Sunday, June 08, 2008

BUSH, McCAIN, THE GOP, AND THE BLUE DOGS ALL SEE EYE TO EYE ON RETROACTIVE IMMUNITY FOR CRIMINALS

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There were some primaries while I was away and there's one winning Blue America candidate I especially want to call to your attention, Martin Heinrich (NM-01). While some Democrats-- like David Boren (OK), John Barrow (GA), Chris Carney (PA), Melissa Bean (IL), Jim Cooper (TN), Tim Holden (PA), Nick Lampson (TX) and Heath Shuler (NC)-- are actually taking bribes contributions from the Telecom industry and rubber stamping Bush's decision to use illegal and unconstitutional warrantless wiretaps against American citizens while granting these "donors" retroactive immunity for having broken the law, and while other Democrats are ducking the controversy and cowering under their desks hoping no one calls them on it, Martin has aggressively taken the battle to the law-breakers and their champions. He has gone after his crook-coddling/Bush backing Republican opponent, Darren White, in a way that New Mexico voters understand. And in this video he goes after those who would shred the Constitution for a bowl of corporate porridge: "Bush's allies on both sides of the aisle have ignored the rule of law and infringed upon our constitutional rights." Watch him:



The video points out that 41 bribe-hungry Democrats joined 186 extremist (and bribe-hungry) Republicans to vote for warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. Martin made the video before John McCain made it clear last week that his vision for a third Bush term includes continuing Bush's destruction of the Constitution. This is another in a series of spectacular McCain flip flops meant to placate the far right of his political party. Where once he called for investigations into warrantless wiretaps, now he suddenly says Bush was right to order them and that he would do the same if elected. Just last year McCain was saying "I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is... I don't think the president has the right to disobey any law." Last week, the lobbyists who run his campaign-- some of whom have been taking immense sums of money from the law-breaking telecoms-- were castigating the ACLU for agreeing with what he said in 2007 and declaring that "neither the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001."

Even Establishment insiders like Joe Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, think McCain is way off base and that this is just another in a long string of examples of his muddled and confused thinking on important security issues.
In his statement, Biden wrote that the FISA statute, which he helped draft, "made clear the exclusive legal steps the President must take in order to conduct national security surveillance."

"President Bush chose to ignore the law and now it seems Senator McCain will continue this policy," Biden writes. "Once again-- there is no daylight between President Bush and Sen. McCain."

"We all share the goal of capturing the terrorists and protecting national security and we can do that without violating the privacy of the American people," he added. "Like President Bush, Sen. McCain is presenting the American people with a false choice-- national security or civil liberties. We need a President who understands that we can have both. It’s what our values and our Constitution demands.”

You may be aware that our PAC has been running a series of educational ads for the residents of Chris Carney's northeastern Pennsylvania district. Previously we shared the full page newspaper ads and TV spots that the readers of this blog and several others managed to purchase. The radio spots started running last week on WGGY (country music), WILK (news/talk), WMGS (adult contemporary), WBHT and WBHD (Top 40). Take a listen and if you'd like to help us with more ads like this for more members of Congress who don't believe in the rule of law, please visit the PAC.




UPDATE: COMCAST REFUSES TO RUN OUR ADS-- AND CARNEY PRESSURES LOCAL MEDIA IN HIS DISTRICT

Glenn Greenwald over at Salon has been arguing with Comcast for the past 2 weeks about our FISA advertising. All the radio stations, 7 newspapers and all non-Comcast TV stations ran the ads, despite calls from Carney. Comcast, one of the companies that has been accused of illegal spying on American citizens, refuses to run them. Glenn wrote about it today.
Quite predictably, Comcast's legal counsel, David Silverman of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Washington DC, wrote an email late last week (here) claiming -- laughably -- that Comcast has decided to reject the ad because it "would face potential liability for any defamation contained in the spot." Silverman identified one line in the ad during which the logos of the lawbreaking telecoms (including Comcast) are displayed -- "[Carney] wants to pardon phone companies who broke the law and gave thousands to his campaign" -- and claimed that this statement "is factually incorrect and potentially defamatory against the entities shown."

