Democrats Working To Hide Spy Abuses Even As They Bubble Out

When government agencies release a report on a Friday, you know that there’s someone who’s hoping that news about the report will get lost in the weekend news cycle and be forgotten by Monday. When that government report is released on a Friday evening in the middle of the summer, it’s a sign of something particularly embarrassing.

That’s just what happened with the release of an inspectors general report about the use of Big Brother spying techniques by the White House against law-abiding Americans within the borders of the USA. There’s a lot to cover from this report, but here are some highlights:

– The Bush Administration was engaging in much more surveillance against Americans than has been revealed so far. The report calls this spying “extraordinary and inappropriate”, but the inspectors general won’t reveal to the public just what it involved.
– Top officials concluded that the Big Brother spying wasn’t actually very effective in protecting Americans against terrorism.
– Congress was not informed of the spying as required by law.

That last point is extremely important because of two other factors:

– Much of the warrantless spying against Americans continues under President Barack Obama
– The story expanded last night with leaked information that Vice President Dick Cheney himself was directing intelligence agencies to keep information about spying secret from the U.S. Congress.

What makes this a Green Party issue? For one thing, the Green Party is opposed to government secrecy and violations of Americans constitutional rights. On a political level, the Green Party can be strongly differentiated from the Democrats and the Republicans, as both of these political parties are involved in the cover-up of government surveillance programs against the American people.

Not only has the Democratic-led Congress failed to conduct any meaningful inquiry into the illegal spying, but last year, many Democrats, including then-Senator Barack Obama, joined the Republicans in passing the FISA Amendments Act, a law that legalized massive electronic surveillance of our private communications and provided retroactive immunity to telecommunications corporations who helped George W. Bush with his spying programs. Furthermore, President Obama has opposed efforts by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to reveal the extent of electronic spying against Americans.

Last month, in order to start to control the abuse, a small number of Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee introduced a measure into an appropriations bill that would increase the number of members of Congress who would have to be informed of CIA spying activities. Almost immediately, President Obama announced that he was opposed to the measure, and would veto any legislation that included such requirements for increased oversight.

How did the House Democrats react? They backed down, saying that they’ll work with the White House to cripple to oversight provision.

At the very time that it’s becoming clear that the Republicans’ illegally kept secrets about government spying from Congress, Obama and the congressional Democrats are working to make sure that the secrecy continues. The Democrats aren’t repairing the Republicans’ attacks against the Constitution – they’re continuing them. It’s going to take another political party with true progressive values to undo the damage.


31 Democrats in Congress Vote For Secret Interrogations

Editor’s note-Jonathan Cook is our newest contributor and I believe this, his first piece, may not have been noticed by many, so I put it back atop the list to be sure others saw it as well.

As the Green Party moves toward the 2010 congressional elections, we should expect most progressives to react with the standard Democratic line of dismissal: “I like what ____ and the Green Party stand for, but they’re just not a credible part of this election.” Of course, credibility in an election is determined by the voters, and if more progressive voters could be convinced to vote for what they actually believe in, rather than what they’ve been duped to believe they must accept in the name of pragmatism, the Green Party and its congressional candidates would be quite credible in many congressional races.

If voters are to consider credibility in an election, we need them to focus on the credibility of ideas first. Voters will be more likely to do so if we can show that Democratic candidates, and the Democratic Party in general, are adopting policy positions that don’t match the Democrats’ progressive promises. In order to accomplish this, we need to become students of the U.S. Congress, keeping close watch on the details of legislative activity on display through the Library of Congress, but rarely reported upon by corporate journalists. Search through the dreck, and you’ll find Democrats in Congress engaging in some truly rotten politics.

For example, last week, 31 Democrats voted against a measure that would prevent torture and other abusive interrogation techniques by requiring the videotaping of all military interrogations, except for tactical interrogations that take place on the battlefield itself, where videotaping equipment is not available. The measure, an amendment to the Defense appropriations bill, was inspired by the Walsh Report issued this January by a Pentagon task force. That task force concluded that video taping interrogations had been successful in civilian law enforcement, would provide more reliable intelligence, and would protect both prisoners and interrogators.

Yet, 31 Democrats in the House of Representatives, listed below, voted against this measure. They followed the right wing argument that any regulation of interrogation is a bad thing that puts us in danger of terrorist attack.

Altmire, Jason
Arcuri, Michael A.
Baird, Brian
Barrow, John
Boren, Dan
Bright, Bobby
Cardoza, Dennis A.
Chandler, Ben
Childers, Travis W.
Costa, Jim
Cuellar, Henry
Davis, Artur
Davis, Lincoln
Dingell, John D.
Donnelly, Joe
Ellsworth, Brad
Gordon, Bart
Griffith, Parker
Holden, Tim
Kilpatrick, Carolyn C.
Kosmas, Suzanne M.
Kratovil, Frank Jr.
Marshall, Jim
Matheson, Jim
Murphy, Christopher S.
Peterson, Collin C.
Ross, Mike
Shuler, Heath
Space, Zachary T.
Taylor, Gene
Teague, Harry

With this one vote, these Democratic U.S. Representatives made themselves vulnerable on many issues to progressive opposition from their own Democratic constituents, as well as from Green Party challengers in 2010. The issues involved include torture, government secrecy, reliable standards of evidence in military tribunals, effective government intelligence, and the dismissal of the military’s own recommendations for reform.

Yet, not one professional journalist has written any article about this legislation, and the 31 Democrats’ votes against it. If the mainstream news media won’t report on antiprogressive Democratic votes like this, how can voters take this behavior into account when they decide how to vote in 2010?

There is an answer to that question: We Greens need to bring them the stories of regressive Democratic acts in Congress that the corporate journalists won’t write about. We can stop accepting the role of victims of the corporate media, and we can challenge it, creating our own media to show why it’s the Democrats, not the Greens, that lack credibility.

It’s this mission that leads me to join the effort here at Green Party Watch, and to offer an independent voice for my own region through Upstate Greens. The elections of 2010 may seem a long time away, but we need to act now to set up the media networks to challenge what surely will be, as before, a roaring silence in the mainstream’s coverage of Green campaigns.


Stimulus Package and TARP Termination Bills in Congress

S. 3689 is the first stimulus package introduced from what I can tell. www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=… it also includes $$$$ to the automakers, but no specified amount. It appears to come from the TARP funds.

The Republican alternative is HR 7306. The discussion here as I see it is if we continue to work against the bailout and support HR 7306 or if we support S. 3689. I support ending the bailout but want to see the allocations defined that would result from the termination of the bailout. HR 7306 is not at that point yet in the process.

Greens need to engage decisively on behalf of one package over the other and come to some realistic perspective of what our maximized role can be. There are obviously upsides and downsides to both bills. Our visibility needs to be more relevant as the recession deepens. It is not the time to stand on the sidelines and critique everyone and everything without speciic alternatives.

Martin Zehr

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