Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Daily Headliners--Dems smash GOP in fundraising, Verizon gave phone records w/o warrant, McConnell aid responsible for smear on Frost,

It is time to get back into some Daily Headliners here.

Clinton, Giuliani Hold Financial Leads: This Washington Post story again shows the fundraising lead that the Democratic presidential candidates have over the GOP;

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R), the front-runners for their parties' presidential nominations, entered the final months of the primary season with another crucial advantage: more money to spend than their rivals.

Clinton topped the Democratic field, reporting $35 million available to spend on the primaries, edging out Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), who had roughly $32 million in reserve for the battle for the nomination, the campaigns reported. Both Democrats continued to enjoy a huge advantage over their Republican counterparts. Giuliani ended September with $16 million in his campaign account, while his closest competitor, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, had $9 million in available cash.

Obama, Giuliani and Romney all spent more than they raised in the past three months, with Romney spending $21 million -- more than twice what his campaign brought in.


Giuliani raised $11 million in the third quarter of 2007 -- more than his Republican counterparts -- and spent $13 million without making a significant purchase of television advertising.

The latest entrant to the GOP field, former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) reported $7.1 million in cash on hand. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) finished September with $3.5 million in the bank, but after factoring in $1.7 million in debts and $1.8 million in funds he can use only if he becomes the GOP nominee, McCain finished the third quarter $94,000 in the red. Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.) had just $95,000 on hand after he spent heavily in an unsuccessful attempt to win the Iowa straw poll.

Looking at these fundraising totals, it would appear to me that Americans are seriously considering a leadership change in the government. After seven years of a Bush White House disaster, Americans are more willing to support that top Democratic presidential candidates, rather than continuing a GOP presidency after Bush. Of course, it is still very early in the race, but if the current fundraising trends continue on well into 2008, then the Republicans may be in for some serious financial troubles here.

Verizon Says It Turned Over Data Without Court Orders: We've got another huge scandal exploding with the Bush administration. Again from the Washington Post;

Verizon Communications, the nation's second-largest telecom company, told congressional investigators that it has provided customers' telephone records to federal authorities in emergency cases without court orders hundreds of times since 2005.

The company said it does not determine the requests' legality or necessity because to do so would slow efforts to save lives in criminal investigations.


Verizon also disclosed that the FBI, using administrative subpoenas, sought information identifying not just a person making a call, but all the people that customer called, as well as the people those people called. Verizon does not keep data on this "two-generation community of interest" for customers, but the request highlights the broad reach of the government's quest for data.

The disclosures, in a letter from Verizon to three Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating the carriers' participation in government surveillance programs, demonstrated the willingness of telecom companies to comply with government requests for data, even, at times, without traditional legal supporting documents. The committee members also got letters from AT&T and Qwest Communications International, but those letters did not provide details on customer data given to the government. None of the three carriers gave details on any classified government surveillance program.

From January 2005 to September 2007, Verizon provided data to federal authorities on an emergency basis 720 times, it said in the letter. The records included Internet protocol addresses as well as phone data. In that period, Verizon turned over information a total of 94,000 times to federal authorities armed with a subpoena or court order, the letter said. The information was used for a range of criminal investigations, including kidnapping and child-predator cases and counter-terrorism investigations.

Verizon and AT&T said it was not their role to second-guess the legitimacy of emergency government requests.

You have got to love the excuses of the telecoms here--we must provide all these customer telephone records to the FBI because it will help save lives, but we're not sure of the legitimacy of these government requests for the phone records. And the telecoms want immunity from prosecution for providing these phone records without having their own legal departments determine whether such government requests violated the civil and privacy rights of their customers.

And here is the real kicker in this Bush illegal spying program:

Yesterday's 13-page Verizon letter indicated that the requests went further than previously known. Verizon said it had received FBI administrative subpoenas, called national security letters, requesting data that would "identify a calling circle" for subscribers' telephone numbers, including people contacted by the people contacted by the subscriber. Verizon said it does not keep such information.

So not only was the FBI asking for phone records of one particular subscriber, but also the phone records of individuals contacted by the subscriber, and then the phone records of more individuals who had contact with the individuals who contacted the subscriber. It is just a widening scope of spying here. It is like the old Suave commercial--you'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and so on. The spy list grows exponentially. And it is even worst, when you consider this October 13, 2007 WaPost story, titled Former CEO Says U.S. Punished Phone Firm;

A former Qwest Communications International executive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal.

Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents unsealed in Denver this week.

Details about the alleged NSA program have been redacted from the documents, but Nacchio's lawyer said last year that the NSA had approached the company about participating in a warrantless surveillance program to gather information about Americans' phone records.

In the court filings disclosed this week, Nacchio suggests that Qwest's refusal to take part in that program led the government to cancel a separate, lucrative contract with the NSA in retribution. He is using the allegation to try to show why his stock sale should not have been considered improper.


Nacchio's account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 attacks have been cited by the government as the main impetus for its warrantless surveillance efforts.

What we have here is a concerted effort, by the Bush administration, to create and expand a domestic spying program that is controlled by the Bush White House seven months before the WTC attacks. The administration dangled lucrative defense contracts to the telecom industry to get them to comply with this illegal spying operation. The telecoms outright greed won out over any sense of following customer privacy and civil rights laws. Now that the Bush administration's domestic spying operation has been revealed, those same telecoms are pleading for immunity from civil lawsuits over their own complacency of customer privacy rights laws because they were too greedy for those contracts. And the Bush administration is trying to push the telecom immunity laws to keep their own involvement in the illegal domestic spying program secret through squashing those civil lawsuits against the telecoms.

God, it is frickin' disgustin.

McConnell aid acknowledges that he tried to spread bogus smear of Graeme Frost: I've been watching the entire GOP and right-wingnut's smear campaign against the Frost family for advocating the S-CHIP children's health insurance program. The background story on this can be found here on Wikipedia. Now there were some interesting email links that Republican Senator Mitch McConnell's office was also behind the GOP smear campaign of the Frost family, but the McConnell office declined to comment on whether GOP aids were involved in the smear campaign.

It turns out that McConnell's office was behind the smear campaign. From TPM's The Horses Mouth:

An aide to GOP leader Mitch McConnell has acknowledged in an interview with Kentucky's Courier-Journal that he actively sought to alert reporters to the wingnut smearing of 12-year-old SCHIP posterkid Graeme Frost.

It has been reported already that an email from a McConnell aide went out to reporters telling them of the winger attack. But this appears to be the first time that McConnell's people are publicly acknowledging their role in trying to push mainstream reporters into joining the attack on young Graeme. Stewart acknowledged to the paper that he'd done this as "part of regular conversation with reporters."

What makes this story even better is that after McConnell's aide tried to get reporters to push the story, he quickly realized a few hours later that the whole thing was a big sham and tried to call reporters off.

This is significant, because it shows that McConnell's operation cheerfully urged mainstream reporters to pick up the winger attacks without even bothering to fact-check them first. When Michelle Malkin pointed her finger at the Frosts and started howling, McConnell's staff immediately joined in the fun -- that is, until they realized that they had a big dud on their hands.

The question I have to ask here is why did the McConnell office even jump on this smear bandwagon without even bothering to check into the facts of the case? The only reason I can think of is that the ideological hatred by the McConnell office against the S-CHIP program caused them to blindly react in fury, with reasonably looking into the facts of the case. This really brings McConnell's office into some serious attention, since we now have a U.S. Senator participating in a personal attack against an American family for crass political gain. Doesn't look real good for Mitch McConnell.

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