The FISA Fight continues — Congressional ‘leadership’ is once again preparing to destroy the Constitution and screw the American public they’re sworn to protect by passing illicit legislation under the guise of a “compromise” that will give illegal, unconstitutional retroactive immunity to all who participated in the illegal wiretapping and spying activities requested by President Bush — once again showing how low the depths of their corruption and lawlessness go.
This supposed “compromise” that Congressional Democrats have agreed to regarding spying powers and telecom amnesty is not a compromise at all. It gives Bush and the rest of his cohorts everything they’ve demanded all along.
Noted by Glenn Greenwald:
“Although, as I indicated yesterday, public reports about the bill’s telecom immunity provisions were unclear, I’ve now been able to confirm definitively that the “compromise” that Democrats have agreed to does contain guaranteed immunity for the telecoms. The bill provides that the federal courts are required to dismiss the suits and immunize the telecoms as long as conditions are met that everyone already knows will be fulfilled. Put another way, the bill simply provides that the federal courts must dismiss all lawsuits against telecoms for their illegal spying as long as telecoms can demonstrate “A, B, and C” — where “A, B and C” are already known in advance to be true and easily proven. The Democrat-supported bill is nothing more than a pre-ordained, mandated script provided to the courts to compel them to dismiss the telecom lawsuits.
Worse still, the conditions for dismissal in the Democrats’ “compromise” bill shows how corrupt and lawless they are. Courts are required to immunize telecoms as long as telecoms merely demonstrate that the illegal spying they enabled was requested by the President and was represented to them by the Executive branch to be lawful. Courts will be required to dismiss the lawsuits without any consideration whatsoever of whether these telecom-defendants actually broke the law.
Put another way, Congressional Democrats — not the Federalist Society, but Congressional Democrats — are embracing the proposition that the President has the power to instruct private citizens to break the law. As the ACLU puts it:
This will set an incredibly dangerous precedent.
Why have privacy laws if the president can write you a note to disobey them? When the government asks companies to break the law in the future, they will have precedent that Congress will cover their tracks.
Democrats are about to institutionalize a proposition that has been rejected since the Nuremberg Trials — namely, that individuals (or, more accurately, lobbyist-protected corporations) are free to break the law as long as they can claim afterwards that they were told by the Leader to do so. That’s the principle which the Democratic Party — following their standard pattern of having enough of their members join a virtually unanimous GOP while the Democratic leadership enables it all — is about to write into our laws.”
Also noted by Mr. Greenwald is that Congressional Democrats are using the excuse that passing a FISA/telecom bill is necessary to avoid political harm…an excuse that is as false as it is cowardly. A few days ago Mr. Greenwald offered other ways to avoid political controversy, including extending existing legislation so it doesn’t expire in August. Congressional Democrats would rather capitulate to the President — endorsing more illegal activities conducted by the Bush administration — than defend the Constitution and the American people.
Reasons To Oppose the Legislation
An opposition letter (PDF) from The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lists some of the most important reasons to oppose this legislation:
The bill would authorize massive warrantless surveillance. The bill allows the government to intentionally acquire millions of Americans’ international communications with no individualized warrant or determination of probable cause, so long as one party to a phone call or e-mail is believed to be located abroad and the purpose is to gather foreign intelligence.
The bill would require no individualized warrant even when an American’s communications clearly are of interest to the government. The bill requires an individualized warrant only if and when the government decides to “target” a particular American by using the person’s phone number or e-mail address to select his or her communications for acquisition. While the legislation provides for judicial review of targeting and other guidelines, the court procedures are inadequate to meet Fourth Amendment requirements.
The bill would curtail effective judicial review of surveillance. While the bill contains provisions for FISA court review of targeting and other guidelines, those provisions do not provide a meaningful role for the court in ensuring that the government does not seize and data-mine the private communications of law-abiding Americans. Moreover, the bill contains an exception for “exigent circumstances” that could be misused to circumvent even the limited court review provided by the bill with respect to new surveillance programs.
The bill would grant retroactive immunity for wrongdoing. The bill would give blanket immunity to companies that aided the government in conducting warrantless electronic surveillance of Americans. Like S. 2248, the bill would direct the court to dismiss privacy lawsuits against telecommunications providers if they received written assurances that the President had authorized the surveillance—assurances which in fact they received.
One change which makes the “compromise” worse than the Senate bill is a provision which would require the transfer of all of the lawsuits brought against the telecommunications providers from federal district court to the secret FISA court—a body whose only job for the past thirty years has been to approve FISA surveillance applications, not to try cases. This is not a compromise on immunity; it is the same old immunity dressed up to look like a judicial proceeding.
The bill would not provide a reasonable sunset. The bill would authorize the government to conduct this massive surveillance for six years, just like the original Senate bill.
The proposed bill would grant unnecessary and unconstitutional powers to the Executive Branch. We urge you oppose it, and to vote against any legislation that contains the defects described above.
You Can Make a Difference
Fortunately there are some Democrats in Congress who actually put the Constitution and the American people they serve in the proper perspective. Democratic Senators Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd wrote a letter to Congressional Democratic leaders asking them to finalize the FISA Amendments Act to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans and not to grant retroactive immunity to companies who cooperated with the President’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program.
Your help and support for Senators Feingold and Dodd is needed. A lot more information on why we need to fight this and how detrimental it is to the future of every American — along with more reasons why Congress needs a thorough house cleaning to rid itself of the stench, deception and corruption that has furthered the illicit activities of the Bush administration — can be found from The ACLU, Daily Kos, Balkinization Blog, StopTheSpying.org, DownWithTyranny Blogspot, FireDogLake.com, and Wired.com.
Facts on the illicit legislation Congress is preparing to pass — including the fact that a note from the president is not a legal defense, Americans’ rights were violated and they deserve a thorough and transparent judicial process, to name a couple — can be found from The ACLU and The Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The potentially treasonous, corrupted cronyism in Congressional ‘leadership’ pushing passage of illicit ‘legislation’ needs to be stopped — not to mention jailed for letting the President continue covering up his illegal and immoral activities. The legislation was spearheaded by Senators Steny Hoyer, Kit Bond, Jay Rockefeller and Sylvester Reyes and is being pushed by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
Too much information — at the cost of deception, lies and multiple terroristic tactics used intentionally against Americans by the most corrupt Presidential administration in the history of America — has already been hidden from Americans. Telecoms who participated in Bush’s illegal wiretapping have made out quite well financially…at the cost of taxpayers. Americans have been sold out long enough and we deserve to know the truth. Contact your Senator(s) in The House of Representatives and The Senate and let your voice be heard. It’s time for Congress to start serving the American public instead of just serving the Democratic Party and it’s time to replace the corrupted Congressional ‘leadership.’
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