Thursday, May 16, 2013

What the Heck's Going On With the Obamaites? The Law Behind the A.P. Phone-Record Scandal Is Ours, So, Holder Like Arctic Ice Is Gone? STFU Grads & Be Glad Your Masters Have Jobs

The difference in the two parties today (if you listen to their true concerns about environmental and economic devastation in light of the rapidly oncoming (as we breathe) sacred fracking/shale oil climate-destroying missions) seems to be "in how enthusiastically the lemmings should march towards the cliff."

Is "intelligence a lethal mutation?" (Watch the video below for the unsurprising answer.)

Ever wonder what Adam Smith really said about the greedy?

You may be surprised. And what he said about the owners of his world (and ours).

Professor Chomsky of MIT knows a bit about history and, oh, linguistics. You'll also be interested in what he has to report about the "Arab Spring" collapsing due to horrendous pressure (that means troops and money injected) from the U.S.A. and S.A. (Saudi Arabia). And, oh yeah, the end of summer ice in the Arctic? Date moved from 2050 to 2020. So, we're in luck! We'll get to experience it!

It was important. It must have been. Otherwise, they broke their own rules. But has it been a charade from the first? So many sell-outs. So much time.

And so many, many sell-outs.

I empathize with Charles Pierce, but he almost looks like an insider who's only really upset when it's his personal ox being gored. Not that he hasn't reported on plenty of administration misdoings previously and thought that Holder was not addressing the issues a real progressive Attorney General should have at the forefront. He has, but I haven't heard a call for Holder's dismissal before. Have you?

May 14, 2013

The Law Behind the A.P. Phone-Record Scandal

Posted by Lynn Oberlander


The cowardly move by the Justice Department to subpoena two months of the A.P.’s phone records, both of its office lines and of the home phones of individual reporters, is potentially a breach of the Justice Department’s own guidelines. Even more important, it prevented the A.P. from seeking a judicial review of the action.

Some months ago, apparently, the government sent a subpoena (or subpoenas) for the records to the phone companies that serve those offices and individuals, and the companies provided the records without any notice to the A.P.

If subpoenas had been served directly on the A.P. or its individual reporters, they would have had an opportunity to go to court to file a motion to quash the subpoenas. What would have happened in court is anybody’s guess — there is no federal shield law that would protect reporters from having to testify before a criminal grand jury — but the Justice Department avoided the issue altogether by not notifying the A.P. that it even wanted this information. Even beyond the outrageous and overreaching action against the journalists, this is a blatant attempt to avoid the oversight function of the courts.

It is not, again, as if the government didn’t have options. The D.C. Circuit (in a 2005 opinion upholding a finding of contempt against the Times’s Judith Miller and Time’s Matt Cooper for refusing to testify about who had disclosed Valerie Plame’s identity as a C.I.A. operative) has held that there isn’t a First Amendment privilege for journalists to refuse to testify before a criminal grand jury, as has the Second Circuit (in a 2006 case in which the government was trying to find out who told the Times about a planned raid on two foundations suspected of providing aid to terrorists). In the wake of the decisions, there was a renewed effort to pass a federal shield law — though the proposed law would not have provided absolute protection in cases of national security — but, with the rise of WikiLeaks, that discussion died.

The Times’s case provides the facts most similar to the A.P.’s. The prosecutor had asked the Times to provide phone records; when the Times refused, he threatened to get the records directly from the phone companies. The Times then went to court and sought a declaratory judgment that its records were protected by reporter’s privilege. The Second Circuit ruled that phone records — even those held by a third party, such as a phone company — were subject to the same common-law privilege that would apply to the journalists’ own records.

However, the court noted that there wasn’t a constitutional privilege to refuse to disclose such records to a criminal grand jury, and that any common-law privilege would be not absolute but “qualified” — meaning that it could be overcome by a compelling government interest. The Circuit, however, declined to define the privilege, other than to say that it wouldn’t stand up in the case before it.

Crucially, though the Times lost that case, 2–1, all of the judges agreed that government could not act unilaterally, without judicial review. As Judge Sack said in dissent:

For the question . . . is not so much whether there is protection for the identity of reporters’ sources, or even what that protection is, but which branch of government decides whether, when, and how any such protection is overcome.
He added, “Judge Winter’s opinion makes clear that the government’s demonstration of ‘necessity’ and ‘exhaustion’ must, indeed, be made to the courts, not just the Attorney General.”

In the A.P.’s case, though, the latter is exactly what did happen. (Though since Eric Holder, the Attorney General, said Tuesday that he recused himself, that demonstration wasn’t even made to him, but to someone else in the Department of Justice.) The Department of Justice chose to avoid the court system — and its independent check on the Department’s power — by serving its subpoenas directly on the phone companies without telling the A.P. In so doing, it apparently relied on an exception to its own policy of notifying a media company in advance of a subpoena if doing so “would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.”

