Category Archives: James Comey


Seems the NSA can, without a warrant, snoop on anyone within three degrees of someone that they may have some suspicion about.

…the rather startling news that came out of yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee on the NSA spying programs: NSA Director John Inglis revealed that the FISA Court permits the government to do three jumps from an initial number tied to a phone number reasonably believed to be tied to terrorism (or relevant to Iran, though that search criteria didn’t get mentioned at all in the parts of the hearing I watched).

Three degrees of separation!

Remember, some years ago, every single person in the US could be connected via six degrees — the old Kevin Bacon game. There’s some evidence that that number has become smaller — perhaps as small as 3 (I’ve seen more scientific numbers that say it is 4.5 or thereabouts).

In any case, if the US is using the excuse of terror to get three jumps deep into US person associations, then this program is even more intrusive then they’ve let on.

I imagine that would include everyone in our government, the Israeli government, the Palestinian authority, every head of state, every law enforcement officer, everyone who has ever been abroad, everyone who has ever interviewed a foreign person, everyone who knows anyone who knows anyone in:


the Quakers,

any demonstration of any kind,

anyone who has written a letter to an editor,

any person of color,

anyone who signed a petition, and

so on.

It’s basically EVERYONE. and what will they do with it? Wait til Karl Rove or one of the Cheneys gets back in power and you’ll see in short order. Or just some NSA guy who’s curious about who his ex girlfriend in dating. Or some NSA girl with a grudge against oh, well, ANYONE!

We have a constitution; that used to mean something.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

When basically the entire population is legally suspect, doesn’t that mean we’re doing something wrong?


video: Gary Oldman, in “The Professional.”

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Congress…an actual part of our government?


No, he hasn’t forgotten. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) took a step today towards contempt proceedings against Karl Rove, two of his former aides, and White House chief of staff Josh Bolten for not complying with subpoenas related to the U.S. attorney firings.

There hasn’t been much movement since this summer, when Leahy issued the subpoenas. The administration claimed executive privilege for all documents and testimony sought, and said that Rove didn’t need to even show up for a hearing. Rove’s aides Sara Taylor and Scott Jennings appeared, but refused to discuss the firings. A subpoena for documents was sent to Bolten, and the White House refused.

Today, Leahy ruled that the claims of executive privilege and immunity were not legally valid, a necessary step toward issuing contempt citations in the committee. He didn’t say when he might do that.

The timing for this might have something to do with what’s going on in the House, where leaders have said they plan to schedule a floor vote to find former White House counsel Harriet Miers and Bolten in contempt for ignoring subpoenas there. That vote has been repeatedly delayed and is currently expected to take place next month.

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The illegal wiretapping and surveillance of Americans

Glenn Greenwald’s very important post today on the political prosecution of Quest CEO Joseph Nacchio:

The cooperation between the various military/intelligence branches of the Federal Government — particularly the Pentagon and the NSA — and the private telecommunications corporations is extraordinary and endless. They really are, in every respect, virtually indistinguishable. The Federal Government has its hands dug deeply into the entire ostensibly “private” telecommunications infrastructure and, in return, the nation’s telecoms are recipients of enormous amounts of revenues by virtue of turning themselves into branches of the Federal Government. There simply is no separation between these corporations and the military and intelligence agencies of the Federal Government.


It is a never-ending carousel of multi-billion dollar transactions — pursuant to which enormous sums of taxpayer money are transferred to these telecoms in exchange for the telecoms serving as obedient divisions of the Government, giving them unfettered access to all of the data and content of the communications of American citizens.

That is what is so extraordinary — and so absolutely appalling — about the casual advocacy on the part of our nation’s “journalists” for Congressional amnesty for telecoms. The amnesty they advocate would result in the complete and permanent dismissal of all of the pending lawsuits arising out of this joint telecom-government lawbreaking, which would, in turn, ensure that this lawbreaking remains concealed.


Merely to describe this behavior is to demonstrate its profound corruption and threat to the very concept of an open democratic government operating under the “rule of law.”

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The politicization of the Department of Justice started long before the US attorney scandal


Elizabeth de la Vega at Atlantic Free Press:

Ashcroft did not disappoint. Almost immediately, he delighted Christian conservatives by gathering his subordinates together on federal property to participate in daily Pentecostal Christian prayer meetings. (Hey, they were voluntary meetings and anyone — Jew, Muslim, Pagan, Buddhist, Atheist, Wiccan — could participate, so what is the big deal?) In May 2001, he turned to another top priority: undermining gun prosecutions by formally advising the NRA that the DOJ would no longer take the position that the Second Amendment does not guarantee private citizens the right to bear arms, a 180 degree shift from longstanding DOJ policy.

Using the DOJ to repay the gun lobby that had donated over $1 million to the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign was a trifle, however, compared to the decision to pull the plug on over 50 environmental cases against air-polluting power plants and refineries that had also, coincidentally, been huge donors to the Republican party in the 2000 election. In late June of 2001, the DOJ not only suspended its lawsuits against the energy companies, but advised them to abandon the pollution-control upgrades they were implementing as part of pending settlement agreements. This, as we now know, was merely the beginning of the administration’s use of both the Ashcroft and Gonzales DOJ to benefit big business at the expense of the environment — an assault that is now in its sixth year.

Also in its sixth year is the assault on civil rights and liberties Bush and Cheney set in motion in 2001 — with the wholehearted cooperation of Ashcroft and so many others in the highest levels of the very agency specifically designated to uphold those rights and liberties.