The very suggestion that Comcast is rejecting this ad due to fear of defamation lawsuits -- rather than because the ad brings to light Comcast's own lawbreaking and criticizes one of its favored Congressman -- is just preposterous. As indicated, multiple newspapers, television and radio stations vetted the same ad and accepted it and have been broadcasting it. The only difference is that, unlike Comcast, they and their favored Congressman aren't criticized in the ad.

Moreover, the fact that these telcoms broke the law in allowing warrantless spying is an argument that lies at the heart of the debate over telecom amnesty and FISA. It is a claim that -- as the mountains of substantiation submitted to Comcast demonstrates -- is made continuously in all sorts of venues and by multiple political and media figures, without any of them ever being sued for "defamation."

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3 Comments:

At 9:40 AM, Anonymous me said...

"retroactive immunity for criminals"

The real point is, retroactive immunity for campaign contributors.

 
At 12:43 PM, Blogger Sena Fitzmaurice said...

Comcast deeply appreciates citizen concerns regarding alleged wiretapping under the FISA laws. For our part, it is a matter of public record that we have not made our systems available to the government for any customer surveillance without valid legal process, and we have not lobbied on FISA legislation.
While we strongly believe in vigorous debate on these and other issues, we must also respect laws on defamation. Our outside counsel has advised us that the advertising in question could violate laws against defamation because the ads claim or that some companies violated criminal or other laws without any court finding of such a violation. Declining such advertising in these circumstances is standard and responsible practice. Free speech is an essential value, but fairness requires that we all observe the fundamental rules of due process and defamation laws.

Attached is a copy of the letter to Mr. Greenwald from our attorney.

--- Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast

Dear Mr. Greenwald:
We are writing on behalf of our client, Comcast Cable Communications, in response to your request that Comcast run a television spot regarding U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, sponsored by the so-called "Blue America PAC." Since this spot would not be considered a candidate "use" under Section 315 of the Communications Act (47 USC 315), Comcast would face potential liability for any defamation contained in the spot.
As you know, the spot contains the following audio regarding Rep. Carney: "He wants to pardon phone companies who broke the law and gave thousands to his campaign." That audio is spoken over a video image showing the logos of the following entities: AT&T, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association ("NCTA"), Verizon, Embarq and Comcast. A Monopoly-type "Get out of jail free" card is then superimposed over the images of the logos. Thus, the express language of the spot combined with the images shown implies that the entities whose logos are shown "broke the law" and face either "jail" or a potential "pardon," both of which would be applicable to a criminal conviction.
In support of the statement that these entities "broke the law," you have provided links to the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ("EFF") and, in the case of Verizon, the ACLU, "demonstrating that listed telecoms are defendants in the lawsuits based on illegal spying." For the proposition that "[t]hese telecoms broke the law with their illegal spying," you provide a link to your own opinion blog in Salon.com. None of the links provided implicate NCTA in any way.
Moreover, all of the lawsuits for which you have provided links are civil suits that would not result in criminal liability, even if decided against the defendants. More importantly, however, there have been no adjudications in any of these lawsuits against the defendants, including Verizon and AT&T. As I am sure you know, the mere filing of a lawsuit, whether civil or criminal, is not equivalent to a finding of liability or wrongdoing by the defendant unless so decided by a judge following prosecution of the litigation (or, in the case of a criminal complaint, a guilty plea by the defendant). In fact, the EFF website shows that the civil suits against Comcast (and other carriers) have been dismissed: http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/att/mdl3.pdf.
Under the circumstances, the spot you have provided is factually incorrect and potentially defamatory against the entities shown. Under Pennsylvania law, a false allegation of criminal wrongdoing is considered to be defamation per se. While Comcast tries to accommodate all requests to run political advertising, regardless of the position taken (even if critical of Comcast itself), the company cannot accept a spot that is false and defamatory. Accordingly, we have advised Comcast to decline your request to run this spot, and they have concluded that they have no choice but to do so. If you believe you have additional documentation that would alter our conclusion, or if you care to submit an alternate spot that is factually correct, you are, of course, free to do so.

 
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