Monday, December 2, 2013

My opening statement about the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare for this weeks show

Welcome back. By the time you hear this show the deadline for fixing healthcare dot gov, the website for the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare, will have passed.

I and several folks predicted that by the time the deadline passed the website would be working very well. Most Republicans predicted that the website would still be experiencing problems.

Who is right?

Well, an article in Politicsusa by Jason Easley should settle things. The title of his article is “The Media Is Forced to Admit That The Obamacare Website is Fixed”

In his article, Mr. Easley references a New York Times article of this weekend that reports quote:

As the Obama administration’s weekend deadline for a smoothly functioning online marketplace for health insurance arrives, more than a month of frantic repair work is paying off with fewer crashes and error messages and speedier loading of pages, according to government officials, groups that help people enroll and experts involved in the project.

Although the administration has postponed a December marketing campaign, fearful that the site would collapse under a surge in traffic, five weeks of repair work have clearly made the exchange better. From last Sunday to Tuesday, nearly 20,000 users managed to enroll in insurance plans, the most for a three-day period, according to people familiar with the project. By comparison, fewer than 27,000 users picked an insurance plan on the federal site in the entire month of October.

And pages that once took an average of eight seconds to load now show up in a fraction of a second. The rate at which a user sees an error message has also dropped from about 6 percent to 0.75 percent.

Endquote.

Judging from these reports for all intents and purposes, the website is fixed.

So what’s left for Republicans to complain about, oh yes, the issue about not being able to keep your plan or your doctor.

The folks in my panel today will discuss that a bit, but I return to a segment by Jon Stewart where he discussed the keeping your doctor piece. He joked about this Republican talking point as Republicans suggesting that before Obamacare Doctor and Patient mated for life.

The point of that is that if you had employer provided health insurance and your company decided to change health insurance plans one year because they got a better deal, something that has happened twice to me in my life at different jobs, you don’t get to keep your doctor and you don’t get to whine about it on political talk shows. That is just the way it is.

In real life before Obamacare, the chance of you getting to keep your doctor for more than five to seven years was pretty small. Chances are you would change jobs and work for a company that had a different insurance provider or your employer would change providers at least once every five to seven years.
Ironically, the only folks who really did get to keep their doctor long term were the elderly who were on Medicare. There’s that awful government run health care again.

So the idea that Obamacare disrupted a lifelong association between patient and doctor is ridiculous.
As far as keeping your plan, there is another canard. Health Insurance companies also frequently change their plans, add things to plans that you then have to pay more for or withdraw certain plans altogether.
Again, try to find someone who bought health insurance on their own who got to keep the same exact plan for the same money for more than five to seven years. You won’t find many. The number is probably less than one percent of folks who bought health insurance on their own.

So Republicans have really pulled a fast one here with their criticism of the Affordable Care Act. It’s not surprising, they are desperate to try to couch it as being unsuccessful because they understand that a successfully rolled out massive change to healthcare in this country where the majority of the uninsured got health insurance would help Democrats and would be devastating to the Republican Party. So they are going to everything possible against the wall to see what sticks.

Don’t be fooled.

This is obviously not the first thing the Republicans have tried to claim about the affordable care act and it wont be the last thing. Remember killing grandma, remember death panels, remember all of the things since the very beginning that Republicans have claimed about the Affordable Care Act. Remember this was going to be a government takeover of healthcare, it was going to be socialism. No, these are private insurance plans that people are buying and are being offered through the plan.

Again, don’t be fooled.


Now on to our panel discussion.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Video: Fox News Apperance - I talk Obamacare on Justice with Judge Jeanine (Pirro) Nov 2 2013

I debate the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare with Noelle Nikpour and Judge Jeanine Pirro on Judge Pirro's show Justice with Judge Jeanine on Fox News




Saturday, November 2, 2013

Don't miss this weeks show where we have a Fiery All Star panel debate on Obamacare, NSA Spying & more 11/03 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts

Fiery All Star panel debate on Obamacare, NSA Spying & more 11/03 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts

For todays show we have an excellent panel of guests to discuss the top three issues this week. We have Alexandra Ackers Lyons, she is Director of the Youth Engagement Fund and she is a political consultant and Democratic Strategist. 
 
Christian Dorsey works at the Economic Policy Institute. His areas of expertise are community development, housing, race and the economy.
 
And we have Brad Blakeman who was an advisor to President George W. Bush and President of Freedom’s Watch. 
 
The panel first discusses the Affordable Care Act and the Website HealthCare.gov then discusses Republicans holding up several of President Obama's appointments and then discusses the latest revelations of NSA Spying.
 
As always, we also have our Hall of Fame and Shame for those politicians and pundits who made great sense, or shameful nonsense, respectively.

Alexandra Acker-Lyons

Bradley Blakeman

Christian Dorsey

My appearance on Hannity regarding the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare on Friday November 1 2013


Monday, October 28, 2013

Susan Eisenhower on the GOP and Panel Debate on Obamacare 10/27 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts

Susan Eisenhower on the GOP and Panel Debate on Obamacare 10/27 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts

Susan Eisenhower

Lee Papa aka The Rude Pundit
Stephen Sigmund



Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and joins me to discuss the current state of the Republican Party. Susan is not just the granddaughter of a former President.
Susan has been a Fellow at Harvard’s JFK School of Government’s Institute of Politics and a Distinguished Fellow at the Nixon Center. She currently sits on the Nuclear Threat Initiative board, co-chaired by former Senator Sam Nunn and Ted Turner, the Energy Future Coalition and as an advisor to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy and the Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies.
Then, we have a special panel to discuss the issues with the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov and discuss the future of Obamacare. The panel will consist of Stephen Sigmund from the Global Strategy Group and the Rude Pundit aka Lee Papa, a Progressive blogger and professor at CUNY Staten Island.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Susan Eisenhower on the GOP, Rude Pundit on my panel on Obamacare on my show this week!



Don't miss Making Sense with Steve Leser this week!

The show airs at 7pm Eastern Time on Blogtalk Radio this Sunday at the below link and at 2pm Pacific time Monday on KCAA 1050am in Inland Empire California and the Los Angeles basin.

Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and joins me to discuss the current state of the Republican Party. Susan is not just the granddaughter of a former President.

Susan has been a Fellow at Harvard’s JFK School of Government’s Institute of Politics and a Distinguished Fellow at the Nixon Center. She currently sits on the Nuclear Threat Initiative board, co-chaired by former Senator Sam Nunn and Ted Turner, the Energy Future Coalition and as an advisor to the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy and the Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies.

