Monday, January 28, 2008

The FISA Follies, Redux

It's good to see the editorial board of the New York Times take such a strong position on the FISA bill currently being debated in the Senate. I'll report on how it all goes down tomorrow, for now, check this excellent editorial out:

The Senate (reportedly still under Democratic control) seems determined to help President Bush violate Americans’ civil liberties and undermine the constitutional separation of powers. Majority Leader Harry Reid is supporting White House-backed legislation that would expand the administration’s ability to spy on Americans without court supervision and ensure that the country never learns the full extent of Mr. Bush’s illegal wiretapping program.


The House has passed a reasonable new bill — fixing FISA without further endangering civil liberties. But Mr. Bush wants to weaken FISA as much as he can. And the Senate leadership has been only too happy to oblige.

With the help of Republican senators and the misguided chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller, the White House got a bill that, once again, reduces court supervision of wiretapping. It also adds immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperated with the illegal spying.


It is now up to the House to protect Americans’ rights. Mr. Bush has already started issuing the ritual claims that if his bill is not passed instantly, Osama bin Laden will be telephoning his agents in the United States and no one will know. Let us be clear, Mr. Bush has always had the authority to order emergency wiretaps — and get court approval after the fact. That has never been the problem with FISA.

Click here to read the editorial in its entirety.

The ACLU also released a statement urging Senators to stand up to the administration on behalf of civil liberties.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington Office of the ACLU:

"The Republican shenanigans on warrantless wiretapping are simply playing politics with fear and are unacceptable. The American people and the Democrats in the Senate are not and should not be hoodwinked into giving up vital constitutional freedoms by the Republicans' incessant fearmongering.

We urge senators to vote against cutting off debate on Monday and reject Republican efforts to force the unconstitutional Intelligence Committee bill through the Senate. "Senators should have the opportunity to consider a wide range of important amendments, including measures on stripping retroactive immunity for telecommunications providers and provisions that would offer increased privacy protections.

"We agree with Senator Feingold when he stated that Monday's cloture vote will be a test of whether the majority is willing to stand up to the administration and stand up for our rights. "The truth is, the sunset of the Protect America Act is nothing to be afraid of. Surveillance is always allowable under the tried-and-true Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that's operated for almost thirty years.

Even the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee has said we're not facing a crisis. "We urge the Senate to stand firm and not rubberstamp the administration's warrantless wiretapping."

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