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House of Representatives To Discuss Wiretapping In Closed Session 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the maybe-they-are-trying-to-be-ironic dept.
Nimey brings word that for the first time in 25 years, the US House of Representatives will use a closed-door session to discuss proposed wiretapping legislation. The old legislation expired last month when government officials could not agree on retroactive immunity for the telecommunications providers who assisted with the wiretaps. The most recent version of the bill, proposed by House democrats, does not include telecom immunity. Because of that, President Bush has stated his willingness to veto the bill. The Yahoo article notes, "The closed-door debate was scheduled for late Thursday night, after the House chamber could be cleared and swept by security personnel to make sure there are no listening devices."
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House of Representatives To Discuss Wiretapping In Closed Session

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  • by twitter (104583) * on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:04PM (#22747468) Homepage Journal

    They are also going to decide to prosecute or not [truthout.org]. This is not nearly good enough and it stinks of cover up. Check out what the Wall Street Journal and ACLU have to say about this [slashdot.org].

    I wonder if they consider cell phones a listening device [slashdot.org].

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dpninerSLASH (969464) *
      Good the The House Democrats. Like many other U.S. citizens I've had it up to my chin with Bush's arrogant, irresponsible, and unintelligent deconstruction of our country. I hope they give him the fight of a lifetime on this that keeps him awake at night.

      To argue that Bush has done anything whatsoever to fend off terrorism is a joke. I couldn't care less about the immigration system, but his blatant failings to secure our southern borders stands in direct conflict with the GOP's assertions that we
    • by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Friday March 14, 2008 @02:39AM (#22748770)
      The reason for secrecy here could be to review Bush administration actions without risk of revealing those actions to the public. Of course we would all like to know who as been spied on and why, but it may not be legal for congress to reveal those things in an open session. However, congress's being properly informed about any wrongdoing may supersede our desire (or right, if you insist) to observe their their session. So, in terms of their future decisions concerning FISA, a closed session may be the best option considering that many legislators would not become properly informed of wrongdoing otherwise.
  • by iknowcss (937215) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:04PM (#22747470) Homepage
    They wouldn't possibly oppose someone bugging the session room while they discuss, would they?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jollyreaper (513215)

      They wouldn't possibly oppose someone bugging the session room while they discuss, would they?
      Someone should tell Alanis she can add another verse to her song.
      • by ClickOnThis (137803) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:56PM (#22747816) Journal

        Someone should tell Alanis she can add another verse to her song.
        Someone should tell Alanis what the word ironic actually means. Oh wait, someone has -- comedian Ed Byrne:

                "There's nothing ironic about being stuck in a traffic jam when you're late for something. Unless you're a town planner. If you were a town planner and you were on your way to a seminar of town planners at which you were giving a talk on how you solved the problem of traffic congestion in your area, couldn't get to it because you were stuck in a traffic jam, that'd be well ironic."

                "Rain on your wedding day is ironic only if marrying a weatherman and he set the date."

                "A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break, that's inconsiderate office management. A no-smoking sign in a cigarette factory - irony."

                "Ten thousand spoons? How big is your sink, Alanis? What do you need this knife for - to stab the bloke who keeps leaving spoons all over your house?"

        [Thanks to wikipedia for the quotes.]
        • by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:14PM (#22747916)
          Aha, but a song about Irony with no irony in it- now that's ironic.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by vigmeister (1112659)

          Ten thousand spoons
          Steel *is* around 70% ironic you know....

          Cheers!
          --
          Vig
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Like any other proposed violation of people's rights -- this is only a good idea when it's somebody else who's affected. That's exactly why racism and prejudice is able to take hold... It's really easy to verify that you're not a member of the 'them' that is being negatively impacted by it.
  • by b4upoo (166390) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:05PM (#22747482)
    It's time to drop the idea of the government being somehow separate from the people and grant all citizens access to all governmental information. We do not need big brother operating with rules and laws that are in any way different than they are for any citizen. Nothing is more basic than the right to know.
    • I totally agree with you. I used to think of the government as people just like you and I, but time and time again they have demonstrated they are in fact not 'for the people, by the people'. It seems to me connections and money pull far to much weight in higher elected offices. No simple solutions, but I think something needs to be done to remind them they are in fact citizens/people just like the rest of us. And just be held to the same standards and ideals as anyone else.
    • by belmolis (702863) <billposer AT alum DOT mit DOT edu> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:30PM (#22747688) Homepage

