Voters are told pen had ‘invisible ink’ – also – Election officials probe use of ‘magic’ invisible ink pens in 49th Ward – how dumb do you have to be to believe that?
Bush threatens veto in surveillance laws
Feb 5, 2008
By LARA JAKES JORDAN
President Bush threatened a veto Tuesday in the debate to update terrorist surveillance laws, assailing Democratic plans to deny protection from lawsuits for telecommunications providers that let the government spy on U.S. residents after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The threat came in a 12-page letter to Senate leaders from Attorney General Michael Mukasey and National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell. It was issued as lawmakers prepare to vote on legislation seeking to update a 1978 surveillance law without violating privacy rights.
“If the president is sent a bill that does not provide the U.S. intelligence agencies the tools they need to protect the nation, the president will veto the bill,” wrote Mukasey and McConnell.
The letter was sent to Senate leaders and the top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the letter was premature since there still isn’t any legislation yet.
“It’s a little early to have a veto threat,” he said.
The existing surveillance law will expire Feb. 15. Bush has said he would resist extending it again.
After nearly two months of legislative wrangling, Reid announced the Senate would begin voting on amendments Wednesday. Debate began Tuesday evening.
The administration’s veto threat was aimed at amendments that would bar retroactive immunity to phone companies and other telecom providers that have given the government access to e-mails and phone calls linked to people in the United States. Without the retroactive protections, the letter noted, telecom providers might be unwilling to help the government track down terror suspects in the future as they were asked to do in the days following the 2001 attacks.
“Private citizens who respond in good faith to a request for assistance by public officials should not beheld liable for their actions,” Mukasey and McConnell wrote.
A bill already approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee “is not perfect,” Mukasey and McConnell wrote. But since it provides the legal shields, they said they would support it if the amendments are dropped.
The Senate could vote on the surveillance bill and amendments this week.
Some 40 civil lawsuits have been filed against telecommunications companies. They carry with them a threat of crippling financial penalties, which the White House says could bankrupt the companies.
Congress has struggled to strike a balance between catching terrorists and improperly spying on U.S. residents since last summer, when it sought to update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That law requires the government to get approval from a secret court when it seeks to electronically eavesdrop on suspected terrorists or spies in the United States. The law does not apply to government wiretaps on people outside the country.
Over the years, however, foreign communications have been routed through technology based in the United States — raising the question of whether the government should have FISA court approval to listen in on those conversations. The bill being debated now seeks to resolve that issue.
Civil rights and privacy advocates say current law, which Congress approved in August in a hasty attempt to update the 1978 version, still allows the government to eavesdrop on Americans without court oversight. That law was set to expire Feb. 1 but was extended for two weeks as Congress works to hammer out a compromise.
The administration also rejected proposals to have the secret FISA court decide whether to give immunity to telecom firms, arguing that doing so could merely result in lengthy legal battles.
“It is for Congress, not the courts, to make the public policy decision whether to grant liability protection to telecommunication companies who are being sued simply because they are alleged to have assisted the government in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks,” Mukasey and McConnell wrote.
Will Congress Vote “Yes” to More Bush Spying?
February 6, 2008
By Ari Melber
This week Americans face a profound choice — and it has nothing to do with the presidential election.
The Senate is about to vote on legislation, favored by President Bush, to strip American courts of their authority to supervise massive government surveillance. The Senate intelligence bill sidelines the U.S. intelligence court, established by a 1978 law, and grants Bush new spying powers. Under the proposal, the Administration merely needs to “certify” it will not abuse them.
Of course, Bush already has abused his spying powers. He conceded in 2005 that the Administration conducted massive surveillance without the warrants required by law. A judge resigned in protest; Bush’s former attorney general, his deputy attorney general and the FBI director also threatened to resign; and one federal court found the warrantless spying illegal.
Yet the Senate’s legislation fails to confront that history. Instead, Democratic leaders are poised to validate Bush’s illegal surveillance — giving even more ground than the Republican Congress ever did. Worse, the current bill would cover up Bush’s abuse by granting retroactive amnesty to telecommunications companies accused of breaking the law, even if the people involved acted knowingly or maliciously.
The retroactive amnesty proposal is so extreme, in fact, it is hard to fathom how Congress, as a law-making body, can advance this blatantly lawless approach. This amnesty makes presidential pardons look tough. While pardons save convicted felons from jail, a controversial tack, they still require a full public trial. Retroactive amnesty just squashes entire cases. No investigation. No judicial fact-finding. And the public gets no information about these alleged crimes at the highest levels of American government and business. What if the spying was abused to distort elections or pad corporate profits? The bill would keep the public in the dark.
The intelligence bill is not just unpalatable; it is indefensible on the facts. That may be why the Senate is pushing the bill now, during the distractions of the busiest week in presidential politics. (The ACLU, MoveOn and liberal bloggers have also been fighting the bill, causing some delays and fortifying efforts by Senators Feingold and Dodd to amend it this week.) The Administration has also savaged the facts to bolster a weak hand. Bush officials have mischaracterized the bill, impugned the security credentials of their opponents and threatened to veto a temporary version so they could blame any ensuing intelligence problems on Democrats.
Bush’s bad faith nearly derailed everything, because his veto threat enraged the bill’s chief sponsor, Senator Jay Rockefeller, a Bush ally on intelligence issues. Last week, in a showdown on the Senate floor, the normally mild-mannered Rockefeller even accused the White House of “political terrorism.” Then Bush buckled, signing a temporary measure despite his veto threats, while reiterating his demand for amnesty in a final bill. Jacob Sullum, a conservative writer for the libertarian Reason magazine, described it as “the latest in a series of Bush administration reversals and self-contradictions” on intelligence legislation. “If the president and his men can’t even get their public story about warrantless surveillance straight, how can we trust them to secretly exercise the unilateral powers they are seeking?” he asked.
