By Keith Olbermann
Thursday 31 January 2008
And finally, as promised, a Special Comment - of FISA and the telecoms.
In a presidency of hypocrisy - an administration of exploitation - a labyrinth of leadership - in which every vital fact is a puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma hidden under a claim of executive privilege supervised by an idiot - this one… is surprisingly easy.
President Bush has put protecting the telecom giants from the laws… ahead of protecting you from the terrorists.
He has demanded an extension of the FISA law - the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - but only an extension that includes retroactive immunity for the telecoms who helped him spy on you.
Congress has given him, and he has today signed a fifteen-day extension which simply kicks the time bomb down the field, and has changed nothing of his insipid rhetoric, in which he portrays the Democrats as 'soft on terror' and getting in the way of his superhuman efforts to protect the nation… when, in fact, and with bitter irony, if anybody is 'soft on terror' here… it is Mr. Bush.
In the State of the Union Address, sir, you told Congress, "if you do not act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger."
Yet you are willing to weaken that ability!
You will subject us, your citizens, to that greater danger.
This, Mr. Bush, is simple enough even for you to understand: If Congress approves a new FISA act without telecom immunity and sends it to your desk and you veto it - you, by your own terms and your own definitions, you will have just sided with the terrorists.
Ya gotta have this law, or we're all gonna die. But you might veto this law!
It's bad enough, sir, that you are demanding an ex post facto law which would clear the phone giants from responsibility for their systematic, aggressive, and blatant collaboration with your illegal and unjustified spying on Americans, under the flimsy guise of looking for any terrorists stupid enough to make a collect call or send a mass e-mail.
But when you then demanded again, during the State of the Union address, that Congress retroactively clear the Verizons and the AT&T's, you wouldn't even confirm that they actually did anything for which they deserved to be cleared!
"The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America."
Don't you know?
Does the endless hair-splitting of your presidential fine print, extend even here?
If you, sir, are asking Congress, and us, to join you in this shameless, breathless, literal, textbook example of fascism - the merged efforts of government and corporations who answer to no government - you still don't have the guts to even say the telecom companies did assist you, in your efforts?
Will you and the equivocators who surround you like a cocoon never go on the record about anything?
Even the stuff you claim to believe in?
Of course Mr. Bush is going to say "believed."
Yes, it sounds dumber than if he had referred to himself as "the alleged president," or had said today was "reportedly Thursday," or had claimed "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.
But the moment he says anything else, any doubt that the telecoms knowingly broke the law, is out the window, and with it, any chance that even the Republicans who are fighting this like they were trying to fend off terrorists using nothing but broken beer bottles and swear words couldn't consent to retroactively immunize corporate criminals.
Which is why the Vice President probably shouldn't have phoned in to the Rush Limbaugh Propaganda-Festival yesterday.
Sixth sentence out of Mr. Cheney's mouth: The FISA bill is about, quote, "retroactive liability protection for the companies that have worked with us and helped us prevent further attacks against the United States."
Mr. Cheney is something of a loose cannon, of course.
But he kind of let the wrong cat out of the bag there.
Because Mr. Bush - and the corporations he values more than people - didn't want anybody to verify what Mark Klein says.
Mark Klein is the AT&T whistleblower who appeared on this newscast last November, who explained, in the placid, dull terms of your local neighborhood I-T desk, how he personally attached all of AT&T's circuits - everything carrying every phone call, every e-mail, every bit of web browsing - into a secure room…
…Room Number 641-A, at the Folsom Street facility in San Francisco - where it was all copied so the government could look at it.
Not some of it; not just the international part of it; certainly not just the stuff some truly patriotic and telepathic spy might be able to divine had been sent or spoken by or to a terrorist.
Every time you looked at a naked picture, every time you bid on eBay, every time you phoned-in a donation to a Democrat.
"My thought was 'George Orwell's 1984,'" Mr. Klein told me, reflecting back, "and here I am, being forced to… connect the Big Brother machine."
You know, Mr. Bush, if Mr. Klein's "Big Brother Machine" - the one the Vice President conveniently just confirmed for us - if it was of any damn use at all at actually finding anything, you could probably program it to find out who started that slanderous e-mail about Barack Obama.