      While I agree that there is way too much secrecy and that it is used far too often to protect wrongdoing by government officials, eliminating secret government information would be a disaster. Do you really want every hostile government and terrorist to know the locations, travel schedules, and arming codes for all US nuclear weapons? What do you think will happen if the names of undercover agents in foreign countries are publicized? How about the impact on fighting organized crime and terrorism of eliminating the Witness Protection program? If you make use of government health care, do you really want everyone to be able to read your medical records?

      • by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:37PM (#22747728)
        do you really want everyone to be able to read your medical records

        No, he just wants to be able to read your medical records, and any related to his political opponents. His are off limits, since that's part of his freedom, you know.
        • There's not a high enough /. score to do that one justice.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ArcherB (796902) *

          No, he just wants to be able to read your medical records, and any related to his political opponents. His are off limits, since that's part of his freedom, you know.

          Actually, many politicians release their medical records. I do agree with you though that mine should remain private. That's one of the reasons I'm against the government paying for my health care. Once they are the ones paying for it, they are the ones controlling it.

          OK, now can you answer the rest of the questions? Here they are as the GP stated them:

          Do you really want every hostile government and terrorist to know the locations, travel schedules, and arming codes for all US nuclear weapons?
          What do you think will happen if the names of undercover agents in foreign countries are publicized?
          How about the impact on fighting organized crime and terrorism of eliminating the Witness Protection program?

          Should all that stuff be public knowledge as well? Don't get me wrong, I'd love to know all the secrets the government has. Unfortunately, the govern

          • by TapeCutter (624760)
            "That's one of the reasons I'm against the government paying for my health care. Once they are the ones paying for it, they are the ones controlling it."

            Sorry but that's BS. Unlike private insurance companies UHC does not need to keep (or even see) your record to pay your bill - a reciept exchangable for cash is sufficient, bulk billing is less hassle and cheaper. In many countries that have UHC the records belong either to the patient or the doctor (who is under oath/regulation not allowed to reveal it)
        • Wish I had mod points. :)
      • by SethJohnson (112166) on Friday March 14, 2008 @01:35AM (#22748560) Homepage Journal


        If you make use of government health care, do you really want everyone to be able to read your medical records?

        As it stands, one of the first things Bush / Cheney did when they took control was to pass the Medical Privacy Act. Perhaps the most ironic aspect of this law is that it opens patients' private medical records for scrutiny by ALL insurance companies.

        Seth
        • by mpe (36238)
          As it stands, one of the first things Bush / Cheney did when they took control was to pass the Medical Privacy Act. Perhaps the most ironic aspect of this law is that it opens patients' private medical records for scrutiny by ALL insurance companies.

          So does that mean that if you start an insurance company in the US you can look at Bush and Cheney's medical records? (Even if what you create is an entirely "paper" company without any employees or customers.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499)
      grant all citizens access to all governmental information

      Oh, well, as long as you're only going to make it available to citizens. There shouldn't be any problem at all with foreign hackers, people who want to blow up one of our ambassadors, or anyone who might want to know when President Obama will be crossing a certain intersection at a certain time of day on his way to attending some event. As long as it's only citizens with access to all government information, we should be fine. There aren't any citi
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by deblau (68023)

      It's time to drop the idea of the government being somehow separate from the people and grant all citizens access to all governmental information.

      Although it's cliche, unlike all the drummed-up BS that the Bush administration and the media like to feed you, opening up all government information really would benefit terrorists and others who wish us harm. Names and assignments of undercover agents and their contacts, methods for gathering intelligence, crypto we've broken, crypto we haven't, nuclear weapon

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Names and assignments of undercover agents...

        Unless of course the name is Valerie Plame, and the 'national interest' is defined narrowly as 'Cheney's vindictiveness'.

