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You might assume that in the American market economy, telecommunications service providers are private companies. But the Obama Justice Department, in a strange filing with a federal court in San Francisco, explains that the facts are somewhat different. In a sense, the Justice Department said, the telecom companies are just extensions of one big, happy government family: their communications with the government are interagency communications and are entitled to secrecy.
The communications between the agencies and telecommunications companies regarding the immunity provisions of the proposed legislation have been regarded as intra-agency because the government and the companies have a common interest in the defense of the pending litigation and the communications regarding the immunity provisions concerned that common interest.
Now Wired reports that federal judge Jeffrey White has ruled against this ploy, insisting that the government turn over its communications with the telecoms on a subject of vital public interest: securing legislation that grants the telecoms immunity for participating in an illegal surveillance scheme engineered by the Bush Administration. Rather than comply with the court’s order, the Obama Justice Department is now seeking an emergency stay while it continues the crusade for secret government that is immune to accountability for criminal misconduct. They’ve made such a commotion over this that expectations over the texts are now running high. Did they have a shared checklist on how to compromise or corrupt members of Congress? Was Justice promising to compromise criminal investigations in exchange for votes on the floor?
By the way, one telecom declined to participate in the Bush Administration’s warrantless surveillance scheme: Denver-based Qwest Communications. Within a short period of time, the Bush Justice Department opened a criminal investigation targeting the CEO who made this decision, Joseph Nacchio. He was charged and convicted of insider trading. This week, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from his conviction.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”