. Harry Reid: No one intends to talk for 30 hours but some want to talk post-cloture. Reid wants everything from now on to take 60 votes, except for final passage. The rules don't require it, but they do take 60 votes to stop a filibuster. They are arguing about that now.
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Senator Chris Dodd is going forward with plans for a filibuster Monday when the bad FISA revision bill comes up for debate.
Bottom line: The Senate must reject the Senate Intelligence Committee bill's with provisions for telecom immunity. It must insist that any bill passed carries protections for Americans against wiretapping that comport with the Fourth Amendment.
The ACLU says:
This week the Senate will consider making vast changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and will determine whether telecommunications companies should be held liable for their role in President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program.
...."When the FISA Amendments Act of 2007 comes to the Senate floor this week, Congress has a duty and an opportunity to protect the Fourth Amendment and rein in the executive's spying power.
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Who knows how long Bush's NSA warrantless wiretapping has been going on, but it was a year ago today that Bush 'fessed up to it:
On Dec. 17, 2005, Bush publicly acknowledged for the first time he had authorized the NSA to monitor, without approval from a judge, phone calls and e-mails that come into or originate in the U.S. and involve people the government suspects of having terrorist links.
Bush said he had no intention of halting what he called a "vital tool" in the war on terror.
It's up to the Dems now. Will they have the spine and the wherewithal to put an end to it...without passing more laws that increase the executive's power to order spying on more of us without adequate judicial oversight?
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