    • by mpe (36238)
      It's time to drop the idea of the government being somehow separate from the people and grant all citizens access to all governmental information.

      Or maybe make it very difficult for people to be career politicans, thus preventing the creation of a patrician class.
  • by SonicSpike (242293) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:05PM (#22747486) Homepage Journal
    Yep that's right. America needs a second party.

    I will not be voting for Obama, Hillary, or McCain. We will get the SAME THING with all of the above. Instead I'm voting for none of the above; either the Libertarian Party candidate, the Constitution Party candidate, or I'll write in US Congressman Dr Ron Paul.

    If more people would refuse to vote for more of the same, then we might actually get politicians with integrity that follow and uphold the rule of law.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      or I'll write in US Congressman Dr Ron Paul.

      Ron Paul the Republican? Yeah, great way to oppose the Republican/Democrat duopoly. What's next on your agenda, fucking for virginity?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Oddster (628633)

      If more people would refuse to vote for more of the same, then we might actually get politicians with integrity that follow and uphold the rule of law.

      You cannot get politicians, third party or not, with "integrity" as long as there are silly criminal laws on the books. And by silly, I mean laws that may evoke some sense of morality or social norm emotionally, but that really should not be codified in the legal system (the American one, anyway). Gambling, drugs, and prostitution come immediately to mind - threatening people with jail is not a significant deterrent to these vices, so it ends up just making a whole lot of people so-far-uncaught criminals

    • It'll never work until we get something other than first-past-the-post elections, unfortunately. :(
    • I will not be voting for Obama, Hillary, or McCain. We will get the SAME THING with all of the above. Instead I'm voting for none of the above; either the Libertarian Party candidate, the Constitution Party candidate, or I'll write in US Congressman Dr Ron Paul

      Correction:

      I will not be voting for Obama, Hillary, or McCain. We will get the SAME THING with all of the above. Instead I'm voting for none of the above; Either throw my vote away on a lost cause because people do not want what these people offer, or
  • by Anonymous Coward
    the future of our nation's policy on personal privacy is determined by a 500p3r-53kr!+ panel of crooked politicians.

    Systems Normal, All Fscked Up!

    -AC

    *sig removed by NSA content filter*
  • by LM741N (258038) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:15PM (#22747588)
    The one to the public, the one to the lobbyists, or the one to the 3 letter agencies.
  • Bush has a lot less leverage than he seems to think. The Democrats are at the very least torn morally about wiretapping, with the more leftward-leaning quite happy not to permit it at all. That's essentially the situation we have right now, with the previous legislation expired and with no immunity for telecoms. Bush can veto any related legislation he wants, but it won't force Congress's hand, because there will always be enough of his opponents willing to just not send anything to his desk.

    What will en
    • There's a greater than 50% chance that the next President will be a Democrat (to my personal chagrin, but I'm being realistic here), and the telecoms, FBI, CIA, DoJ, etc. will have things much worse when it comes to wiretapping at that point.

      You mean that they will have to go through FISA, which they can do a day or two AFTER they start tapping, and which almost never says no? Cry me a river.

      Of course, they do have to make one application per tap, so that means they couldn't listen to millions... but I see

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:16PM (#22747598)
    We would absolutely love it if you would get a tape and give it to wikileaks. Or Youtube. Or John Stewart.
    • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:29PM (#22747680)

      We would absolutely love it if you would get a tape and give it to wikileaks. Or Youtube. Or John Stewart.
      Mod down? No, mod parent up. This would be fucking awesome. Bush did a little song and dance at the Washington Press Whores dinner last week, closed to the public. He was yucking it up about obstructing justice, talking about going back to the ranch and saying hi to Cheney whose standing there with all the documents he's withholding. This is the same asshole who joked about not being able to find WMD's, miming looking under the podium "no wmd's here", the same asshole who said "You are the haves and the have more's; some call you the moneyed elite, I call you my base."

      We need to damn these fuckers with their own words. People have been deservedly killed for less; I think we can all agree that voting them out of office is a peaceable compromise.
      • by BAM0027 (82813) <blo@27.org> on Friday March 14, 2008 @12:01AM (#22748188) Homepage
        Nah, you can't vote them out or impeach them. You have to wait for them to do something _really_ heinous, something that would impact a whole bunch of people.

