FISA: The Constitution Needs Your Calls Today
Blondie, Call Me
ThinkProgress has some preliminary summary information on the FISA bill up for the reading. It was put out today in a joint release from Reps. Conyers and Reyes.
Huge thanks needs to go out to the Progressive Caucus in the House — who collectively issued a joint statement earlier in the process standing up for civil liberties over fear tactics. If any of these members are your representatives, please give them a hearty thank you for fighting the good fight on this. Major kudos. It is also my understanding that members of the Progressive Caucus plan on offering improving amendments to various parts of the bill as the legislation moves forward — so they need to know we have their backs on this. Please send them thanks for doing the hard work today.
…To begin with, the bill to be proposed today by the House Democratic leadership actually contains some surprisingly good and important provisions.
That bill would compel the administration “to reveal to Congress the details of all electronic surveillance conducted without court orders since Sept. 11, 2001, including the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program.” It would also require the maintenance of a data base to record the identities of all Americans whose conversations are surveilled. And it provides nothing at all in the way of amnesty or immunity for lawbreaking telecoms or administration officials. The bill introduced by House leadership is a bill the White House will never accept and would certainly veto, and it is vastly better — in important ways — than the atrocity they enacted in August.
It is important here to recall that there is actually an amendment to FISA that is at least arguably justifiable. Even the original FISA law never required warrants in order to eavesdrop on (a) foreign-to-foreign calls or (b) calls involving a U.S. citizen where the target was a non-citizen outside the U.S. (who just happened to call into the U.S.). But recently, technological developments resulted in such calls, even foreign-foreign calls, being routed through the U.S. via fiber optics, and a FISA court ruled this year that the language of FISA requires warrants for such calls. That was never the original intent of FISA….
It is definitely possible that this is all just deceit, that House leaders introduced this bill strictly to placate their Progressive Caucus and their base and that they have no real intention of fighting for these provisions, but instead will give Bush what he wants once Mike McConnell starts accusing them of Helping the Terrorists and they begin negotiating in secret again. But it seems that there are important House Democrats really ready to fight on these issues, to prevent Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel (who unfortunately seem to be the real Speakers of the House) from conniving like they did in August to manipulate their caucus into supporting something far worse….
What is needed is lots of calls, faxes and other contact with legislators asking them to stand up for constitutional principles and the rule of law — American values that ought to be valued by all of us. Please make calls today to all of your elected representatives in the House and Senate and tell them this is important to you — and that it is important that they get this right. That means no retroactive immunity for telecom companies that may have already broken the law. No bypassing the FISA court where jurisdiction is appropriate for US citizen surveillance. And serious checks and balances for any so-called “umbrella warrants” need to be built in, if not those types of warrants removed altogether. The ACLU has more on the FISA issues involved.
Am still digging on the details on this, gang, and will get back to you on this as I get information for you.
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PS — Thanks to everyone who donated to the Blue America PAC yesterday. Every little bit helps — and primary threats for Bush Dogs and others who don’t stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law is a very real way of moving the ball forward in the best direction for all of us. If you can help out with a donation to the Blue America PAC, we sure would appreciate it.