Thursday, February 28, 2008

Did The Telecoms Just Cave In Toward Congress?

Like two spires of an iceberg which move move in unison, a little birdie here and a little birdie there suggest that the telecoms may have cut a deal with Congress.

One birdie, the leader of the Republican congressional minority, John Boehner, blew up the other day:
"Frustration bubbled over at a closed-door GOP session this week..." "House Republican Leader John Boehner told members of his party to get off their "dead asses" and start fundraising."
Donations from telecoms are way down. Offering immunity from prosecution to their leaders for their assistance in invading the people's privacy hasn't brought in as many dollars as hoped.

The other birdie sings a song that's a little more subtle. Mr. Bush just spent at least 2/3 of his press conference time today talking about the importance of getting the FISA bill past Congress. After passing the Senate, it has run aground in the House, where there are not enough supporters to get it to the floor. Mr. Bush talked on and on and on about this.

This FISA bill is to continue the executive branch's exemption from the need to get warrants for wiretaps. Mr. Bush wants it to also exempt from lawsuits the telecoms who have helped the government spy on people. Perhaps such a law could then be extended to provide a blanket to pull someday over himself and his friends as well.

But it's not going well. It's been very embarrassing. One Bush denial after another has been proven to be false as the public learns the truth about the wiretapping. The very generality of it - that machines listen to all calls, not just foreign calls - belies his words today that the surveillance is only of calls from outside the US. One blog reports,

"At the end of 2006, the FBI's Telecommunications Intercept and Collection Technology Unit compiled an end-of-the-year report touting its accomplishments to management, a report that was recently unearthed via an open government request from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Strikingly, the report said that the FBI's software for recording telephone surveillance of suspected spies and terrorists intercepted 27,728,675 sessions.

Twenty-seven million is a staggering number given that the FBI only got 2,176 FISA court orders in 2006 from a secret spy court using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

Bush's mind insists that even though the enemies of America know that their phones are tapped, they will nonetheless reveal their plans. In this, he assumes their minds are like his own: trapped inescapably in ineffective behaviors.

The telecoms, thought, know about Moore's Law, and can see that abetting a madman has no future in tomorrow's world of glass houses.

One reads that in spite of it all the telecoms are continuing their data splitting. So one wonders whether they might have cut a deal with Congress. The immunity that they can get by telling Congress how the Bush organization forced them to break the law may be better than the immunity from civil suit that Bush is hoping to give them.

They broke the law, of course. A man's secrets are his own. If he is breaking the law, or is obviously intent on doing so, then there is reason to listen to his whispers and poke in his pockets. If he is just an ordinary citizen, however, the effect is dispiriting. Psychologically castrative. A man's thoughts are his own, to keep or share as he so decides. The public place is not in the home. So the telecoms trespassed, and they know it.


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