We can’t. And it’s not just Bush, who has little time to exercise these unfettered powers, anyway. Spying abuse has bipartisan roots, from Democratic administrations infiltrating the anti-war movement to Nixon taping everyone from John Kerry to his own aides.
Surveillance is only more crucial and ubiquitous now, in an asymmetric war with elusive non-state actors. The core issue is whether Congress will ensure that our government conducts surveillance the American way, with oversight by American courts and public accountability for anyone who would exploit security concerns for illicit ends.
Proponents of warrantless surveillance like to say that “you have no problem if you have nothing to hide.” Put aside the unconstitutional premise about individual rights, though, and that dare works in the other direction. Congress can confront Bush with a similar imperative: court oversight is no problem for you or the telecommunication companies, as long as you have nothing to hide.
Voters are told pen had ‘invisible ink’
February 6, 2008
BY ANNIE SWEENEY
When it comes to election shenanigans, Chicago has been accused of just about everything.
But invisible ink?
Twenty voters at a Far North Side precinct who found their ink pens not working were told by election judges not to worry.
It’s invisible ink, officials said. The scanner will count it.
But their votes weren’t recorded after all.
“Part of me was thinking it does sound stupid enough to be true,” said Amy Carlton, who had serious doubts but went ahead and voted anyway.
As it turns out, Carlton was one of 20 voters at the precinct who were given the wrong pen to use. They were also then told, apparently by a misinformed judge, that the pens have invisible ink, elections officials said.
As a result, the votes were not counted. But officials insisted there were no dirty tricks involved.
“This one defies logic,” said Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections. “You try to anticipate everything. But certain things just … they go beyond any kind of planning you can perform.”
By late afternoon, five voters had been contacted and told to come back to the polling place to vote again. And elections staff had left messages at the homes of the rest, Allen said.
Carlton and Angela Burkhardt, another voter who was told the same invisible ink story, spent a good part of the day calling and e-mailing the Board of Elections to get answers.
“I am furious and devastated and I just feel stupid,” Carlton said. “I feel so angry.”
Both women agreed that this election meant a lot. They had spent a good deal of time researching candidates.
“I have been voting since I was 18,” said Carlton, 38. “This is the most important election of my life so far.”
Burkhardt planned to go back to vote late Tuesday. She worried about those who might not be able to return.
“I worry about the other people who were there,” she said. “Maybe [they] can’t get off work. I am a person of privilege. I can go back. What if you couldn’t?”
Election officials probe use of ‘magic’ invisible ink pens in 49th Ward
February 5, 2008
By David Kidwell
Chicago election officials Tuesday afternoon were trying to unravel the mystery of the incredible invisible ink.
It’s no Agatha Christie novel but a real case for election investigators sent to the 49th Ward’s 42nd precinct Tuesday morning, after 20 ballots were cast with “magic” invisible ink pens.
Election officials just smirked, shook their heads in disbelief and called it the most bizarre election snafu in recent memory.
Apparently, said city election board spokesman James Allen, the poll workers told incredulous voters—including one spouse of an election judge—that the stylus used for touch-screen voting was actually an inkless pen to fill out paper ballots.
“You spend months trying to prepare for every contingency,” Allen said. “Trying to anticipate every possible way people might be confused . . . then this? Incredible.”
Even the ballot scanning machine knew better, he said, rejecting all 20 ballots as blank.
“Each time, the judges overrode the scanner and recorded the vote,” he said.
By 3 p.m., only five of the 20 voters had been contacted to return to recast their votes.
“I’m incredibly angry, and I feel so dumb,” said Amy Carlton, 38, of Rogers Park. “And I am not a dumb person.”
Carlton said all the judges at the polling place insisted that they had been trained in the use of the “magic” pens.
“I’ve voted before,” Carlton said. “I was thinking, ‘This is crazy,’ but when someone in authority insists, what are you supposed to do?”
Election officials were encouraging any affected voters to call 312-269-7870. They said those voters can recast their votes if they return to the polling place.
The Surrender is Working: U.S. Cedes Town to ‘Al Qaeda in Iraq’
U.S. casualties are down in large part because the military have surrendered territory to the “terrorists.”
February 6, 2008
By Mohammed Fadhel
Members of al-Qaeda group have retaken a strategic town, some 70 kilometers south of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, members of parliament said.
The MPs said Tuz Khormato, a predominantly Shiite town, was now in the hands of ‘al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia’, the group’s official appellation.
The MPs gave no reason for the unexpected withdrawal of U.S. Marines from the town.
But they said the departure of U.S. troops has led to “a dangerous upsurge in insecurity” with bandits and fighters attacking travelers and vehicles on the highway to Kirkuk.
Tuz Khormato has a slight Turkmen majority. Iraqi Turkmen are predominantly Shiites.
Turkmen MPs have sent a statement to Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki’s government urging him to send troops to guard the city and the highway.
The town has been the scene of devastating suicide bombings in the past. In one of them more than 100 people were killed.
Suicide bombers have even targeted the town’s main Shiite Husainiya or mosque.
The statement said kidnappings had increased and the scene of headless bodies dumped on roads and the highway has returned once again.
“The tragic and horrific events in Tuz Khormato only a few days following the withdrawal of the multi-national forces (U.S. troops) is a clear indication of how ill-prepared and weak the army and security forces are,” the statement said.
It said currently some of the kidnappings and crimes occur as Iraqi troops and police look on.