If, as has been reported, the grand jury is investigating the leak of information concerning the C.I.A. foiling in Yemen of an Al-Qaeda plot to bomb an airliner heading to the United States, it is hard to understand how a later request for phone records would pose a threat to the integrity of the investigation. This request for two months of records was ostensibly made after the calls were made.

If the government had a suspicion that one of its employees was the leak, it could go to a court itself and seek a wiretap of that employee. (Of course, they would have to make a showing of probable cause, which they were able to skip by going directly to the A.P.’s phone companies.) There would seem to be no reason not to let the media organization know that it wanted phone records of calls already made—after all, what was the rush? Let the courts decide whether the Justice Department really needs those records or not.

Lynn Oberlander is the general counsel of The New Yorker. Photograph by J. Scott Applewhite/AP.

Eric Holder Must Go

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

14 May 13

hat in the several hundred names of god do these people think they're doing?

In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.

In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. He demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies. "There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters.

These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know," Pruitt said.
Yes, the Bush people wiretapped without warrants. Yes, they trod upon the rule of law. Yes, they set all manner of horrible precedents for future presidents to follow. Yes, the phone companies rolled over, the way they all rolled over, and doesn't the president's reversal on telecom immunity back during the 2008 campaign look even more interesting now? And, no, none of that matters.

The government would not say why it sought the records. Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States. In testimony in February, CIA Director John Brennan noted that the FBI had questioned him about whether he was AP's source, which he denied. He called the release of the information to the media about the terror plot an "unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information."
This isn't hard. This is what made Egil (Bud) Krogh famous. This is what got people sent to jail in the mid-1970s. This is the Plumbers, all over again, except slightly more formal this time, and laundered, disgracefully, even more directly through the Department Of Justice. And of course, this is not nearly good enough. And even if you point out, as you should, that the AP is hyping this story a little - The government "secretly" obtained the records? Doesn't that imply that nobody knew the records had been seized? Wasn't there a subpoena? The phone companies knew. - the ignoble clumsiness of this more than obviates those particular quibbles.

The White House on Monday said that other than press reports it had no knowledge of Justice Department attempts to seek AP phone records. "We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations, as those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department," spokesman Jay Carney said.

That is all my arse. At the least, this was a counter-terrorism operation. (Why else would Brennan have been questioned already?). Which puts the whole business inside the White House. And you'd have to be a toddler or a fool to believe that Eric Holder could go off on his own and take as politically volatile a step as this. But, let us take the White House at its word. Eric Holder did this by himself. He should be gone. This moment. Not only is this constitutionally abhorrent, it is politically moronic.

Nobody likes the press. I will grant you that, but the administration is soft if it thinks the public distrusts the press that much. And to have this genuinely chilling revelation emerge simultaneously with the Benghazi, Benghazi!, BENGHAZI! mummery and the IRS dumbassery is pretty much a full broadside below the water line of this administration's credibility. Good god, this is going to be one long-ass summer.

(Charlie has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently "Idiot America." He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.)

The comments on this essay at Esquire seem very similar to those found on many anarchist sites (and this is Esquire, folks!) . . . leading a fair observer to wonder if they will become a permanent fixture in comments everywhere (if they print them) as neither party is volunteering for change duty.

  • Sharon Dymond · Top Commenter · LSU
    And that fool couldn't find anything wrong with the behavior of Goldman Sachs, AIG et al? Th'fk?
  • Paul Loop · Top Commenter
    This joins chained CPI, Medicare ``reform'' and Gitmo as broken deals. And it goes to the top of the list. Fuck this shit.
    • John L Bush · Top Commenter · Works at Virginia Tech
      yeah, agreed, and then what are we gonna say when he approves the keystone XL pipeline??
  • Kent Anderson · Top Commenter

    Holder is the Vernon Jordan of this Administration. And like Jordan did with both Carter and Clinton, he has done nothing but tarnish it from day one. He needs to resign three days ago yesterday. And while I don't think this reaches anywhere near what the plumbers did for Nixon, I am reminded of what old George Carlin said, "You think you have rights, you don't. You have the illusion of rights. You have privileges and they can be taken away. At any time."

    A long time ago, at a different part of my life, I had access to some of these kinds of people. A friend at the time worked for Michigan Bell and showed me the place where all the recordings go. He even played a few for me. Fascinating stuff. But what he told me, in 1987, was this...Your conversations aren't private. They are kept and stored for years. We have copies of conversations going back to the 1920's. He even dug up a conversation from the 1930's as proof. It was a mundane conversation, but still.

