Liberal bloggers respond to the Senate intelligence committee's new spy bill. Also, what if Turkey does invade Iraqi Kurdistan?
Can you sue me now? Voting 13-2, the Senate intelligence committee approved legislation Thursday that would increase restrictions on the president's warrantless wiretapping privileges, but also establish legal immunity for telecommunications companies now threatened with huge lawsuits for abetting what many see as the federal government's unconstitutional infringement on privacy. Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Chris Dodd said he plans to put a "hold" (a sort of dress rehearsal for a filibuster) on the bill because of the immunity language.
Lefty Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald wonders if the "$118 million of telecom money poured into the coffers of members of Congress," is the reason that "Congress, on a more or less bipartisan basis, is passing a law declaring that this industry shall be completely immune from any consequences even if they are found to have broken multiple federal laws in allowing illegal spying on all of their customers." While Ben Brothers at liberal Badger Blues points to the "larger problem," which is that "bills like this are still being introduced even in a Democratic Congress. And they'll continue to be introduced as long as the GOP believes it can extract some political advantage from security theater, and as long as there are enough Democrats terrified of re-election campaigns in which they are accused of not applauding sufficiently loudly at the end of the show."
Ryan Singel at Wired's Threat Level blog notes: "The measure is also interesting because its not clear that the NSA's data-mining of phone records violated any law. … What's clearly illegal in the data-mining program is the carriers giving billions of call records to the government. But this bill, according to the summary, cleverly gets the carriers out of that legal predicament."
Greg Sargent at Talking Points Memo's Election Central reminds readers that Dodd "has aggressively courted the liberal blogosphere as part of his Presidential run," and "can effectively hold up the telecom immunity bill, because bills are supposed to have unanimous consent in the Senate before going forward."
And Michelle Richardson at ACLU Blog (the ACLU has filed lawsuits to counter warrantless wiretaps) worries: "There are pretty solid rumors that telecom immunity is already in the Senate bill. And, frankly, if the language is anything like the past attempts we've seen, it's a little too broad for our taste. Instead of singling out the telecoms, it allows immunity to be granted to anyone alleged to have cooperated in the warrantless wiretapping program. Doesn't that include Mike McConnell? Alberto Gonzales? Vice President Cheney? President Bush?"
But righty Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters complains about a last-minute amendment: "This puts the NSA in the position of having to obtain a warrant to tap Adam Gadahn's communications. Also known as 'Azzam the American', Gadahn is a rather notorious traitor who joined al-Qaeda and now produces videotaped messages demanding American surrender to the Islamists."
Read more about the spy bill.
Bring it on, Ankara: After the Turkish parliament approved a measure to invade northern Iraq in pursuit of the outlaw Kurdish separatist militia, the PKK, bloggers have wondered what such an invasion might look like. Iraqi Kurdish leader Mazoud Barzani says he'll fight the Turks "to the death"—that's assuming their tanks can even navigate the notoriously rocky terrain in which the PKK takes refuge.
Christopher Allbritton, blogging from Beirut at Spot-On, asks what kind of incursion Turkey could mount: "Are we looking at a major invasion? Probably not. Here's why: northern Iraq is very inhospitable terrain. (I know; I've walked it.) It's a maze of mountain passes and gullies, of treacherous peaks and loads of spots for ambushes. It is prime PKK territory. Also, winter is coming on, making a tough area even tougher. Many of the camps with the main body of PKK leadership and hardened fighters are in the Qandil Mountains, among the most rugged in the Middle East and on the Iranian border. Getting there is going to be a major challenge for the Turks. These raids would likely accomplish little by way of military objectives."
Gordon Taylor, one of the Progressive Historians, adds: "[T]he bulk of the PKK forces are not in Iraq anyway: they're in Turkey. And they're certainly not going to hang around their home base on Kandil Mt. (approx. 12,000' alt.) waiting to be attacked. What's more, the Turks' tanks are useless in this terrain, and they would have a very hard time staging a helicopter-borne raid 100 miles into Iraq--which is where Kandil is located. This is a tough army, the PKK. They walk everywhere. They move at night, live in caves, and subsist on caches of food. They strike at Turkish military targets hundreds of mountain-strewn miles from their base on Kandil Mt., and they flee on foot. If they survive, that is."
"[T]he best hope for calming this crisis," says John Tepper Marlin at the Huffington, is"a combination of a serious effort to contain the Kurdish rebels while joining the U.S. voice with that of the EU, which has also warned Turkey against violating Iraq's territorial integrity. The grave danger is that in the frayed international environment of 2007 Turkey will sooner or later respond to its very real domestic pressures and defy western wishes on the bet that they can continue to get away with going it alone."
Read more about Turkey and the Kurds.