Use Room 641-A to identify that E–assassin, sir, and I'll stand up and applaud you.
Yeah, I'm holding my breath on that one, too.
But of course, sir, this isn't about finding that kind of needle in a haystack. This isn't even about finding a haystack. This is about scooping up every piece of hay there ever was, and laying the groundwork for the next little job which you have to outsource to AT&T and Verizon.
It was your Director of National Intelligence, Mr. McConnell, letting this one out of the same bag.
The need for Homeland Security to stave off cyber-attacks against the government's computer networks.
And how do they do that, sir?
By constantly monitoring the internet - the whole internet.
And who actually, physically, does that, Mr. Bush?
Right. The same telecom giants for whom you want immunity - Quickly. So quickly, you wouldn't believe it.
Because this previous domestic spying, and this upcoming policing of the internet - they may be completely evil, indiscriminate, unlawful. So you have to dress it up, as something just the opposite.
It isn't evil… it's "to protect America."
It isn't indiscriminate… it's "the ability to monitor terrorist communications."
It isn't unlawful… it's just the kind of perfectly legal thing, for which you happen to need immunity!
There's yet another level to this, and here we move from Big Brother… to Sleazy Son.
Mr. Bush's new Attorney General, Mr. Mukasey, the one who has already taken four different positions on water-boarding, and who may yet tie that record on this subject of telecom immunity - he has a very personal stake in this.
There happens to be a partner in the law firm of Bracewell and Giuliani, named Marc Mukasey. And Bracewell and Giuliani and the Attorney General's son Marc, just happen to represent… Verizon.
You know, Verizon - Telecom Giant.
And all of a sudden this is no longer just a farce in which "protecting the telecoms" is dressed up for us as, 'protecting us from terrorist conference calls.'
Now it begins to look like the bureaucrats of the Third Reich trying to protect the Krupp Family industrial giants by literally re-writing the laws for their benefit.
And we know how that turned out: Alfried Krupp and eleven of his directors were convicted of War Crimes at Nuremburg.
For those of us watching a President demanding this very specific law (the one the Germans had was called the "Lex Krupp") there is one surprising bit of comfort in all this:
Clearly, Mr. Bush is at his hyperbolic worst here.
Consider how his former chief of staff Andy Card came on and scolded Chris Matthews and me after the State of the Union address.
"The President's address tonight was very important," Card said, "because it really was a sobering call to reality for us.
"And the reality is, we have an enemy who wants to hurt us. The primary job of the president to protect us.
"He talked about protecting us. He talked about the needs to have the tools to protect us."
Indeed, Mr. Bush.
The primary job of any president is to protect us.
Not just those of us who own Internet and Telephone companies - All of us.
And even you, sir, with your intermittent grasp of reality… even with your ego greater than a 100-percent approval rating… even with your messianic petulance - even you could not truly choose to protect the corporations instead of the people.
I am not talking about ethics here. I am talking about blame.
Even if it's you throwing out the baby with the bathwater, Mr. Bush, it still means we can safely conclude… there is no baby!
This is not a choice of protecting the telecoms from prosecution, or protecting the people from terrorists, sir.
It is a choice of protecting the telecoms from prosecution, or pretending to protect the people from terrorists.
Sorry, Mr. Bush. The eavesdropping provisions of FISA have obviously had no impact on counter-terrorism, and there is no current or perceived terrorist threat, the thwarting of which could hinge on an e-mail or a phone call going through room 641-A at AT&T in San Francisco next week or next month.
Because if there were, Mr. Bush, and you were to, by your own hand, veto an extension of this eavesdropping, and some terrorist attack were to follow, you would not merely be guilty of siding with the terrorists, you would not merely be guilty of prioritizing the telecoms over the people, you would not merely be guilty of stupidity, you would not merely be guilty of treason… but you would be personally, and eternally, responsible.
And if there is one thing we know about you, Mr. Bush, one thing that you have proved time and time again under any and all circumstances, it is that you are never responsible.
Good night and good luck.