    And now, they have smartphones and microchips in your passport and driver's license and ID cards. 200 years from now, they'll be listening to our phone calls and knowing where we went and for how long. Hell, they already do.
  • Cup O' Joe
    Frankly I'm to the point where we should just hand the keys over to the GOP and let us drive the country right off the cliff, because frankly we deserve it.They're fierce and dedicated and unreasonable, we hem and haw about things and let them set the pace. And I don't mean Obama, I mean us. I mean the constituents of the GOP who vote in people like Sanford and Rubio because they're either too stupid for words or because their hatred of anything other than them and the sheer joy they get pissing people off overshadows every other motivation they have.

    I get told all the time by people who think we can bring back Tinkerbell by clapping louder that a few dedicated people can change the world. And they're right. But the few dedicated people are on the other side, and they've pretty much already won.

    • Mary Hartman · Top Commenter · Rochester, Minnesota
      We get so distracted by political jousting and forget that Bush is Clinton is Bush is Obama...... We so desperately WANT to believe that the party we're affiliated with is on higher moral ground and made up of a better class of more caring people and deny the reality when it's staring us in the face.

      Both parties are corrupt to the core. While the American people have been arguing over Right and Left the Left and Right have together undermined our safety, our security, our freedom, and our ability to seek and find redress for grievances. In 2004 the US government authorized the CIA to begin HUMINT operations on US soil against US citizens using local, state and federal law enforcement and intelligence sources. Major General Michael Ennis moved from DIA HUMINT to CIA HUMINT and brought a whole cadre of narcissistic "holier than thou" jerks into positions of power and there was not a peep out of anyone.

      This insidious "infrastructure" permeates government on every level and knows no political boundaries. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. We the people have turned over Absolute Power and look to the power structure we relinquished control over to protect us from itself. This is a symptom of the bigger problem, which cannot be defined by insults flung from the left or right because the fact of the matter is that the stench comes from both.
  • June Butler · Top Commenter · LSU
    You know, the drone killings alone are enough to put me off Obama. Do I think Eric Holder implemented the AP invasion of privacy expedition on his own? Not a chance. What surprises me is that anyone still believes their phone conversations or any of their online activities are private. It's been a good many years since I was naive enough to be confident about privacy. For all I know there may be tiny TV cameras hidden in every room of my house. If I found that to be the case, I would not be surprised. I'm one of the little people, so it's probably not worth any spy agency's effort or expense.

    One thing I do know is that I'm done with defending Obama. Maybe the change that's needed in this not-so-fair land is for Republicans to have their way with little or no restraint, and then the backlash will come - or not.

    Reply · 1 · Yesterday at 8:27am

And, of course, it's bless the new grads time! And what fun it's become. This millennium anyway. Graduating in a world of no jobs worth a damn (if they find any at all).

Hell, last Sunday we had that blockhead (and who could believe he was really just a clever salesman?) Steve Case lecturing the grads at UNC about his great success (I guess) in talking Time Warner's bumfuzzled idiots into lying down and being run over by his incredibly overvalued AOL franchise in an acquisition, which, yes, made a lot of connected people a healthy dollop of profits in the short term before the company's value dropped by more than $100 billion, and they finally had the sense to break apart eight years later when the combined market cap of Time Warner and Time Warner Cable had gotten to less than $40 billion, down from $350 billion at the time the merger was announced. But, hey, that's in the past. We're the move-on country!

And no one booed. No one. Oh, for the old college days.

Education. It ain't what's for dinner anymore.

14 May 2013

‘STFU’ Is AIG CEO’s Advice To College Grads

By Bess Levin

Robert Benmosche is still putting the finishing touches on his commencement address of hope.

Robert Benmosche, the chief executive officer of insurer American International Group Inc, has some tough love for college students graduating in the aftermath of the financial crisis. “You have to accept the hand that’s been dealt you in life,” Benmosche said in an interview today with Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television. “Don’t cry about it. Deal with it.” The CEO is scheduled to give a commencement address May 18 at New York State’s Alfred University, where he earned a degree in math and played football. College graduates have struggled to find jobs after the financial crisis sent the U.S. unemployment rate as high as 10 percent in 2009.

Joblessness for recent college graduates, ages 20 to 29, was 12.6 percent in October 2011, a Bureau of Labor Statistics review last month showed. “They want me to talk to the students and give them a sense of encouragement, especially with the high unemployment,” said Benmosche, 68. “My advice will be, whatever opportunity comes your way, take it. Take it and treat it as if it’s the only one that’s coming your way, because that actually may be the truth.”
AIG CEO Tells Grads Don’t Cry About Economy, Deal With It [Bloomberg]

Well, he didn't mince words.

Did he?

Jeez. Sometimes I feel like I'm caught in a time warp watching/living through Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels over and over.

"In realtime" as I used to joke when I was a programmer.

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