        Something worse than the 4,000 military personnel and the thousands of citizens that've died in Iraq.

        Something worse than the civil liberties that've been compromised.

        Something worse than the trillions of dollars that've been borrowed against future generations for a baseless war.

        Something worse than the loss of funds to pay for education.

        Nah, just wait for them to do something _really_ awful, like pay for sex.
      • We need to damn these fuckers with their own words.

        Absolutely. And while I think its unlikely that we'll get a Scooby Do/The Closer confession on video, I'm willing to settle for a macaca moment [wikipedia.org].
      • by timeOday (582209)
        Bush would just use it as an excuse to never tell Congress anything again.
  • The Facts (Score:5, Informative)

    by ewhac (5844) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:22PM (#22747630) Homepage Journal
    The law that permits surveillance of foreign communications -- FISA -- did not expire last month, and remains in force. What actually expired was the Orwellian-named "Protect America Act," a temporary amendment to FISA which removed the requirement for any kind of warrant for certain surveillance targets "reasonably believed" to be outside the United States.

    Surveillance of foreign targets may still be conducted under the auspices of FISA -- you'll just need to get a warrant. Up to three days after the fact. From the special secret FISA court. Which has never said no. Such hardship.

    Schwab

  • Fear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Heshler (1191623) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:25PM (#22747650)
    "Whitehouse said the documents assert that the president has the power to determine what his constitutional powers are, particularly in a time of war." Would the "War on Drugs" in this case be grounds for the President determining his own powers? While I believe that no one such have such uncheck spying powers, I think the real issue is that the Bush administration has proven, in so many cases, to be inept and untrustworthy, especially with Americans' privacy. How can we trust him when he says (or rather, directly implies) that the result of the bill not passing WILL be a terrorist attack on the US? This is a blatant fear mongering technique; he has not clarified how the program helps fight terrorists, yet he expects everyone to be afraid enough to give him anything he wants. Lately, Republicans have made it sound like the House Democrats are responsible for a coming wave of destruction on America. This emotional play is unacceptable: we need evidence that the wiretapping is actually doing some good, not more fear.
  • Oh, wiretapping a phone is immoral and illegal to get information, but waterboarding is ok.
  • Is it just me, or does anyone else find it extremely hillarious to see the comment

    The Yahoo article notes, "The closed-door debate was scheduled for late Thursday night, after the House chamber could be cleared and swept by security personnel to make sure there are no listening devices."
    related to a debate about how OK it is to spy on people?

    I'm sure its standard procedure in stuff like that, but I can't help but LOL
  • ...in this country still has privacy! Where do I go to have a secret session room?
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:13PM (#22747908) Homepage Journal
    This stunt is the first time in 25 years that the House has gone into secret session. John Conyers (D-MI), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, skeptically agreed with the move [wired.com]:

    The more my colleagues know, the less they believe this Administration's rhetoric. As someone who has chaired classified hearings and reviewed classified materials on this subject, I believe the more information Members receive about this Administration's actions in the area of warrantless surveillance, the more likely they are to reject the Administration's scare tactics and threats. My colleagues who joined me in the hearings and reviewed the Administration's documents have walked away with an inescapable conclusion: the Administration has not made the case for unprecedented spying powers and blanket retroactive immunity for phone companies.

    Whether this is a worthwhile exercise or mere grandstanding depends on whether Republicans have groundbreaking new information that would affect the legislative process. There must be a very high bar to urge the House into a secret session for the first time in 25 years. I eagerly await their presentation to see if it clears this threshold. As someone who has seen and heard an enormous amount of information already, I have my doubts.


    Leave it to the Republicans. You have to, because they refused to let Democrats call a secret session last year, when Democrats wanted to review classified FISA evidence [thehill.com] to decide how to revise FISA as Republicans have demanded (but didn't while they owned the majority):

    [House Minority Leader] Boehner's spokesman, Kevin Smith, derided the secret session proposal as a stalling tactic.

