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What You Can Do Today On FISA

reidschumer.gifFar be it for me to critique the leadership stylings of the uber-busy Beltway brahmins, but this is truly appalling lack of respect for Constitutional principles and the rule of law being sacrificed on the altar of comity and convenience.  Or, in the alternative, a statement so off-message and wishy-washy that I don’t even know where to begin.  Via Glenn:

The letter-petition to Harry Reid and the Senate Judiciary Committee — co-written and co-signed by several bloggers along with groups such as the ACLU, EFF, MoveOn, Color of Change, Center for National Security Studies and Working Assets — is here, and I’d encourage you to sign it (here) as but the very first step in the campaign to stop telecom amnesty. Reid is going to be the key target — and the key problem — here, as is evident from the quote he gave to Newsweek:

But the maneuvering by the contenders — and the role played by MoveOn — also raised concerns among senior Democrats on Capitol Hill that presidential politics might impede efforts to reach a compromise on such a sensitive and important national-security measure. “We need to get things done on this bill,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Tuesday.  (emphasis mine)

That’s brilliant. George Bush continuously decrees: “Give me everything I want on this bill or I will veto it.” In response, Harry Reid says: “I’m very upset by people trying to delay or stop this because the only thing that matters is that we get a deal.” To Reid, apparently, it doesn’t matter what the terms are of the deal they reach or how much they give in to the White House. All that matters is that he deliver something to the White House — like a good boy — that makes George Bush sufficiently happy to sign. It is possible that Reid means something else — i.e., that he only wants to ensure that the Senate pass something to send to Bush, regardless of whether it meets all of Bush’s demands (including amnesty) — but only time will tell.

As things stand, the FISA bill is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee where Chairman Pat Leahy, at least thus far, is reportedly committed to stripping the amnesty provision out of the bill. Having this bill come to the floor without amnesty in it would force the Republicans to offer it as an amendment and would mean they would need 60 votes specifically in favor of amnesty in order to put it back in (because Dodd would filibuster any such amendment).

Here’s hoping that Reid is not insinuating that “leadership” and “capitulation” have become synonymous terms.   In case you’d like clarification on that point, you can contact Sen. Reid here:  (202) 224-3542     FAX  202-224-7327.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to discuss the FISA bill on Wednesday at 10 am ET (H/T selise). I’ve done a bit of digging on the witnesses who will be testifying, and turned up the following:

— The first panel will be with Kenneth Wainstein, Assistant AG for National Security. I’ve found a statement from Mr. Wainstein, on FISA to the HJC in September (PDF), outlining the Bush Administration’s perspective. Quite the interesting read, let me tell you. Especially juxtaposed with this statement from back in March (PDF) to the House Intelligence Committee regarding the overuse and potential misuse of National Security Letters by the FBI and others under the Patriot Act. And these remarks at a National Security law Symposium at Georgetown University regarding the FISA laws. Suffice it to say that Mr. Wainstein is a big fan of the “Protect America Act” (nice Orwellian name, isn’t it?).

— And the second panel will include the following (from The Legal Times blog): Edward Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association; Patrick Philbin, partner at Kirkland & Ellis and former DOJ deputy assistant attorney general for national security; and Morton Halperin, director of U.S. advocacy at the Open Society Institute.

The Legal Times blog also reports the following for this week:

Ahead of Wednesday, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) will be reviewing confidential documents that the White House Counsel’s Office previously showed to members from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Which means we have two days to hit the phones and FAXes hard before this hearing. And to sign the petition which will be delivered to members of Congress urging them to say no to telecom immunity. And to contact Harry Reid’s office, and the offices of every Democratic candidate for President, to be certain they stand for the Constitution and the rule of law (H/T ACLU) instead of knuckling under to petulant WH pronouncements.  It’s crunch time…let’s get to work.

Sen. Harry Reid — (202) 224-3542     FAX  202-224-7327

Senate Judiciary Committee Contact Information:

Every Senate direct dial number can be found here (including links to just about every senator’s web page, which include both DC office contact information and local office numbers as well).  You can reach your Senators toll free thanks to these numbers that katymine found:

1 (800) 828 – 0498
1 (800) 614 – 2803
1 (866) 340 – 9281
1 (866) 338 – 1015
1 (877) 851 – 6437

Also, the Senate Judiciary Committee membership and contact information is as follows:

Arlen Specter – Pennsylvania – (202) 224-4254      Fax (202) 228-1229
Joe Biden — Delaware — (202) 224-5042      Fax: 202-224-0139
Orrin G. Hatch – Utah – (202) 224-5251      Fax (202) 224-6331
Patrick J. Leahy (Chairman) – Vermont – (202) 224-4242      Fax (202) 224-3479
Charles E. Grassley – Iowa – (202) 224-3744      Fax (515) 288-5097
Edward M. Kennedy – Massachusetts – (202) 224-4543      Fax (202) 224-2417
Jon Kyl – Arizona – (202) 224-4521      Fax (202) 224-2207
Herbert Kohl – Wisconsin – (202) 224-5653      Fax (202) 224-9787
Jeff Sessions – Alabama – (202) 224-4124      Fax (202) 224-3149
Dianne Feinstein – California – (202) 224-3841      Fax (202) 228-3954
Lindsey Graham – South Carolina – (202) 224-5972      Fax (864) 250-4322
Russell D. Feingold – Wisconsin – (202) 224-5323      Fax (202) 224-2725
John Cornyn – Texas – (202) 224-2934      Fax (972) 239-2110
Charles E. Schumer – New York – (202) 224-6542      Fax (202) 228-3027
Sam Brownback – Kansas – (202) 224-6521      Fax (202) 228-1265
Richard J. Durbin – Illinois – (202) 224-2152      Fax (202) 228-0400
Tom Coburn – Oklahoma – (202) 224-5754      Fax (202) 224-6008
Benjamin Cardin — (202) 224-4524      Fax (202) 224-1651
Sheldon Whitehouse — (202) 224-2921      FAX  (202) 228-6362

UPDATE:  Dang it.  Meant to link up several excellent pieces that EmptyWheel has done on these issues of late,and forgot to include them above.  Mea culpa…but here they are.  Do read these:

On Patrick Philbin, who will be testifying on Wednesday.
The Dodge On Retroactive Immunity.
Whitehouse Minimization efforts.
Spying on Americans Overseas with no oversight or warrant.
Shorter SSCI:  they’re full of crap.
Using the AUMF as justification for pretty much everything.

UPDATE #2:  Michael Froomkin and Marty Lederman have some thoughts on Mukasey responses and fourth amendment protections, among other matters.

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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