As long as I have any choice, I will stay only in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule

Andrew Grotto is an arms control expert who occscaionallt contributes to Arms Control WonkTalking tough to Iran

Iran’s missile tests on Wednesday predictably grabbed headlines around the world and provoked the usual condemnations. A Bush administration spokesman, for example, said that Iran’s government “only furthers the isolation of the Iranian people from the international community when it engages in this sort of activity.”

I wish that were true. There is no love lost between Iran and most of its neighbours, but this hasn’t stopped Iran from emerging as the main benefactor of the Bush administration’s lamentable Middle East policy.

Andrew is being diplomatic. Bush and the neoconservatives have handed Iraq and a huge helping of influence it would not have otherwise had if not for the occupation of Iraq. Bush’s Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has in fact established close ties to Tehran.

As Barack Obama correctly observed in his statement condemning Iran’s missile tests: “Iran now poses the greatest strategic challenge to the United States in the region in a generation.” The Bush administration’s response to this challenge – feign diplomacy but tap the war drum and foment regime change in Iran – has obviously failed to change Iran’s behaviour, let alone the regime.

McCain’s response was the usual canned sound bite. What could he say that we don’t already know that McCain like Bush doesn’t have a policy toward Iran, Republicans simply throw a little temper tantrum. Temper tantrums only pass for foriegn policy among Conservatives.

Senate Joins House to Expand Wiretapping Law (FISA)

Three proposed amendments were rejected. The first, which would have removed immunity for telephone companies, failed 66-32. A second, which would have required a court to assess the legality of the warrantless wiretaps before granting immunity, failed 61-37. A third, to postpone the granting of immunity for a year pending an investigation, failed 56-42.

Both the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation said they will challenge the law in court.

Some consolation for those that think this battle is over. The ACLU states,

The FISA Amendments Act nearly eviscerates oversight of government surveillance by allowing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to review only general procedures for spying rather than individual warrants. The FISC will not be told any specifics about who will actually be wiretapped, thereby undercutting any meaningful role for the court and violating the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

One of the reasons Bush’s abuse of executive power combined with retroactive immunity for the telecoms is so repugnant is that FISA and the creation of secret courts (the FISC court) were in themselves a tremendous compromise of the Forth Amendment. Is it legal for Congress to retroactively offer up immunity for civil libility. It has never been done before at least not without compensating the victims of the wrong doing, Is It Constitutional for the Senate to Retroactively Immunize From Civil Liability the Telecoms

So why has no one pointed out that perhaps the victims of the illegal NSA spying have a right to their vested claims, just as much as the victims of 9/11 or of black lung disease or asbestos, or their families, do?

One reason may be that the Senate does not think that the claims under FISA have really “vested” or “accrued” as the law requires. Yet it is hard for me to see how these terms do not apply to the plaintiffs in the suits that have already been filed, assuming that they can prove their cases. They had a private right to privacy that was established by a federal statute that was in force between 2001 and 2006. Allegedly, during that time, that private right was violated. It would seem to me that at the moment the violation occurred, their right to compensation vested and was accrued.

It doesn’t look like this is going away anytime soon. The irony may be that a president Obama might be in a position to file a brief with the SCOTUS that sides with the current interpretation of Congress’s retroactive release of liability for the telecoms. Those that are mad at him now for compromising will have real reason to be steamed should that happen.

Absolute consistency might not be the best rait in the world. Things do change andone should want to respond appropriately, but sometimes there are principles involved and those in turn can have life or death consequnces. In other words someone tell John McBush to stop playing games with our soldier’s lives, NPR’s Kelemen reported McCain’s response to Maliki’s call for withdrawal timetable, but not McCain’s 2004 assertion that “it’s obvious” the U.S. “would have to leave” if Iraq requested it

NPR’s Michele Kelemen reported that Sen. John McCain “suggested in an interview with MSNBC that the Iraqi calls for a troop withdrawal date may be driven by politics in Baghdad,” and quoted McCain as saying, “The Iraqis have made it very clear, including the meetings I had with the president and foreign minister of Iraq, that it’s based on conditions on the ground. […] I’ve always said we will come home with honor and with victory and not through a set timetable.” But Kelemen did not note that in 2004, when asked what the United States would do if the “Iraqi government asks us to leave,” McCain responded, “I think it’s obvious that we would have to leave.”

Well Iraq wants a timetable for the departure of American troops. So what is 100 Years in Iraq McCain to say.

“As long as I have any choice, I will stay only in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule.” ~ Albert Einstein