FISA BILL MOVES TO THE SENATE-- WHERE IT GETS EVEN WORSE
Yesterday we spent some time going over the debate in the House about FISA and how the Bush Regime uses it for unconstitutional domestic spying. Today the action moves to the Senate. I'm not thrilled by the tenor so far. The draft bill includes amnesty and retroactive immunity for the telecom companies that broke the law. So even though there were at least two companies that actually stood up to Bush-- and for the Constitution-- and refused to comply, the companies that went along, especially mega-campaign contributors AT&T and Verizon, get retroactive immunity for anything they’ve done wrong in cooperating in illegal domestic spying for the past six years. (Note: the criminal Bush Regime even penalized Qwest for standing up for the Constitution and refusing to get drawn into their illegal schemes.)
Further, Taylor Marsh points out that both the House and the Senate "cave in to Bush’s fear-mongering in a major way: it does NOT required the government to get an individual warrant before wiretapping Americans' phones and emails. Instead, it allows for program or basket 'warrants,' which aren't really warrants at all. They're the modern-day equivalent of allowing government agents to sit in our living rooms, recording our personal conversations. Only they're more frightening, because the government now has the capacity to monitor us remotely and without our knowledge, and to save the information in a secret database forever."
Last night we heard from half a dozen Democratic office-holders and candidates who are outraged by this. Matt's got a great overview at OpenLeft that he and I worked on together. As this debate moves over to the Senate, I thought it would be especially useful to highlight a statement from Maine's Congressman Tom Allen since he's running for the Senate seat currently occupied by Bush rubber stamp hack Susan Collins. Here's what Rep. Allen said:
"There is no question that the Bush Administration is responsible for an unprecedented and widespread infringement upon basic civil liberties. It is equally disturbing to know that phone companies took part in this. Just as we must hold Bush and his Administration accountable, we cannot let private sector businesses off the hook for breaking the law."
Two especially good progressive candidates-- Donna Edwards (MD-04) and Dan Grant (TX-10)-- have had to spend a good deal of time thinking about this issue because of the opponents they are facing. Dan is challenging rubber stamp Republican Mike McCaul who is more the representative in Congress for his father-in-law's company, Clear Channel Communications, than he is the representative for the good people of his central Texas district.
"I spent the past decade helping Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, and other trouble spots around the world try to strengthen their law enforcement systems and constitutional protections. Little did I think my own government would violate those very rights by offering amnesty to telecommunications firms back home.
"My opponent Mike McCaul, whose family owns Clear Channel Communications, bears a special responsibility not to rubberstamp the Bush-Cheney administration's attempt to let his and other big telecom firms break the law. Is he representing Central Texas or his family's monopoly? His failure to speak out on this outrageous attempt to let unreasonable search and seizure go unchecked provides the answer-- Mike McCaul is the Congressman from Clear Channel."
And Donna Edwards is running against one of the big telecom companies worst whores, Al Wynn, a man who has financed his career with their bribes and gifts. Her comments are worth thinking about too:
"Congress must not give in to the President on the issue of immunity for telecommunications companies who have violated the law. These companies and their powerful lobbyists have given generous contributions to members of Congress including Congressman Wynn. They must be held accountable. These companies had a choice and some chose to break the law and violate our civil liberties. No amount of money or influence should prevent the companies and their senior decision makers from being held accountable if they broke the law. Corporations cannot be allowed to break the law under the thinly veiled guise of 'national security' and walk away without penalty."
Of course it isn't just candidates who are alarmed. People For the American Way has a new campaign they just launched, Help Congress To Grow A Spine. Worth checking out, especially since they say that the Senate version looks like it will be even worse than the House version, more in line with all of Bush's demands. Thanks Jay Rockefeller, a senator from West Virginia is practically owned by AT&T. By the way, if you want to call him and the members of the Select Committee on Intelligence who might be persuadable, this is a reliable list.
*Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman — (202) 224-6472
*Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) — (202) 224-3841
*Sen. John Warner (R-VA) — (202) 224-2023
*Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — (202) 224-5244
*Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) — (202) 224-4224
*Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) — (202) 224-5623
*Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) — (202) 224-4654
*Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) — (202) 224-5344
*Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) — (202) 224-5274
The guys we know we can already count on-- Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)-- plus the total Bush hacks who would rather cut off their own peckers than go against Bush-- like Saxby Chamberpot (R-GA) and Richard Burr (R-NC)-- aren't on the call list.
UPDATE: NOT ALL DEMOCRATS THINK HOLDING THE TELECOMS ACCOUNTABLE IS A GOOD IDEA-- ESPECIALLY NOT THE ONES WHO ARE ON THE PAYROLL
Yesterday Matt Stoller and I started contacting candidates we talk to regularly about their read of this FISA bill Congress is working on. As you can see, we've had some great answers from the candidates who have been endorsed by Blue America and BlogPAC. But I got a curious e-mail from the manager of one of our most forthright and combative young candidates. The pollster for the campaign Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, quintessential Inside the Beltway corporate hacks who have helped make the Democrats an Insider party rather than a true party of working families, started screaming that the candidate shouldn't cooperate with Blue America and BlogPAC and should just not take a stand. Hit that link and look at who their corporate clients are and you'll see why this "Democratic" polling firm is telling candidates not to take a stand on FISA.
LET'S END TODAY'S FISA STORY ON A HIGH, EVEN VISIONARY NOTE-- FROM ANDREW RICE, SENATE CANDIDATE FOR SENATOR FROM OKLAHOMA
Andrew's statement sums the whole FISA debate up perfectly. Can you imagine having a guy who said this in the Senate instead of a yutz like Inhofe?
"Having lost my brother in the World Trade Center on 9/11, I am very sensitive to the importance of the U.S. intelligence community's ability to effectively monitor foreign terrorist targets. However, our country must preserve our constitutional principles and such monitoring must be accomplished without compromising the civil liberties of American citizens. I am hopeful that Congress is on the verge of finally properly scrutinizing the Bush Administration's warrantless surveillance programs, and can create reasonable legislation that provides our government the tools it needs to monitor legitimate international threats, while at the same time not compromising the personal liberties of law-abiding Americans. Members of congress must ensure that any surveilance of U.S Citizens be granted with the proper warrant. If they fail to accomplish this, then we will have lost something very sacred about America and what our system of values is supposed to provide for all Americans.
The provision for corporate immunity for the telecom companies who may have violated federal law is unacceptable and unfortunately another example of the Bush administration wanting the legislative branch to craft legislation that protects the executive branch from its own incompetance. "