Whistleblower: FISA ‘compromise’ advances police state agenda

Raw Story

Retired AT&T engineer Mark Klein has condemned the Senate’s Wednesday cloture vote on the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

The bill, if passed by final vote planned for July 8, would revise the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to retroactively grant immunity to customers’ civil lawsuits against telecommunications companies who participated in the National Security Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, on the condition that they can provide documentation that they were told ahead of time that their activities were legal.

Klein, in November 2007, urged Congress not to allow such immunity, having gone public with his story of a secret room in AT&T’s San Francisco switching center, which required NSA clearance to enter. All Internet traffic, he said, was being diverted to equipment in the room, as he discovered during his time maintaining optical splitters that handled data to and from AT&T customers.

“[My] thought was George Orwell’s 1984 and here I am forced to connect to the Big Brother machine,” Klein told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann in a November 2007 interview.

Documents Klein obtained, along with conversations he had with colleagues, suggested that 15 to 20 other sites such as this were in other offices across the country, ABC News reported. The documents, acquired by Wired.com, were submitted as part of a 2006 class action lawsuit, currently awaiting further action in the 9th Circuit US Appeals Court, filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“[Wednesday]’s vote by Congress effectively gives retroactive immunity to the telecom companies and endorses an all-powerful president,” Klein said. “It’s a Congressional coup against the Constitution.”

“This cynical deal is a Democratic exercise in deceit and cowardice,” he went on. “Congress has made the FISA law a dead letter–such a law is useless if the president can break it with impunity. Thus the Democrats have surreptitiously repudiated the main reform of the post-Watergate era and adopted Nixon’s line: ‘When the president does it that means that it is not illegal.’ This is the judicial logic of a dictatorship.”

Deja vu all over again

Truthout

You’re a Florida resident. You want to do your civic duty, and vote in the upcoming 2008 election. You fill out your voter registration form promptly and correctly, and turn it in. You’re not a convicted felon, and you’ve lived at the same address in Florida for 20 years — no residency problems.

But, the data entry clerk who entered your name into the voter registration roles made an error, and you were entered as Jon Smith, rather than John Smith. Oh heavens, mistakes are made sometimes, and they’re easily fixed. Right?

Wrong. If this error is discovered when you arrive to vote on November 4 — YOU WILL NOT BE VOTING.

At issue is Florida’s so-called “no-match, no-vote” law, which allows county officials to reject new voter registration applications if the names on the forms do not match other state databases. Voter advocacy groups sued the state, claiming that database errors can cause applications to be rejected – through no fault of would-be voters.

This week, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida sided with the state, saying it has the right to reject voter applications if they didn’t match an applicant’s Florida driver’s license or the last four digits of their social security number. The state had been sued by a coalition of voting rights groups after election officials rejected applications from 14,000 African-American Floridians dating back to 2006.

That’s right, boys and girls. Shades of election year 2000. Who needs Katharine Harris, when you have the U.S. District Court in Florida?

Well, you think, I’ll just take my ID to the polls with me — just in case.

“The most senseless part is that the state creates these errors, and then makes it unnecessarily hard to fix the problem,” said Elizabeth Westfall of Advancement Project, another attorney for the plaintiffs. “You can’t show a passport. You can’t show a military ID. And though you can show your driver’s license itself, it doesn’t count if you show it at the polls – the very place where voters have to show a photo ID anyway.”

You cannot fix this at the polls, and you can’t even fix it in the weeks leading up to the election. Florida has rules against that sort of thing. They do not have the staff to check all the voter records, and if they happen to find a mistake, you will not be notified. SOL, ladies and gentlemen.

Still, voter advocates hope local Florida election officials will use their discretion to help all voters this fall.

“At the very least, the counties can and should help avoid the chaos that this law creates by making it possible to fix the problem at the polls,” said Brian Mellor, attorney for Project Vote, another plaintiff in the suit. “We hope that the (county) Supervisors of Elections use the discretionary power they have to allow corrections at the polls so that voters are inconvenienced as little as possible.”

Maybe someone will write a sternly worded letter….