Well, boys and girls, if you were concerned about the Constitutional violations of the PATRIOT Act wherein the Bush Administration wiretapped millions of Americans, instituted surveillance on thousands more, and intercepted the financial transactions of who knows how many, you can relax. It’s all good. So sayeth the five-members of the White House Privacy and Civil Liberties Board.
A White House privacy board is giving its stamp of approval to two of the Bush administration’s controversial surveillance programs – electronic eavesdropping and financial tracking – and says they do not violate citizens’ civil liberties.
Of course, those slimy Democrats aren’t satisfied.
Democrats newly in charge of Congress quickly criticized the findings, which they said were questionable given some of the board members’ close ties with the Bush administration.
“Their current findings and any additional conclusions they reach will be taken with a grain of salt until they become fully independent,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee.
Tsk-tsk. Such suspicion. What have they got to be so suspicious about? I’m sure someone as deeply concerned about protecting the privacy of Americans as Bush claims to be would never load the Board up with political hacks and family friends who would give anything he did a pass no matter how offensive or even illegal it might be, right? Take the Chair, for instance. Carol Dinkens.
[Dinkins is] a Houston lawyer and former Reagan administration assistant attorney general.
A longtime friend of the Bush family, she was treasurer of Bush’s first campaign for governor of Texas, and she is a longtime partner in the law firm of Vinson & Elkins, where [Atty Gen Alberto] Gonzales was once a partner.
Oh. Well, I’m sure they’re not all that tied into the Bushies. Are they?
Well, sort of….
Vice Chair: Alan Raul, a corporate lawyer in the firm of Sidley Austin who specializes in regulatory law. Fighting regulations on behalf of the corporatocracy, actually. He’s a member of the Atlantic Legal Foundation. From their website:
Atlantic Legal does invaluable work in the area of corporate governance, working hard to protect America’s economic prosperity by battling intrusive regulations and activist courts while insisting that corporations make themselves more openly accountable to customers and shareholders.
Why do I think the second part gets a lot less attention than the first? Oh well, at least he’s not a member of the Bush family or the WH, just a corporate gunslinger who finds ways for them to evade regulations affecting the health and safety of the public – us – so they can increase their profits at our expense. No biggie.
Member: Ted Olsen, Bush’s ex-lawyer. This is the guy who argued before the Supreme Court that money is free speech and that anything that happens at Guantanamo is legal because it isn’t on US soil and because the president said it was legal. That’s good enough for him, and never mind the inherent contradiction in Bush claiming power over what he just said was foreign soil.
Member: Francis X Taylor. Currently the Chief Security Officer for the General Electric Company, Taylor spent 2 years at State as Colin Powell’s
Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism for the Department of State from July 2001 to November 2002. In this role, he was responsible for the implementing US counterterrorism policy overseas and coordinating the US government response to international terrorist activities.
Oh, Jesus. A spook resume if ever I saw one. At least he worked for Powell instead of Bush. (Or is that hair-splitting?)
The last member of the quintet is ex-Clinton lawyer and the only Democrat, Lanny Davis. Lanny was being very cool, very bi-partisan, answering with a mush-mouth that made it impossible to tell what he was actually saying – and whether or not he meant it.
Lanny Davis, a former Clinton White House counsel and the lone Democrat on the panel, described the board’s first report to Congress as modest. He said most of the work in the past year was spent being briefed on the administration’s surveillance programs.
“We felt reassured regarding the checks-and-balance concerns,” Davis said. He said that after several classified briefings, members were impressed by the multiple layers of review, which included audit trails to track whoever has access to the data.
Still, Davis said he anticipated the board will continue to monitor the program as needed. “It would be a mistake if that was the end of the review,” he said.
Uh-huh. Well. He was “reassured”. That’s good. Of course, he didn’t mention if he was ‘reassured” about the Bushies actually using all those checks instead of what they usually do: rush through with a minimum of corroboration, let alone confirmation, and throw somebody in jail who later turns out to be innocent.
But none of it really matters since Alberto wouldn’t have to anything the Privacy Board recommended if they didn’t like what’s going on.
The warrantless program monitors phone calls and e-mails between the United States and other countries that are suspected to be linked to agents of al-Qaida. A federal judge in Detroit last August declared the program unconstitutional. Government attorneys have since asked a Cincinnati-based appeals court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the case is moot because the surveillance is now monitored by a secret court.
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called it absurd that the White House board effectively gave the eavesdropping program its stamp of approval even before the administration was forced to backtrack and submit it to court oversight.
“I have no confidence in the current board in its ability to provide meaningful evaluation of important programs such as the no-fly lists, based on its work on the domestic surveillance program,” he said. “It is critical that Congress make the civil liberties board independent of the executive branch.”
The board does not have subpoena power, and the White House can change its annual reports before they go to Congress. The members serve at the pleasure of Bush, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has final say over whether officials must comply with the board’s recommendations.
Golly, I feel so much better now that the Privacy Board is there to watchdog for us.