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FISA: McCain And His Telecom Lobbyist Posse Provide Cheney CYA

If John McCain can’t even figure out how to send an e-mail by himself, how in the hell am I supposed to have confidence in his ability to comprehend both the technological and constitutional issues involved in FISA? (YouTube) It’s like asking Ted Stevens for networking advice, isn’t it? Or Jack Abramoff for ethics opinions?

Maybe McCain’s vast posse of telecom lobbyist cronies can help him out — because they’ve managed to flip yet another McCain position on an issue to their clients’ advantage. To wit:

The group suggested Friday that the swell of current and former telecom lobbyists in the McCain camp might have something to do with the candidate’s recent reversal on the legality of warrantless wiretapping. His most recent position "reads a lot like the talking points that a telecom lobbyist might employ," writes EFF senior staff attorney Kurt Opsahl.

McCain has long supported amnesty for telecoms who cooperated with Bush’s warrantless domestic spying, but until recently questioned the legality of the program. After zig-zagging on the issue over the last few weeks, he eventually settled on a position nearly identical to President Bush’s — that presidential war-making powers trump the law when it comes to warrantless wiretapping….

EFF looked at the lobbyists who worked on a bill that would have given those companies immunity. Among the lobbyist connections the EFF found:

  • Charlie Black, a top McCain political adviser, worked for lobbying firm BKSH until March of this year. AT&T paid the firm $120,000 for the first three months of 2008, in part to lobby for the FISA amendments. Black was listed as one of AT&T’s lobbyists.
  • The influential Wayne Berman, one of McCain’s national finance co-chairs, works for Ogilvy, a prestigious lobbying firm which represents AT&T on FISA. Berman was listed in the first quarter of 2008 as having lobbied for the company.
  • John Green, also from Oglivy, lobbied on wiretap bills and amnesty for AT&T. He now reportedly works as a full-time liaison to Congress for the McCain campaign.
  • Dan Coats, a member of the McCain’s Justice Advisory Committee, formerly lobbies for Sprint on FISA reform.

…In remarks to reporters Friday, McCain called the legality of the program "ambiguous," but did not want to dwell on it, according to MSNBC.

Patrick Hynes, the campaign’s online outreach coordinator, repeatedly declined to explain why McCain’s position on warrantless wiretapping has changed, finally stating that McCain’s "position on this issue has been consistent," despite stories from the conservative National Review Online, [t]he New York Times and the liberal online magazine Salon to the contrary.

Reporter Charlie Savage — who as a Boston Globe reporter pressed presidential contenders about their view of executive power in the fall — added to the controversy Friday with a front page New York Times story.

Savage noted the discrepancy in what McCain said to him in December, and what his campaign told the National Review Online last Monday….

Maverick, my ass. Convenient how when the choice between protecting the rights of Americans in a balance between their national security interests and their civil liberties comes up for discussion, McCain now takes "the protect Dick Cheney’s flank" position that keeps his lobbyist cronies happiest, isn’t it? Cozy.

Ryan Singel, whose reporting for Wired on these issues has been superb, notes that the FBI has been caught in yet another abuse of investigative power scheme — this time by the FISC. (I’ve asked for comment from the FISA Court and am awaiting response.)

How, exactly, is the public supposed to go with the "trust us" method of governance, Sen. McCain, when we’ve been lied to, spied on, held without charge, had our legal rights violated, and manipulated by fear tactics so that the likes of your lobbying cronies and Dick Cheney’s power posse could get their fondest dreams of unfettered control? At what point do the civil liberties, the laws and the rights of the public get some consideration?

Or is that only when we buy our way into your version of the Beltway and lobby clients from your bus that our opinions get heard?

We’ve already lived through two terms of George Bush — the nation can’t afford another one, thanks. If John McCain cannot be honest with himself about how many times he’s changed his positions from pretending to be a maverick to cuddling up with the Bush/Cheney Administration, depending on which way his constituent wind was blowing — then how in the hell can we trust him to be honest with the rest of us?

Please call your members of Congress today: no telecom immunity, no basket warrants, no deal if it doesn’t protect the rights of Americans under the rule of law. Glenn is right — there are only a couple of minor tweaks required to fix the few real, honest issues under the law — we expect members of Congress to do their jobs. Ask yours to do just that — and nothing more — until after the election. Dick Cheney can cover his own ass, thanks.

UPDATE:  More on McCain’s back and forth on telecom immunity and his close ties to telecom lobbyists here

(YouTube of McCain parsing McCain via Brave New Films.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com