Then, we have a special panel to discuss the issues with the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov and discuss the future of Obamacare. The panel will consist of Stephen Sigmund from the Global Strategy Group and the Rude Pundit aka Lee Papa, a Progressive blogger and professor at CUNY Staten Island.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2013/10/27/susan-eisenhower-on-the-gop-and-panel-debate-on-obamacare-1




Monday, October 21, 2013

My Blockbuster special first Anniversary show this week with Gov Bill Richardson, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Special message from me on Obamacare 10/20 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts

Gov Bill Richardson Rep Barbara Lee and Special on Obamacare 10/20 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts

Special Statement by me on the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare from my Show this week

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2013/10/20/gov-bill-richardson-rep-barbara-lee-and-special-on-obamacare

And now a special brief statement by me on the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare.

I’ve been doing a few cable talk shows this past week to talk about the Affordable Care act also known as Obamacare. I’ve noticed that the conservative guests I have been on with have a couple of standard negative talking points that I want to address and in general I want to debunk a lot of the falsehoods going around about this important new program.

First, it’s important to remember at whom the Affordable Care Act is aimed. For 60%-70% of us who are either over 65 and have Medicare, or who have a healthcare plan provided by our employers, the Affordable Care Act barely affects us at all. We won’t see much change beyond free checkups, although that in and of itself saves a fair amount of money per year.

The affordable care act is aimed first of all at those of us under 65 who were not covered by an employer provided health care plan and had trouble affording a health care plan on their own. The vast majority of those folks are lower income people and those with pre-existing conditions or both.

That is why the Affordable care act prevented folks from being excluded from plans for pre-existing conditions and also included premium subsidies for people who make up to 400% of federal poverty level. In other words, if you are a family of:

  • 1 person and make less than $45960
  • 2 people and make less than $62040
  • 3 people and make less than $78120
  • 4 people and make less than $94200
  • 5 people and make less than $110280

You get a subsidy to help pay your premium. The lower your income under the numbers I listed for each family size, the more help you get with your premium.

Now, since the median household income in the US is right around $50,000 a year, you can see from the numbers I just mentioned that well over half of the households in the US, the lowest earning half, would be eligible for substantial subsidies to help pay with their healthcare premiums. For those families earning more than that, a huge percentage, probably 95% or more have one or more adults who get healthcare through their employers and thus would not be buying healthcare through the Obamacare exchanges.

Now that you understand that, let’s look at the numbers that the Heritage Foundation put out. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank that seems devoted to attacking President Obama 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The Heritage Foundation compiled a list of the average premiums under the affordable care act exchanges without subsidies and announced that  Obamacare would cost people more money than they were paying before.

Now if you understand what I said just a few moments ago, you know that’s not true. Obamacare is not aimed at higher income households, most of whom don’t need it and will not be buying it because they get health insurance through their employers. Now, there is a small percentage of households where there are one or two adults who are independent contractors earning a lot of money and yes, they will pay more because Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act mandates more and better coverage. It enforces a new standard of better care in health insurance policies.

Still, it’s unfortunate that a fair number of folks in households where the income is greater than 400% of federal poverty level will end up paying more. That’s the main hole in Obamacare. It’s one that could have been fixed in the last two years, if Republicans had been willing to work with the President to improve the bill instead of doing everything possible to kill it. If you are in that category of 400% or greater of federal poverty level and don’t have an employer provided health insurance policy, chances are you might be paying more.

But we are now talking about a very small percentage of people. Remember 60-70% of people are insured through an employer provided plan and most of the folks who are left earn less than median income in the US and will get large subsidies through the Affordable Care Act to get insurance. I’ll talk about Obamacare more in upcoming shows but that, folks, is the no-nonsense truth regarding the Affordable Care Act. Now without delay, here is my interview with the incomparable Bill Richardson...

Cruz Distorts ACA Impact on Seniors, Children

What a surprise, Cruz is caught lying again.

Cruz Distorts ACA Impact on Seniors, Children

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Radio show this week, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D) CA on Shutdown, Geneive Abdo on Syria, Iran and Egypt and more!

Radio show this week, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D) CA on Shutdown, Geneive Abdo on Syria, Iran and Egypt and more!

Last edited Sun Oct 13, 2013, 01:37 PM USA/ET - Edit history (1)
Don't miss Making Sense with Steve Leser this week, More shutdown coverage and Syria, Egypt and Iran. 



Congresswoman Jackie Speier and I discuss the Government Shutdown and the Debt Ceiling crisis 

Geneive Abdo, Middle East expert from the Brookings Institute joins me to talk about Syria, Iran and Egypt 

Then of course we end with our trademark weekly hall of fame and shame for those politicians and prominent individuals who made great sense or shameful nonsense, respectively. 

You can hear the show tonight at 7pm Eastern time on Blogtalk Radio at the below link (or anytime afterwards at archive in the same link) or tomorrow, Monday at 2pm Pacific time on KCAA 1050am in Inland Empire and the LA Basin in California 

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2013/10/13/shutdown-with-rep-speier-and-middle-east-with-geneive-abdo

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Don't miss our terrific guests on the next two episodes of Making Sense with Steve Leser

Don't miss our terrific guests on the next two episodes of Making Sense with Steve Leser

Don't miss our terrific guests on the next two episodes of Making Sense with Steve Leser

For the show that airs October 13-14 (Link:  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2013/10/13/shutdown-with-rep-speier-and-middle-east-with-geneive-abdo )

Congresswoman Jackie Speier and I discuss the Government Shutdown and Debt Ceiling crisis

Geneive Abdo, Middle East expert from the Brookings Institute joins me to talk about Syria, Iran and Egypt

For the show that airs October 20-21

Bill Richardson - Former Governor of New Mexico discusses his new book and the shutdown

Susan Eisenhower - Granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower discusses how President Eisenhower would view the modern Republican Party

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dick Armey, former GOP House Majority Leader Criticizes current House Republican Leadership on my Radio Show this week

Calling out the man who holds the job he used to hold, Dick Armey noted that Current House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was appointed to Deputy Whip by Roy Blunt, then turned around and ran against Blunt for House Whip (Blunt then dropped out of the race for the spot), agreeing with my suggestion that Cantor is an opportunist about whom Boehner needs to be concerned.

Also, noting he thinks the world of current Speaker John Boehner, the former House Majority Leader discussed what he thought was lacking in how the Speaker is handling the current crisis.

The full exchange can be heard 7pm ET Sunday at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2013/10/06/all-about-the-shutdown-with-dick-armey-and-bob-cusack and Monday 2pm Pacific on KCAA 1050am in Southern California.


All about the Shutdown with Dick Armey and Bob Cusack 10/06 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts

Don't miss my radio show this week that airs at 7pm Eastern time, Sunday October 6th on BlogtalkRadio.com at the below link, and Monday, October 7th at 2pm Pacific time on the NBC Radio affiliate KCAA 1050am in Inland empire, California!

