Thursday, May 18, 2006

Today's Outrage

When USA Today reported that the NSA was compiling a database of every call made in America, the President was quick to address the nation in an effort to allay fears that this was yet another example of the government invading the privacy of millions of Americans and breaking the law to do so. It didn’t work. Tony Snow, the new Press Secretary, took pains to say that neither the President nor he were confirming or denying the report. Well, is it true?

Qwest Communications confirmed that it had been approached by the NSA, but asserted that it had refused to comply with the request in the absence of court authorization. It’s hard to imagine why Qwest would issue such a statement if it were not true. Nevertheless, on Monday, BellSouth Communications Inc. denied that it had been asked by the NSA for customer information. The next day Verizon said the same thing. Could they be lying?

Telephone stocks are considered blue chips. They are well capitalized and they pay steady dividends. For these reasons and others they are the mainstay of many a retirement account. The value of these stocks are likely to be effected by the lawsuits which have been filed for violation of The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, 18 USC 3122-23, and other relevant statutes. Potential liability is in the billions of dollars.

How will these lawsuits affect the millions of shareholders, many of whom are retirees who rely on their expectation of dividends to enjoy their golden years? Well, luckily for them, there are laws that are designed to protect the shareholders from being misled by management of publicly traded companies. These laws require that companies file financial reports, but there is a catch:
15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A): With respect to matters concerning the national security of the United States, no duty or liability under paragraph (2) of this subsection [relating to filing accurate statements] shall be imposed upon any person acting in cooperation with the head of any Federal department or agency responsible for such matters if such act in cooperation with such head of a department or agency was done upon the specific, written directive of the head of such department or agency pursuant to Presidential authority to issue such directives. Each directive issued under this paragraph shall set forth the specific facts and circumstances with respect to which the provisions of this paragraph are to be invoked. Each such directive shall, unless renewed in writing, expire one year after the date of issuance.
Tom Hartman and Think Progress uncovered this little gem hidden in the Federal Register:
Memorandum of May 5, 2006
Assignment of Function Relating to Granting of Authority for Issuance of Certain Directives

Memorandum for the Director of National Intelligence

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, I hereby assign to you the function of the President under section 13(b)(3)(A) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A)). In performing such function, you should consult the heads of departments and agencies, as appropriate.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

George W. Bush


I know this is a little heavy on the legalese, but the long and short of it is that the President is trampling on the civil rights of every American and then enlisting corporate America in its war on truth.

Had enough?

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

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