Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Your Fourth Reich of Government at Work

Darth Cheney says he's not a member of the Legistlative, Executive, or Judiciary branch of government, and not subject to their rules.

Which branch does he say he's a member of? A fourth branch of government: the Fourth Reich of Government, where free enterprise takes over to do what must be done. Corporatism is the Fourth Reich for a government so small you could drown it in a bathtub, a government where the profit incentive takes care of the Right People.

Case in point, from Justin Rood:

A proposed new FBI program would skirt federal laws by paying private companies to hold millions of phone and Internet records which the bureau is barred from keeping itself, experts say.

The $5 million project would apparently pay private firms to store at least two years' worth of telephone and Internet activity by millions of Americans, few of whom would ever be considered a suspect in any terrorism, intelligence or criminal matter.

The project would involve "the development of data storage and retrieval systems...for at least two years' worth of network calling records," according to an unclassified budget document posted to the FBI's Web site. The FBI did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

The FBI is barred by law from collecting and storing such data if it has no connection to a specific investigation or intelligence matter.

In recent years the bureau has tried to encourage telecommunications firms to voluntarily store such information, but corporations have balked at the cost of keeping records they don't need.

"The government isn't allowed to warehouse the information, and the companies don't want to, so this creates a business incentive for the companies to warehouse it, so the government can access it later," said Mike German, a policy expert on national security and privacy issues for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Before joining the ACLU, German was a veteran FBI undercover counterterrorism agent...

The FBI does not identify the firms in the document, a budget request to Congress, although it said it already has contracts with them to provide information on their customers. In March, an FBI official identified the companies as Verizon, MCI and AT&T.

MCI has since merged into Verizon; neither Verizon nor AT&T immediately responded to requests for comment for this story...

In March, the Department of Justice's internal watchdog was harshly critical of the FBI's partnership effort with Verizon, MCI and AT&T, because FBI agents appeared to routinely ignore laws and policies when accessing Americans' phone records.

Even the bureau's own top lawyer said she found the unit's behavior "disturbing," noting that when requesting access to phone company records, it repeatedly referenced "emergency" situations that did not exist, falsely claimed grand juries had subpoenaed information and failed to keep records on much of its own activity.

Yes, but what about the exigent circumstances.

[thanks to Buzzflash and Not Atrios]

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