All about the Shutdown with Dick Armey and Bob Cusack 10/06 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts


Friday, October 4, 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

I Blame the GOP for the Shutdown #iblamethegop

Please share this picture and use it for your Facebook and Twitter profile pictures and tweet it out with the hashtag #iblamethegop



Monday, September 16, 2013

Here It Is! The Full 1 Hour Interview with former FBI Special Agent in charge of the Bin Laden Unit, Jack Cloonan

Click on the link and then click on the headphones to download to hear the riveting one hour interview with former FBI special agent Jack Cloonan

http://tbf.me/a/6q0Lg

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pat Buchanan and former Senior FBI Agent Jack Cloonan on Making Sense this week!



Get ready for two great guests to talk and spar with on Making Sense this week. First, Pat Buchanan will be on to debate Syria and Putin's OpEd in the NY Times with me. Then I'll talk with former senior FBI Agent Jack Cloonan. From 1996 to 2002, Cloonan was the senior case agent assigned to the "Bin Laden Squad" in the New York Office of the FBI. The Bin Laden Squad was charged with the responsibility of building a prosecutable case against Usama Bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri and other high-ranking members of al Qaeda.

The show will air Sunday September 15th at 7pm Eastern time on Blogtalk Radio at the below link and it will air at 2pm Pacific time on Monday September 16th on KCAA 1050am in Inland Empire California.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2013/09/15/pat-buchanan-on-syria-jack-cloonan-on-al-qaeda-terrorism

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rosencrantz and Guildernstern head to Egypt, led by Polonius

http://www.burntorangereport.com/diary/14046/michele-bachmann-steve-king-louie-gohmert-travel-to-egypt-give-crazy-message-to-egyptian-people?utm_content=buffer50392&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

U.S. Congress members Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), Steve King (R-Iowa), and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) -- arguably the three most ridiculous lawmakers in Congress -- decided to take it upon themselves to travel to the country of Egypt and freelance their own foreign policy message to the Egyptian people, a message that was very much at conflict with the official position of the United States. 
I'll let those words sink in for a moment. 

Ready? Good. Because there's a whole fifteen minute video of crazy featuring a joint press conference by the three members. 














This weeks Radio Show Former Assistant Secretary of State P. J. Crowley on Syria 09/08 by Making Sense with Steve Leser

Former Assistant Secretary of State P. J. Crowley on Syria 09/08 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Full Interview with Inna Shevchenko of Femen regarding allegations against their group

Inna Shevchenko talks with me about allegations against Femen arising from the movie "Ukraine is not a Brothel". Articles have come out that suggest Victor Svyatsky is in control of Femen. Inna talks with me about those allegations. Click on the link and then click on the headphones to download.

http://tbf.me/a/Bv4BDx

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cick to hear my Radio interview on Syria with Alan Grayson 09/01 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts

Syria with Alan Grayson 09/01 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts


Painting of Putin and Medvedev in Lingerie that got Russian artist Konstantin Altunin in trouble

I noted on my show how Mr. Altunin fled Russia this past Tuesday night after Russian authorities raided his art gallery in Saint Petersburg and confiscated several pieces including one where Mr. Altunin had painted Vladimir Putin in a pink teddy next to Dmitry Medvedev in a bra and panties.
Mr. Altunin fears he will be subject to punishment if he returns to Russia. Hear the show where I discuss this at 




Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Full Transcript for my Segment on Whistleblowing, Snowden, Manning, Assange and Greenwald

Full audio of show: http://kcaaradio.celestrion.net/kcaa-podcasts/leser/20130805.html Note: 6 min 20 secs of intro commercials. Whistleblower Segment starts at 9:05

This past week, in the wake of Bradley Manning being found guilty of enough charges to have him potentially spend well over 100 years in prison, I was on my friend Peter Lavelle’s Crosstalk show on the RT network to discuss Snowden, Manning and surveillance and privacy issues.

If you have been listening to my show for a while, you heard my take on what Snowden supposedly revealed and how Greenwald reported it. I reposted the transcript on my blog at Steveleser.blogspot.com so you can see it and listen to that piece.

In my spot on Peter’s show, I took issue with the idea that either of these two guys are heroes and I attacked the myth we sometimes hear that the Obama administration is anti-whistleblower. Here is my opening statement on that show:

Condensed version of audio snippet: “What no one has been able to give me a straight answer about is why Snowden and Manning refused to use the options available to them under the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act to go to a defense department Inspector General or to a member of congress or the senate. If they had, they would have been protected under that statute”

The interesting thing about that is you could have turned off that episode of Crosstalk after that opening because the rest of the segment involved two other people flailing against that argument and completely unable to overcome it.

What I said is really an IQ test and a test of how sane and reasonable you are when you hear it. Let me put it another way.

Let’s imagine that you have a goal in mind. Let’s call it Goal A. You have two options of achieving Goal A. Option 1 will either put you in prison for over 20 years or exile you to a country far away forever. Option 2 will leave you perfectly free and if you take Option 2 and it doesn’t get to Goal A, you can still do Option 1 afterwards.

It sounds like a trick right? What person in their right mind would choose Option 1 right off the bat? Would you feel sorry for someone who chose option 1 as their first choice and then suffered the consequences? Maybe a little, but almost all of us would think they ought to have known better.

Bradley Manning and Eric Snowden chose Option 1 right off the bat. Option 1 was ignoring the law, ignoring the fact that Title 10 subchapter 1034 also known as the military whistleblower protection act exists which provides a method that members of the military and department of defense and defense contractors can use to blow the whistle without fear of retaliation and reprisal. It’s a simple law.

Subsection a(1) of that law says No person may restrict a member of the armed forces in communicating with a Member of Congress or an Inspector General.

Subsection b basically says No person may take (or threaten to take) an unfavorable personnel action, or withhold (or threaten to withhold) a favorable personnel action, as a reprisal against a member of the armed forces for making or preparing a communication to a Member of Congress or an Inspector General

That is how the whistleblower law works. If as a federal employee or member of the US Armed forces, which really is just a special kind of federal employee, but if you are one of those and you go to a congressman or senator to blow the whistle, you cannot be prosecuted or retaliated against for that.

So, why would you choose what I call option 1 here? Why wouldn’t you try option 2, the safer option first.
I think there is a pretty simple answer.

Have you ever wondered why people would go on Tabloid trash talk shows like the Jerry Springer show? I mean, I think Jerry himself is great, but if you go on that show, you are going to be embarrassed. Someone is going to reveal something embarrassing or hurtful to you or about you.

So Why do people do it?

They do it because some people are desperate to be on TV and to get fame and fortune. I think the main reason Snowden and Manning did this was for the notoriety. Manning also had ongoing discipline issues in the military. He had emotional issues his whole life and had a history of striking back at those who he perceived had wronged him. I think that the last time he got in trouble in the military he decided to strike back by embarrassing the military and his country.