    "There are clear rules and procedures for how Congress handles classified information," Smith said. "This nonsense is nothing more than another stalling tactic from a bunch of liberals who don't want to give our intelligence officials all the tools they need to keep America safe."


    That kind of severe contradiction should disqualify anyone from participation in either "Intelligence" or "Judiciary" decisions.
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:41PM (#22748088)
    I'm furious that Pelosi and the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives would agree to a secret session. The FISA bill represents the greatest threat to our freedom, the rule of law, and the Constitution of the United States, and I demand to know every word that every Congressman says on the subject so we'll know exactly whose ass to kick if they grant immunity to the telcos for committing crimes.

    Those fuckers are supposed to work for us, and I for one have lost patience waiting for them to remember that.

    A secret session on this topic, especially this topic, is nothing but a big Fuck You to the American public.
  • WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Whuffo (1043790) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:52PM (#22748152) Homepage Journal
    Let's see now: House of Representatives and secret session. If they have to keep it a secret from us, then who is it they're representing?

    Don't answer, the truth of the situation has already become painfully clear. We've got two political parties who offer the candidates that best represent their party values. Those party values include greed, graft, corruption, etc, etc. You can't vote the rascals out of office because the only choices you have to vote on are the ones the parties select for you.

    And while we're hyperventilating about our elected representatives, the real dirty work is done by career bureaucrats - you didn't vote for them, you don't know them, they'll be there until they retire and they'll do what they want to regardless of which party is in power.

    Here's my bet: the House and the telecom companies will kiss and hold hands and when it's over nothing will be different. Same old stuff.

    • the House and the telecom companies will kiss and hold hands and when it's over nothing will be different

      True. Very true.
      As Bush is so fond of saying, if you nothing to hide, then why worry?
      Why doesn't the same apply to people who are elected officials swallowing our money and time to elect them.
      There should be a law preventing secret sessions.
      If the government can't be open to its people, then the people don't have to open to the government.

      As you said, i bet a secret bill will be passed bypassing constitution granting immunity, provided the telcos say "sorry" and pay a $500 fine to court.

      If democrats agreed

    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NevermindPhreak (568683) on Friday March 14, 2008 @01:12AM (#22748464)
      Sorry, but government officials have had more access to classified stuff than civilians for a long long time now. I'm against immunity too, but I trust John Conyers enough to believe that he and most of the House Dems would call the GOP on bullshit if it turns out to be the case. If they couldn't be trusted to do so, immunity would have been granted a long time ago, and the press would have barely had a chance to notice.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday March 14, 2008 @12:06AM (#22748218)
    "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."

    It really doesn't get much clearer than that. "Ex post facto" means "retroactive". It does not say "maybe", or "if...". It says NO.

    Bush can bitch all he wants, but he is demanding that the Democrats pass a measure that would be blatantly unconstitutional... as clearly unconstitutional as something can be! "No (whatever) shall be passed" is perfectly clear English, hardly subject to debate. And in this case, "whatever" is retroactive laws.

    If the Democrats even considered doing such, they would be traitors to the Constitution, to the same extent as Bush.
    • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday March 14, 2008 @02:10AM (#22748668) Journal
      Sorry, but ex post facto only applies when criminalizing a previously legal activity, not the other way around. Otherwise it would also be unconstitutional to do things like grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        You are not correct. A pardon (amnesty) is not "retroactive"!!! It says, in essence, "We acknowledge that a crime has been committed, but we will pardon those who committed it."

        Doing it "retroactively", on the other hand, is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT matter! To pass "retroactive" immunity, a law is passed that says something like, "We declare this activity to be NOT ILLEGAL, and we make this ruling effective as of two years ago." This has an effect similar to a pardon, but it is not the same thing.

        Do yo
  • I can't help but smile at the thought of bugging a wiretapping debate. The irony, oh, the irony.

    On a more serious note, why are they not allowing scrutiny? What's there to hide, isn't that a law everyone needs to know about? Afraid someone might object?

    Just curious.

    ---

    Two questions for those who don't have anything to hide: why do you close your curtains in the evening, and how much do you earn?

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