FISA BATTLE TAKES FRONT AND CENTER IN CONGRESSIONAL RACES
Standing up for principle, standing up for America
This morning I spoke to a reporter for the Savannah Morning News, the biggest newspaper in John Barrow's district. He mentioned to me, and he seemed surprised, that Regina Thomas has been making warrantless wiretaps an issue in a race where Regina's own best issues, employment and high gas prices have been front and center. But Regina remembers when the government wiretapped Martin Luther King and she finds it deplorable that the congressman from GA-12 should support Bush doing the same thing to untold millions of American citizens without legal warrants. The same reporter asked Barrow, who has been one of Bush's most dependable allies on this, and Regina about warrantless wiretaps and retroactive immunity in their Savannah debate last night. It was obvious that Barrow-- for all his touting of his Harvard education-- has no understanding of the Constitution, separation of powers or the oath of office he took. Although Regina is just a state Senator, her intuitive understanding of Justice and the respect with which Americans hold the Rule of Law, puts her light years ahead of Mr. Smarty Pants. But Georgia's 12th CD isn't the only race where a progressive facing a reactionary has seen the FISA issue come to the fore.
Every single incumbent on the Blue America list, like the majority of Democrats in the House, voted against the Bush-Hoyer FISA bill. It's becoming an issue as reactionaries try smearing them for defending the Constitution. An excellent example is in New Hampshire, where progressive, grassroots icon Carol Shea-Porter, has been an outspoken defender of the rule of law. She penned an OpEd in the Union Leader explaining the bill and the principles she stood up for when voting against it. Her summation was particularly powerful:
The foundation of democracy is individual freedom from government interference. I am willing to compromise on many issues -- but not on the Constitution. Being forced to choose between protecting our national security or protecting our Constitution is a false choice; we do not have to sacrifice one for the other. It is our responsibility as Americans to protect both.
Jeb Bradley lost his seat to Carol is 2006 because New Hampshire voters recognized him as a Bush yes-man with no opinions of his own. Whatever the special interests wanted, Bradley was there for them. Now as a candidate he was taken $1,200 from the Telecoms and yesterday he wrote his own distorted OpEd for the Union Leader, accusing Carol of being unwilling to stand up for "national security," as though trawling through the phone calls and e-mails of millions of random Americans is related to national security. This is why hacks like Bradley get defeated. People are sick and tired of the lies and distortions and fear-mongering. His partisan summation is less than compelling:
Carol-Shea Porter's vote means she believes it's more important to punish the telecommunications companies that protected us than to assist the intelligence community, which is also trying to protect us. Is this naive or negligent?
Even her own party leadership, which she has been so beholden to in her voting record, disagrees. When your politics are too liberal for Nancy Pelosi, you are definitely too liberal to represent the interests of New Hampshire.
At the same time Bradley was trying to poison the air in New Hampshire with his vicious partisan attacks, Senator Chris Dodd was speaking for most Democrats and most Americans-- although not the ones who get bribed by the Telecoms-- when he wrote that
A brief overview: we learned after September 11, 2001 that giant telecom companies worked with this Administration to compile Americans’ private, domestic communications records into a database of enormous scale and scope. The Bush Administration appears to have convinced those corporations to spy on Americans for five years, in secret and without a warrant.
That we know this happened is not because the government told us-– they say the matter is classified. And it is not because one of the telecoms told us. We may not have known any of this at all were it not for serious investigative journalists. And we wouldn't know how deep the problem really went without an Internet technician by the name of Mark Klein, a 22-year veteran of AT&T who one day at work found a switch that channeled Internet traffic culled from millions of living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens and offices across the nation to a secret room operated by the National Security Agency. Mr. Klein [a cousin of a DWT writer] was old enough to remember when a law was passed to prevent this sort of unchecked spying operation from happening:
FISA-- a law written back in 1978 in the wake of Watergate that ensured the government had both the tools it needed to defend the country and a process in place for judicial review to put checks on
executive authority. Most agree that this law needs to be modernized, as it has been many times over the years. But this time, the President is asking Congress to do something much more: to shield the telecoms from any judicial review of their actions. He wants Congress to declare spying without
a warrant both constitutional and necessary to defend this country.
It is neither.
Not many local papers are paying attention to this crucial, crucial issue. I was heartened to see that the Savannah Morning News is and I noticed that the Connecticut Post in Dodd's home state is as up in arms over this as Dodd is-- and as every patriotic American should be. The Post tries-- though they won't succeed-- to shame Lieberman into supporting Dodd's position-- and to goad Obama into showing us he has some cajones:
For months, Congress has been debating a bill that would legitimize illegal spying on Americans. It remains just as bad an idea today as ever.
...[T]his bill would put to lie the notion, deeply rooted in American history, that this is a nation of laws, and not people. It simply won't do to argue that people or companies can knowingly break the law just because the government said it was allowed. If the suits are baseless, and the companies did not break the law, there is nothing to lose by allowing them to proceed. If there was no lawbreaking, surely these firms can prove that in court. That Congress is pushing for such extreme action as providing retroactive immunity surely implies there were darker motives at work.
Connecticut's Sen. Christopher J. Dodd has led the fight against this bill, and continues to do his constituents proud in this matter. It's too much to hope that his colleague, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, would join him, but likely Democratic nominee Barack Obama can make a decisive stand. What is to be lost by standing up for the Constitution? He, more than anyone else, can put an end to this
America will never know the extent to which their rights have been violated if those lawsuits are thrown out. And, if this bill passes, the next time anyone talks about such quaint notions as equal
protection under the law, try not to laugh too hard.
Someone who has shown-- over and over-- that he does have cajones, and is willing to put them on the line for important principles. Watch him addressing the Senate on this today:
Another Democratic candidate for Congress, Ashwin Madia (MN-03) is an Iraq War vet who is offended that a bunch of politicians in Washington are getting ready to do violence to the Constitution he has put his life on the line to defend. "I am troubled by the House passage of HR 6304, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. There is much we can do to prevent terrorism, but such measures do not require the sacrifice of fundamental constitutional freedoms which our country was founded upon. This legislation demonstrates the need for leaders in Congress who have experience in the military and in Iraq, and who value the rule of law as we fight the War on Terror."