In the segment on CrossTalk, it was suggested to me that going the legal route would not have been effective. There is a simple answer to that. If going the legal route wasn’t effective, you could always have gone to the press after that. But there is something more basic that makes it better to have gone about this the right way.

Now you may be wondering, why would it have been better to go the route of contacting a member of congress or the military or use the Inspector General?

For one thing, Manning and Snowden were both very junior and inexperienced people who had a lot of access to documents, but little to no experience in how to interpret them. Neither had ever supervised people nor had either man ever been put in charge of anything and were never responsible for making any kind of important decisions. These guys were techies who happened to work for organizations that dealt in intelligence.

So these guys grab a few documents, and an edited video, and leap to some conclusions, but are they the right ones? Well, we know for sure in several cases that they were not the right conclusions.

The so-called collateral murder video of the helicopter attack in Iraq purported to show an army helicopter firing on civilians. This video, which Manning said is one of the big reasons that he leaked documents, was released first in edited form which omitted the parts of the video that showed that three men of the eleven that were fired upon had weapons. One man had an AK-47, and two had RPGs or rocket propelled grenade launchers, one of which was loaded. And this group of men was in the section of town that had seen heavy fighting that day.

If Manning had gone to the inspector general of the Army, or if he had gone to a member of congress and an investigation were performed of that video, he would have found out what we eventually found out anyway that there was no wrongdoing involved in that incident. Except because of how this went down, we found out after months of hysterical assertions that a US Army helicopter fired on unarmed civilians.

Julian Assange himself finally had to admit that there were people in the video who looked like they were carrying weapons. In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Assange admitted quote “"So it appears there are possibly two men, one carrying an AK-47 and one carrying a rocket-propelled grenade -- although we're not 100 percent sure of that -- in the crowd,"

If Assange admits that is what he sees when he looks at the video, how is it that his organization, Wikileaks, put that video out there as an example of wrongdoing?

What we see with this video and the documents released by Snowden and Manning is form of the old Axiom that is the name of a book by Richard Moran called “Never Confuse a Memo with Reality”.

A document or a video doesn’t prove anything. There may be context behind them or edits that change everything.

That’s why you need a level-headed investigation. And there is great harm sometimes when you don’t get one early on because the first thing that people hear causes most folks to form an opinion that is hard to shake. If you have heard about the collateral video before, the one that contains the helicopter attack, I’ll bet most of you didn’t know that it is now accepted by all sides that the people in the crowd the helicopter fired on had weapons. Not just basic weapons, RPGs. With an RPG, you can take out armored vehicles. With an RPG you can shoot down low-flying helicopters. That is a weapon of someone participating in the insurgency. It’s not a civilian’s personal defense weapon.

It’s like the Bush administration suggesting a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. There are a percentage of Republicans in particular that will always believe that. I think this myth of the misconduct in what’s called the collateral murder video will similarly persist among some circles for a long time.
To show you how pervasive this can be, my friend Peter Lavelle on CrossTalk repeated these allegations about the helicopter this past week. The truth is out there that these folks were armed with heavy weapons common to the insurgency, but he was still under the impression they were unarmed civilians.

And Snowden’s revelations, well, I spent 15 minutes going through why that is all nonsense back in June. As I said the transcript is on my blog at Steveleser.blogspot.com context is everything but I’ll give you a taste. The Bush administration used warrantless wiretapping during its time in office. No paper trail, no oversight, nothing. They just listened to phone calls and read emails.

The Obama administration went back to using FISA. There is a paper trail, there is oversight by the judicial branch and by committees in both houses of congress. That’s a significant difference. That’s important context that shows things are going in the right direction.

Look, I am in favor of congressional investigations into exactly what the NSA is doing. Let’s have the investigations. But like the helicopter video, like the Bush administration claiming that Saddam had something to do with 9/11, any misconceptions created by the Snowden release through Glenn Greenwald, and there are major misconceptions created there, are going to be hard to change.

I talk a lot about how Greenwald failed to provide the proper context for what he wrote concerning Snowden’s leaked documents. If you go to my blog and check out the transcript of the show where I discussed it you see I talk about context and framing. What do I mean about that?  What do I mean about context and framing?

This is an important concept in terms of making sure you are really informing the public instead of spreading disinformation. Let me give you a good example.

Imagine you were out of contact and without a source of news for eight years in the African rainforest studying the great apes from 1937 through March of 1945 and you came out of the rainforest in March of 1945 and asked the first person you encountered what is going on in the world and that person said there is a world war going on in which Soviet Union, the US and Great Britain are bombing German cities and the Soviet red army is about to invade Germany and seize Berlin which would win the war.

If that was what was said to you, it would be true, that is what was happening in the European theater of the war in March of 1945, but do you think you would have been everything you need to know to understand the truth about the Second World War? No, that rendition lacks a lot of context and framing and without that context and framing, it’s disinformation, not information. That is often what you get when you present the truth without context.

Even if we for a moment assume that the documents leaked by Snowden are 100% correct, that’s what Glenn Greenwald did with his first Snowden piece. Again, check out my blog, steveleser.blogspot.com, the transcript is there for the show where I laid that all out.

Speaking of Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange, let’s talk about their responsibility to their sources as supposed journalists.

Did these guys hang their sources out to dry or what?

I wonder, at any point, did Assange or Greenwald say to Manning or Snowden respectively, hey Bradley, hey Eric, I think you may have some legitimate concerns, are you sure this is the way you want to go, there is another way we can approach this.

Let’s go to the most progressive member of the US Senate. Let’s go to Senator Bernie Sanders. Call his office, ask to speak with him or a senior member of his staff, say I’m involved and that you are contacting them as a whistleblower, better yet, let’s call his office together, hold on and I will conference them in and let’s get protection for you through the federal whistleblower laws.

If Assange and Greenwald had done that for their prospective sources, there would still be a story there, it may not have been as sensational but there would have been a story, the difference is, neither Manning nor Snowden would be facing imprisonment or exile. And we would have their issues addressed via congressional investigation with none of the hysteria or the erroneous impressions. And by the way, if there is wrongdoing at all involved in any of Snowden’s or Manning’s various leaks, the way they are going to get addressed is via congressional investigation.

Either way, we’re back to that.

That is why I offered on RT’s Crosstalk this past Friday, I offered to assist any federal government employee if they wanted to be a whistleblower. I will advise them and steer them to a member of congress to get their issue resolved so that they do not face imprisonment or exile. That is what a journalist who is looking out for their source would do. After the fact, Assange and Greenwald are talking a good game about how concerned they are for their sources, but now it’s too late.

They screwed their sources for a sensationalized story.

A few more things I want to talk about regarding the CrossTalk debate.

