A New Twist In The FISA Fight

In August of last year, Congress passed an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 known as the “Protect America Act of 2007,” — which some say is a misnomer since a more appropriate name for the amendment would be the “Police America Act” — that gives the President virtually unlimited power with no oversight whatsoever. Very bad idea, as the past seven plus years have shown.

Fortunately, the amendment was set to expire in six months. When it came up for renewal this past February, Congress was deadlocked so they tried to extend the expiration date before it expired, but President Bush vetoed it. It expired amongst false, terror-filled cries intended to make everyone believe we were all going to die, or ‘Al-Qaeda’ was going to attack us…the usual B.S. The House is again trying to reach a compromise with the Senate, but it could take a while.

The Senate passed a bill containing retroactive immunity for Telecoms who cooperated with the Bush administration’s post-9/11 surveillance authorized by President Bush. Fortunately, The House was smart enough — after receiving tremendous pressure from the public not to pass it. As usual, House Republicans and the rest of the Bush propaganda team are up to their usual lies, deceptions and scare tactics to try to force their version through the House.

More than 40 lawsuits against the Telecoms are pending, basically being stalled until Bush has scared Congress and the public enough that Congress is willing to pass the legislation granting retroactive immunity to the Telecoms. In reality, retroactive immunity would be granted to the Bush administration for blatantly breaking multiple laws and would keep every illicit activity covered up so no one would ever know the truth, when the illegal activities actually started, or the depth of illegality. Again, very bad idea.

Telecoms Collaborated with White House

Now, we have more reasons not to provide retroactive immunity to Telecoms — Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball from Newsweek reported that Telecoms and the Bush administration colluded to keep their surveillance program under wraps.

According to the Newsweek report, recently revealed court documents show that the Bush administration is refusing to disclose internal e-mails, letters and notes showing contacts with major telecommunications companies regarding how to pursuade Congress to back a controversial surveillance bill.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) revealed the existence of documents confirming for the first time that since last fall, unnamed representatives of the telecoms phoned and e-mailed Bush administration officials to talk about ways to block the pending lawsuits accusing the companies of privacy violations due to their participation in the secret post-9/11 surveillance program ordered by President Bush.

Apparently the telecoms are anxious about the litigation generated by their participation in the secret spying program for good reason.

“Various Options Such As Court Orders and Legislation”

One court declaration confirms the existence of correspondence between the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and a telecom representative last fall regarding “various options” to block the lawsuits, including “such options as court orders and legislation.” Another court declaration describes a letter and “four fax cover sheets” exhanged between the telecoms and ODNI over the surveillance matter and yet another declaration describes e-mails between the telecoms and the Justice Department that sought to “seek or discuss recommendations on legislative strategy.”

Government lawyers filed the declarations after U.S. Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco ordered them to fully process the EFF’s FOIA request for documents showing lobbying contacts by the telecoms. Judge White found that disclosure was in the public interest because it may enable the public to participate meaningfully in the debate over the pending surveillance legislation.

While complying with the judge’s order, Bush administration officials told the judge they cannot actually disclose the documents themselves, in part because it would “undermine national security” — the typical Bush administration B.S. for keeping information secret that would show the extent and illegality of their conduct. Naturally, spokesmen for the Justice Department and the the ODNI declined comment. More information can be found in the Newsweek article, from The Raw Story and from Daily Kos.

Noted by Daily Kos: “If one thing in the whole amnesty debate wasn’t already clear, this information absolutely crystallizes it. This fight has nothing to do with national security. It has everything to do with megacorporations breaking the law and doing everything in their power to get away with it–including getting advice from the Department of Justice about how to do so!”

For another reminder of why not to grant retroactive immunity to the telecoms, see the “Expectation of privacy a precious right” article from the Seattle PI. We already knew the Bush administration used lies and false propaganda to justify the terror tactics they use against the American people — and the rest of the world — but we didn’t know why they were so desperate for Congress to pass legislation giving Telecoms retroactive immunity. Now we do.

Every Bush administration official, both former and current as well as every Congress person who voted for retroactive immunity should be held accountable and tried in a court of law for the felonious, treasonous crimes they have committed against those they were elected — or in the case of Bush, appointed — to serve. That includes those who appointed Bush in the first place. Feel free to contact your representatives in the House and the Senate to make sure illicit legislation involving retroactive immunity for the Telecoms isn’t passed.

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