It was, for example, the head of the DOJ’s criminal division — the current Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff — who, in the fall of 2001, supervised the round-up of over 1000 Arab and Muslim non-citizens within the United States, holding them as “material witnesses” to offenses that were never quite specified. Although the men were imprisoned for months, often in solitary confinement, Chertoff refused to allow them to have lawyers, because — he argued without apparent irony — they were not charged with a crime. In 2003, the DOJ’s inspector general called this draconian mass detention “indiscriminate and haphazard.” Ashcroft’s response to that charge? He would “make no apology.”

It was Ashcroft who, in 2001, first lobbied Congress for broad expansion of government surveillance powers in the form of the Patriot Act, which included changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. What we did not know, however, was at the same time the attorney general and his minions were secretly acquiescing to widespread violations of that same law. Because the administration has slithered away from oversight and accountability at every turn, we still — six years later — know almost nothing about the executive branch’s illegal surveillance.

Of all the lawlessness sanctioned and nurtured by the DOJ since Bush and Cheney took office, none is more horrifying than the treatment of the thousands who have been detained in the name of the undeclared “War on Terror.” As we now know, on September 25, 2001, Attorney General Ashcroft’s subordinate John Yoo penned a memo which informed the president that he had virtually unlimited authority to take retaliatory or preventive action against “terrorists.”

Beginning in October of 2001 — with the door to any and all forms of illegal government conduct having been thrown open by the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel — Ashcroft, Chertoff and many other DOJ officials watched and offered counsel to advance a program of mass detentions in Afghanistan and elsewhere that were, more often than not, based on unreliable information and even mere whim. They acquiesced in the torture of these prisoners by both our own and foreign governments, attempting to justify this unspeakable conduct with the now-withdrawn memo John Yoo submitted to then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales in August 2002. (That our highest government officials felt the need to commission such a memo and allowed it to remain extant until 2004 is proof enough of widespread guilty knowledge on the part of both White House and DOJ officials.)

Nearly six years after they were first captured on foreign soil in the fall of 2001, 375 of these men are still imprisoned by the United States at Guantanamo Bay — and they have never had a hearing.

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Jack Goldsmith spills the beans on the Bush/Addington/Gonzales ideas of justice

From Anonymous Liberal:

1) the Rule of Law has had no greater enemy in modern American history than David Addington (“We’re one bomb away from getting rid of that obnoxious [FISA] court,” Goldsmith recalls Addington telling him in February 2004.).

2) the Ashcroft hospital scene was every bit as bad as Comey described it (“I was sure at the end of it he [Ashcroft] was going to die”)

3) everyone of significance in the Justice Department really was prepared to resign following the hospital showdown (“I was sure the government was going to melt down”).

4) Gonzales probably resigned when he did because he knew Goldsmith was about to tell his story.

5) Bush, as usual, had no real clue what he was authorizing (“I don’t know if President Bush understood how extreme some of the arguments were about executive power that some people in his administration were making,” Goldsmith told me. “It’s hard to know how he would know.”)

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Alberto Gonzales backdated US attorney appointment

I don’t know whether Tim Griffin is still the US Attorney for Arkansas. His appointment, if temporary and requiring Senate confirmation, has expired. Attorney General Gonzales says his appointment was not made under the provisions of a sneaky provision stuck into the renewal of the Patriot Act, in which Senate confirmation was not required.

In any event, according to emptywheel, Attorney General Gonzales backdated Griffin’s appointment paperwork, to make it seem that Griffin had been appointed before objections were voiced by Arkansas Senator Pryor.

That IS a felony.

Not that we haven’t enjoyed having you around, Mr. Gonzales, but it’s time for you to get outta town or go to jail.  You decide.

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Best legal discussion of Comey’s testimony

is by Marty Lederman at Balkinization. In part:

Kmiec [in Washington Post op] then attacks Senator Specter for suggesting that the hospital incident has an air of the Saturday Night Massacre about it — “the comparison to Watergate is wholly inapt,” writes Kmiec, because “Watergate involved a real crime.”

Well, this case involves a “real crime,” too — systematic violations of a very important federal statute designed to protect Americans from wiretapping by their government, 18 U.S.C. 1809. But that’s not really the central point for these purposes, because Specter’s obvious reference was simply to the remarkable parallel in that the President and his closest aides had so egregiously departed from institutional legal norms that the entire top echelon of the Justice Department was prepared to resign in a manner that would signal to the public that something was greviously awry within the Administration. Attorney General Richardson and DAG Ruckelshaus did not resign in October 1973 because they concluded there had been a “burglary for purposes of political dirty tricks,” in Kmiec’s words. The burglary was an old story. They resigned because the President insisted that they fire prosecutor Archibald Cox when Cox subpoened Nixon’s tapes. In other words, Nixon was trying to subvert the established procedures of the Justice Department. As were Bush and Gonzales.

3. Kmiec next writes that “[e]ven if OLC attorneys had been unanimous that the president lacked the legal authority to conduct the kind of military intelligence-gathering that every other wartime president has pursued, that would hardly warrant the conclusion that the president had ‘broken the law.'”

Actually, it would. The OLC conclusion was not that the President “lacked authority” in the first instance to order the surveillance — it was, instead, that a duly enacted statute, FISA, flatly prohibited the President from exercising what would otherwise be his constitutional authority — 

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