In response to my assertion that the approved way to go is to use the inspector general or go to a congressman or senator, there was one instance raised by Tighe Barry where he said that a whistleblower did that but faced retaliation anyway, and that person is Bunny Greenhouse. It was also suggested that if I started assisting federal whistleblowers, I would be in danger of going to jail and that I was naiive to think otherwise.

Now, right off the bat, the ironic thing about that last statement is that the person who said it, Tighe Barry from Code Pink, assists whistleblowers all the time, lives in Washington DC, was participating in the debate from Washington DC, and is free to assist whistleblowers and complain about the government all he wants and has not been arrested or retaliated against for it. You understand, he is doing and saying that from the nations capitol, from Washington DC with the FBI, CIA and NSA all headquartered nearby.

Cuckoo sound effect

That’s some unintended comedy there.

But let’s look at the case of Bunny Greenhouse. Since Tighe offered Bunny Greenhouse as an example of a whistleblower who went to congress but then suffered reprisals I decided to look into her case. She had a job with the Army Corps of Engineers and she blew the whistle on a division of Halliburton receiving a No bid contract in Iraq shortly after the start of that war. She testified about that in a meeting of a congressional committee.

So what’s the the big reprisal against her that Tighe suggests all whistleblowers and those who would assist them should fear? The reprisal against Bunny Greenhouse is that she was demoted. That's it.  No arrest, no exile, no physical punishment, she was demoted. And when she sued, citing the federal whistleblower laws that she had dutifully obeyed, as would be my suggestion, she won and the government settled with her for $970,000.

As far as I am concerned, that is a positive outcome and doesn't make the point Tighe intended.

So let’s sum up.

The video Manning says is the reason he decided to be a leaker that was posted by Assange’s Wikileaks doesn’t show actual wrongdoing.

The NSA allegations Snowden raised when viewed in the proper context with an understanding of the history and legalities involved also don’t amount to wrongdoing and suggest that the Obama administration took steps to improve oversight with surveillance but I agree should be investigated anyway.

Greenwald failed to do virtually any background into the history and legality of NSA Surveillance in his pieces on Snowden’s leaked documents and as a result, his story was so lacking in context and framing that it qualifies as disinformation.

Snowden and Manning had avenues open to them to blow the whistle where they would be free from any prosecution or retaliation and refused to use them.

Greenwald and Assange happily let their sources hang themselves so they could print sensationalism.
My original point in the CrossTalk segment stands. Whistleblowers are safe if they use the appropriate methods to blow the whistle. The one attempt to provide an example otherwise failed when one looks at the issue.

Oh, and one more thing. The same usual sources in the blogosphere and sectors of the media that like to do hit pieces against the United States have jumped on the bandwagon to spread what has turned out to be inaccurate information or information that lacks the proper context. Again, all because it seems bad for the United States.

Folks, when I cover an issue, the facts and what makes sense trumps any ideology and trumps any prior support I have for a party or person or group. If the facts are bad for President Obama, I say that and he makes it into my Hall of Shame, like when he tried to implement chained CPI or when he has spoken in favor of supporting the Syrian rebels. If the facts don’t reflect well on the Democratic Party, I hammer the Democratic Party. There are no sacred cows on my show, I let the facts and good sense take me where they will.

When you examine all the facts and all the context there is only one conclusion to which one can come. The actions of Snowden, Manning, Assange and Greenwald were wrong and do not make sense.

We’ll be right back.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Latest Episode of Making Sense with Steve Leser Radio Show - Whistleblowing and more 08/04 | Politics Podcasts

Making Sense with Steve Leser - Whistleblowing and more 08/04 by Making Sense with Steve Leser | Politics Podcasts

Heads up - Top Story for this weeks show is Whistleblowing!

Don't miss this week's Making Sense with Steve Leser Radio show! 7pm Eastern time on Blogtalkradio.com (link below) and 2pm Pacific time on KCAA Radio 1050am in Inland Empire, California. Our top story this week is Whistleblowing, specifically the cases of Bradley Manning and Eric Snowden and the journalists who broke their stories, Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange. Did those whistleblowers do the right thing? Did the journalists behave responsibly? Should they all have gone about things differently? This follows up on an appearance on RT I made this past week to discuss all of the above.

Then, Pope Francis gave an impromptu speech on the church’s position in regard to gay Catholics. It shocked some people but does it represent a change?

As always we will have our trademark hall of fame and shame for those politicians and prominent individuals who made great sense or shameful nonsense respectively.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/lesersense/2013/08/04/making-sense-with-steve-leser--whistleblowing-and-more

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Politifact Rating "Half True": Wikileaks founder Julian Assange tells Colbert permission to engage was given before the word RPG was ever used

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/apr/14/julian-assange/wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-tells-colbert-per/

In an April 12, 2010, interview on The Colbert Report, one of the WikiLeaks founders was pressed to explain why "Collateral Murder" was an accurate title for a leaked military video of a 3-year-old deadly encounter between a U.S. Apache helicopter gun crew and a cluster of men on a Baghdad street corner, two of whom were journalists for Reuters.

Host Stephen Colbert called the title "emotional manipulation." He noted that while soldiers in the Apache did mistake cameras with long telephoto lenses slung over the shoulders of the two journalists for weapons, there were, in fact, two other men in the group with weapons.

"How can you call it 'Collateral Murder?' " Colbert asked guest Julian Assange of Wikileaks, referring to the controversial and widely-viewed video.

"So it appears there are possibly two men, one carrying an AK-47 and one carrying a rocket-propelled grenade -- although we're not 100 percent sure of that -- in the crowd," Assange answered. 

.
.
.
More at link above but I have to say, now that we have Assange admitting that in this crowd of 11 men, there are folks with automatic weapons and with RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades) is this an instance of US military "firing on civilians". 

I think we can say with certainty that it isn't. And since this video was used by Manning to justify his leaking of all of his videos and documents to Wikileaks, what does that say for this justification?

Friday, August 2, 2013

RePost: Transcript of the NSA Surveillance Portion of my 6/9-10/13 show

http://kcaaradio.celestrion.net/kcaa-podcasts/leser/20130610.html (Note: 6 minutes of commercials before show starts and the below segment starts at minute 8)

What is the Truth and Full Story about the NSA Surveillance scandal that isn’t being reported anywhere else?

Well, in case you haven’t heard, a June 5th article by Glenn Greenwald in the UK Guardian purports to break the story on an NSA Surveillance scandal that per a FISA court warrant, Verizon is providing the NSA the metadata calling records of all of its customers to include originating number, destination number and date and time of the call. Not the actual calls themselves, just the metadata information about the calls.

Immediately you had a blowup of outrage in the media and the blogosphere that this was some kind of new and horrible thing against our privacy and fourth amendment rights by President Obama. Another take was that he had gone back on his promise to make a change on this from the Bush administration.

One of the problems with this so called scandal is that the reporting by Greenwald was woefully incomplete as to the history of this kind of surveillance and I am not just talking about the Bush administration aspect of it. Greenwald’s omissions in this latest article extend to his own prior coverage of NSA surveillance and to administrations before George W. Bush. Greenwald provided less than 15% of the facts that the public needs to be fully informed about what is going on here.

To really understand what this is about and whether the Obama administration did anything wrong in this situation, you have to start at the beginning. I mark the beginning as May 18, 1977, the day Ted Kennedy submitted the FISA bill to the Senate. The FISA bill, also known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is describe in Wikipedia as prescribing procedures for the physical and electronic surveillance and collection of "foreign intelligence information" between "foreign powers" and "agents of foreign powers" which may include American citizens and permanent residents suspected of espionage or terrorism. In practice, it sets up secret courts through which intelligence agencies can obtain warrants for surveillance of individuals and groups suspected of engaging in any kind of espionage and foreign sponsored or connected terrorist activities harmful to US National Security.

Six Democrats and three Republicans cosponsored the bill and it was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter October 25th, 1978.

Hearing about FISA in a vacuum without any other information would probably cause most people to believe that FISA has the strong potential to violate the fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. In fact, FISA was created to strengthen the fourth amendment and I will explain how.

FISA was created by Ted Kennedy for two reasons. First, it was created as a response to President Nixon using warrantless wiretaps and other searches to target political opponents and activist groups. The other reason it was created was made clear by one of the US Court of appeals decisions that affirmed the constitutionality of FISA, and that is the 1984 US v Duggan decision. Part of the Duggan decision reads:

Prior to the enactment of FISA, virtually every court that had addressed the issue had concluded that the President had the inherent power to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance to collect foreign intelligence information, and that such surveillances constituted an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.

The Duggan decision goes on to list six or seven other appeals court decisions where courts concluded that the President has the inherent power to conduct this kind of warrantless electronic surveillance to collect foreign intelligence information.

Senator Kennedy and President Carter did not like the idea of warrantless wiretapping even though it was judged in the case of foreign espionage and terrorism to be Constitutional …so they created FISA which requires the Justice Department and intelligence agencies of the executive branch to get a judge to sign off on a warrant in order to conduct these surveillances. It also gives a number of congressional committees the ability to look over these warrants.

Critics point out that the judges almost always sign off on FISA warrants. That’s right. They sign off because as pointed out in the Duggan decision, appeals courts have already ruled many times that the President has the right to conduct this surveillance and that this surveillance does not violate the fourth amendment provided that the ultimate target of the investigation is a foreign sponsored entity or terrorist organization. FISA does provide additional rules as to how these activities are to be done and also restricts how long the justice department and intelligence agencies can hold onto the acquired information before they must dispose of it.

So to review, the FISA law was created because before FISA, appeals courts had already ruled that Presidents could conduct this surveillance without a warrant and FISA finally brought some level of legislative and judicial branch oversight to these activities. Now for the first time, the executive branch could not legally conduct frivolous or abusive surveillance of people and groups without the other branches of government finding out and potentially taking action.

Now, let’s fast forward to the administration of George W. Bush.

After 9/11 President George W. Bush issued an executive order directing the NSA to start conducting wiretaps and other surveillance without a warrant via FISA or otherwise.

Many of us objected to the Bush administrations warrantless wiretapping program throughout Bush’s time in office. I wrote a number of articles attacking the practice including one in October of 2007 were I called for the Bush administration to go back to using FISA courts and suggested that the NSA, FBI and CIA should push back on any requests to perform surveillance without a FISA warrant.

Bush claimed that he had wartime powers to conduct warrantless wiretapping, but on March 31, 2010 a Federal Appeals court ruled NSA's warrantless wiretapping of an Islamic charity's lawyers in 2004 was illegal because it violated FISA and awarded that charity $2.5 million dollars in damages plus attorney’s fees. If you want to look it up, you will ironically note that the name of the case is Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama because even though the warrantless surveillance took place in 2004, by the time the appeal came, Bush was no longer in office.

Speaking of which:

When campaigning for President in 2008, then senator Obama vigorously attacked President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program and vowed to stop the practice. That is exactly what he did. President Obama returned to the policies before President Bush of using the Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter FISA law to obtain warrants wherever this kind of surveillance would be performed.

The other important part of history is that since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the kinds of wide-reaching surveillances of phone records, email and internet postings noted by Greenwald in his article of a few days ago has been constantly going on. This is not new. It has been reported on periodically including an article by Greenwald himself back in October of 2009. Greenwald penned an October 6, 2009 article in Salon titled “The joint Post/Obama defense of the Patriot Act and FISA: where he talks about the Obama administration’s use of FISA warrants that may or may not have led to the dismantling of a significant terrorist plot to bomb the New York City Subways.

There is an October 18 2007 article in NPR by Eric Weiner titled “The Foreign Service Intelligence Act: A Primer” that discusses the Bush administration’s desire not to have to get a FISA warrant to get wiretaps. A May 11 2006 USA Today article by Leslie Cauley is titled “The NSA has a massive database of Americans’ phone calls” and it talks about how what Greenwald reported a few days ago as some sort of revelation has been going on for twelve years.

My point by noting these articles, and there are hundreds, perhaps thousands more where they came from steadily since the end of 2001, is that this is not new stuff. It shouldn’t shock anyone. Journalists and pundits to include Greenwald himself shouldn’t be presenting what Greenwald wrote as new or shocking.

I’m really disappointed at my fellow journalists and pundits in general with the coverage of this story. When you understand the history of when and why FISA came into being and when you understand appeals court rulings regarding Presidential powers with regards to surveillance aimed at foreign directed entities and terrorist groups. When you understand those things and you combine them with the history since 9/11 of the Bush administration attempt to ignore FISA and wiretap without a warrant, a practice that the Obama administration has completely renounced, I think you are left with only one possible conclusion.

President Obama did nothing wrong and there is no scandal here, at least not in terms of the administration. The reporting of this issue by Greenwald and other journalists and pundits, well there you might have a scandal. The history and context matters and not providing those things in this situation completely alters the meaning of the story and is a veritable journalistic crime. Greenwald should be ashamed of himself, and many other journalists and pundits out there should also feel ashamed of themselves.

We can have a good national conversation about whether FISA should still be the law of the land. Understand though that if we repeal it and don’t replace it with anything, existing legal decisions and judicial review would mean that once again warrantless wiretapping ultimately aimed at foreign groups and terrorist organizations would be legal. Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter knew what they were doing when they created and passed FISA. Any law can be improved and FISA is no exception, but FISA is a big improvement compared to the situation before it was passed in 1978 and it is a big improvement over the Bush administration’s attempts to go back to warrantless wiretapping.

There is another point that I think we should note. The FISA warrant in question discussed in Greenwald’s article allows the NSA to collect phone records for three months, from April 25th until July 19th. I’m surprised no one has made the obvious correlation to how close the start date is to the Boston Marathon bombings which occurred in April 15th just ten days before. I’m making an educated guess here so you all can determine how much you think this makes sense to you, but it seems likely to me that in the wake of the Boston bombing, someone in the justice department asked the NSA to gather this information with the intent of finding patterns of telephone chatter between as yet undiscovered terrorist cells here in the US who might be discussing the bombing. The timing seems too close to be coincidence.

If true, it needs to be pointed out that Greenwald’s article certainly disrupted that effort.

Getting back to the Obama administration, I can envision what happened when President Obama took office in 2009. I’m sure there was a discussion with white house counsel and the Attorney General where national security surveillance was brought up and the President probably asked a question along the lines of “OK, we want to be better than the Bush administration was on this. We certainly don’t want to wiretap without a warrant. What is the constitutionally accepted remedy that respects the fourth amendment.” And the answer from any lawyer familiar with the law and the history of this issue would say the remedy is to go back to the law that Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter enacted to provide oversight over these kinds of activities. Go back to getting FISA warrants for them. In fact when Ted Kennedy died, the American Civil Liberties Union put out a glowing press release about him, saying:

The civil rights community lost one of its giants today. Senator Kennedy’s lifelong commitment to racial justice and the rule of law has been an inspiration to the ACLU and Americans everywhere,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “On a personal level, we will miss his wise counsel and encouragement in the ongoing struggle to preserve civil liberties. Senator Kennedy’s legacy will live on to inspire generations of civil libertarians to come.”

In this same press release honoring Kennedy, among the legislative accomplishments the ACLU praised from Senator Kennedy as protecting Civil Liberties was FISA. It’s therefore also disappointing to note that the ACLU is getting after President Obama for using… wait for it… yes, FISA. 

Folks over at the ACLU, I love you guys, but you made a mistake here. It’s OK, you rarely make mistakes, you’re entitled to a few, this is definitely one of them and you are in good company. Most of the folks that consider themselves civil libertarians missed it on this one and failed to take into account the history and judicial decisions and review that frame this issue.

As the beginning of this segment I accused the coverage of this issue by my fellow journalists and pundits as woefully incomplete and I promised to give you all the full story and that once you heard it, you would think differently about this issue. Now that you have heard what I had to say, I hope you agree and I hope you all think I kept that promise. Feel free to let me know. Write to me atmakingsenseletters@yahoo.com and tell me what you think of this issue and my coverage of it.


We’ll be right back.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 8 of 45 Pictures and Cartoons Regarding the Republican War on Women


It is still unbelievable women don't have unfettered access to women's healthcare choices and equal pay for equal work in 2013.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 1 of 45 Pictures and Cartoons regarding the Republican War on Women

To highlight the recent uptick in anti-women statements by prominent Republicans that I discussed at the end of my last show, I am going to post a picture or cartoon regarding the Republican war on women every day for the next 45 days.

Starting today.


Making Sense with Steve Leser - Radio show from 6-17-13 Sec. Kerry goes to the ME, NSA and more

Don't miss the excellent Hall of Fame and Shame that is centered around the uptick in the Republican War on Women

http://kcaaradio.celestrion.net/kcaa-podcasts/leser/20130617

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Transcript of the NSA Surveillance Portion of my 6/9-10/13 show

What is the Truth and Full Story about the NSA Surveillance scandal that isn’t being reported anywhere else?

Well, in case you haven’t heard, a June 5th article by Glenn Greenwald in the UK Guardian purports to break the story on an NSA Surveillance scandal that per a FISA court warrant, Verizon is providing the NSA the metadata calling records of all of its customers to include originating number, destination number and date and time of the call. Not the actual calls themselves, just the metadata information about the calls.

Immediately you had a blowup of outrage in the media and the blogosphere that this was some kind of new and horrible thing against our privacy and fourth amendment rights by President Obama. Another take was that he had gone back on his promise to make a change on this from the Bush administration.

One of the problems with this so called scandal is that the reporting by Greenwald was woefully incomplete as to the history of this kind of surveillance and I am not just talking about the Bush administration aspect of it. Greenwald’s omissions in this latest article extend to his own prior coverage of NSA surveillance and to administrations before George W. Bush. Greenwald provided less than 15% of the facts that the public needs to be fully informed about what is going on here.

To really understand what this is about and whether the Obama administration did anything wrong in this situation, you have to start at the beginning. I mark the beginning as May 18, 1977, the day Ted Kennedy submitted the FISA bill to the Senate. The FISA bill, also known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is describe in Wikipedia as prescribing procedures for the physical and electronic surveillance and collection of "foreign intelligence information" between "foreign powers" and "agents of foreign powers" which may include American citizens and permanent residents suspected of espionage or terrorism. In practice, it sets up secret courts through which intelligence agencies can obtain warrants for surveillance of individuals and groups suspected of engaging in any kind of espionage and foreign sponsored or connected terrorist activities harmful to US National Security.

Six Democrats and three Republicans cosponsored the bill and it was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter October 25th, 1978.

Hearing about FISA in a vacuum without any other information would probably cause most people to believe that FISA has the strong potential to violate the fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. In fact, FISA was created to strengthen the fourth amendment and I will explain how.

FISA was created by Ted Kennedy for two reasons. First, it was created as a response to President Nixon using warrantless wiretaps and other searches to target political opponents and activist groups. The other reason it was created was made clear by one of the US Court of appeals decisions that affirmed the constitutionality of FISA, and that is the 1984 US v Duggan decision. Part of the Duggan decision reads:

Prior to the enactment of FISA, virtually every court that had addressed the issue had concluded that the President had the inherent power to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance to collect foreign intelligence information, and that such surveillances constituted an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.

The Duggan decision goes on to list six or seven other appeals court decisions where courts concluded that the President has the inherent power to conduct this kind of warrantless electronic surveillance to collect foreign intelligence information.

Senator Kennedy and President Carter did not like the idea of warrantless wiretapping even though it was judged in the case of foreign espionage and terrorism to be Constitutional …so they created FISA which requires the Justice Department and intelligence agencies of the executive branch to get a judge to sign off on a warrant in order to conduct these surveillances. It also gives a number of congressional committees the ability to look over these warrants.

Critics point out that the judges almost always sign off on FISA warrants. That’s right. They sign off because as pointed out in the Duggan decision, appeals courts have already ruled many times that the President has the right to conduct this surveillance and that this surveillance does not violate the fourth amendment provided that the ultimate target of the investigation is a foreign sponsored entity or terrorist organization. FISA does provide additional rules as to how these activities are to be done and also restricts how long the justice department and intelligence agencies can hold onto the acquired information before they must dispose of it.

So to review, the FISA law was created because before FISA, appeals courts had already ruled that Presidents could conduct this surveillance without a warrant and FISA finally brought some level of legislative and judicial branch oversight to these activities. Now for the first time, the executive branch could not legally conduct frivolous or abusive surveillance of people and groups without the other branches of government finding out and potentially taking action.

Now, let’s fast forward to the administration of George W. Bush.

After 9/11 President George W. Bush issued an executive order directing the NSA to start conducting wiretaps and other surveillance without a warrant via FISA or otherwise.

Many of us objected to the Bush administrations warrantless wiretapping program throughout Bush’s time in office. I wrote a number of articles attacking the practice including one in October of 2007 were I called for the Bush administration to go back to using FISA courts and suggested that the NSA, FBI and CIA should push back on any requests to perform surveillance without a FISA warrant.

Bush claimed that he had wartime powers to conduct warrantless wiretapping, but on March 31, 2010 a Federal Appeals court ruled NSA's warrantless wiretapping of an Islamic charity's lawyers in 2004 was illegal because it violated FISA and awarded that charity $2.5 million dollars in damages plus attorney’s fees. If you want to look it up, you will ironically note that the name of the case is Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama because even though the warrantless surveillance took place in 2004, by the time the appeal came, Bush was no longer in office.

Speaking of which:

When campaigning for President in 2008, then senator Obama vigorously attacked President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program and vowed to stop the practice. That is exactly what he did. President Obama returned to the policies before President Bush of using the Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter FISA law to obtain warrants wherever this kind of surveillance would be performed.

The other important part of history is that since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the kinds of wide-reaching surveillances of phone records, email and internet postings noted by Greenwald in his article of a few days ago has been constantly going on. This is not new. It has been reported on periodically including an article by Greenwald himself back in October of 2009. Greenwald penned an October 6, 2009 article in Salon titled “The joint Post/Obama defense of the Patriot Act and FISA: where he talks about the Obama administration’s use of FISA warrants that may or may not have led to the dismantling of a significant terrorist plot to bomb the New York City Subways.

There is an October 18 2007 article in NPR by Eric Weiner titled “The Foreign Service Intelligence Act: A Primer” that discusses the Bush administration’s desire not to have to get a FISA warrant to get wiretaps. A May 11 2006 USA Today article by Leslie Cauley is titled “The NSA has a massive database of Americans’ phone calls” and it talks about how what Greenwald reported a few days ago as some sort of revelation has been going on for twelve years.

My point by noting these articles, and there are hundreds, perhaps thousands more where they came from steadily since the end of 2001, is that this is not new stuff. It shouldn’t shock anyone. Journalists and pundits to include Greenwald himself shouldn’t be presenting what Greenwald wrote as new or shocking.

I’m really disappointed at my fellow journalists and pundits in general with the coverage of this story. When you understand the history of when and why FISA came into being and when you understand appeals court rulings regarding Presidential powers with regards to surveillance aimed at foreign directed entities and terrorist groups. When you understand those things and you combine them with the history since 9/11 of the Bush administration attempt to ignore FISA and wiretap without a warrant, a practice that the Obama administration has completely renounced, I think you are left with only one possible conclusion.

President Obama did nothing wrong and there is no scandal here, at least not in terms of the administration. The reporting of this issue by Greenwald and other journalists and pundits, well there you might have a scandal. The history and context matters and not providing those things in this situation completely alters the meaning of the story and is a veritable journalistic crime. Greenwald should be ashamed of himself, and many other journalists and pundits out there should also feel ashamed of themselves.

We can have a good national conversation about whether FISA should still be the law of the land. Understand though that if we repeal it and don’t replace it with anything, existing legal decisions and judicial review would mean that once again warrantless wiretapping ultimately aimed at foreign groups and terrorist organizations would be legal. Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter knew what they were doing when they created and passed FISA. Any law can be improved and FISA is no exception, but FISA is a big improvement compared to the situation before it was passed in 1978 and it is a big improvement over the Bush administration’s attempts to go back to warrantless wiretapping.

There is another point that I think we should note. The FISA warrant in question discussed in Greenwald’s article allows the NSA to collect phone records for three months, from April 25th until July 19th. I’m surprised no one has made the obvious correlation to how close the start date is to the Boston Marathon bombings which occurred in April 15th just ten days before. I’m making an educated guess here so you all can determine how much you think this makes sense to you, but it seems likely to me that in the wake of the Boston bombing, someone in the justice department asked the NSA to gather this information with the intent of finding patterns of telephone chatter between as yet undiscovered terrorist cells here in the US who might be discussing the bombing. The timing seems too close to be coincidence.

If true, it needs to be pointed out that Greenwald’s article certainly disrupted that effort.

Getting back to the Obama administration, I can envision what happened when President Obama took office in 2009. I’m sure there was a discussion with white house counsel and the Attorney General where national security surveillance was brought up and the President probably asked a question along the lines of “OK, we want to be better than the Bush administration was on this. We certainly don’t want to wiretap without a warrant. What is the constitutionally accepted remedy that respects the fourth amendment.” And the answer from any lawyer familiar with the law and the history of this issue would say the remedy is to go back to the law that Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter enacted to provide oversight over these kinds of activities. Go back to getting FISA warrants for them. In fact when Ted Kennedy died, the American Civil Liberties Union put out a glowing press release about him, saying:

The civil rights community lost one of its giants today. Senator Kennedy’s lifelong commitment to racial justice and the rule of law has been an inspiration to the ACLU and Americans everywhere,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “On a personal level, we will miss his wise counsel and encouragement in the ongoing struggle to preserve civil liberties. Senator Kennedy’s legacy will live on to inspire generations of civil libertarians to come.”

In this same press release honoring Kennedy, among the legislative accomplishments the ACLU praised from Senator Kennedy as protecting Civil Liberties was FISA. It’s therefore also disappointing to note that the ACLU is getting after President Obama for using… wait for it… yes, FISA. 

Folks over at the ACLU, I love you guys, but you made a mistake here. It’s OK, you rarely make mistakes, you’re entitled to a few, this is definitely one of them and you are in good company. Most of the folks that consider themselves civil libertarians missed it on this one and failed to take into account the history and judicial decisions and review that frame this issue.

As the beginning of this segment I accused the coverage of this issue by my fellow journalists and pundits as woefully incomplete and I promised to give you all the full story and that once you heard it, you would think differently about this issue. Now that you have heard what I had to say, I hope you agree and I hope you all think I kept that promise. Feel free to let me know. Write to me at makingsenseletters@yahoo.com and tell me what you think of this issue and my coverage of it.


We’ll be right back.

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