Friday, April 11, 2008

Republicans Dropping Push for Retroactive Immunity + Ron Paul Editorial

First, to the good news. It appears that the Democrats, or in this case, the people and the constitution, may actually win the long, drawn out battle over whether to give retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that helped the government spy on Americans without a warrant.

The word is, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) is expected to announce today that conservatives will drop their push to pass an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in order to shift their focus to the economy. This strategy was detailed in the inaugural edition of the "Freedom File" e-mail -- "a monthly memo to GOP activists -- from Boehner's political action committee, Freedom Project."

Of course, the most powerful and persuasive voices against the Protect America Act, and the warrantless wiretapping program, were not all Democrats. Ron Paul, Republican Presidential candidate, takes a back seat to no one when it comes to the issue of privacy.

Here's what Congressman Ron Paul said on the House floor regarding what he calls "The Emerging Surveillance State":

Last month, the House amended the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to expand the government’s ability to monitor our private communications. This measure, if it becomes law, will result in more warrantless government surveillance of innocent American citizens.


The new FISA bill allows the federal government to compel many more types of companies and individuals to grant the government access to our communications without a warrant. The provisions in the legislation designed to protect Americans from warrantless surveillance are full of loopholes and ambiguities. There is no blanket prohibition against listening in on all American citizens without a warrant.

We have been told that this power to listen in on communications is legal and only targets terrorists. But if what these companies are being compelled to do is legal, why is it necessary to grant them immunity? If what they did in the past was legal and proper, why is it necessary to grant them retroactive immunity?


We should remember that former New York governor Eliot Spitzer was brought down by a provision of the PATRIOT Act that required enhanced bank monitoring of certain types of financial transactions. Yet we were told that the PATRIOT Act was needed to catch terrorists, not philanderers. The extraordinary power the government has granted itself to look into our private lives can be used for many purposes unrelated to fighting terrorism. We can even see how expanded federal government surveillance power might be used to do away with political rivals.

The Fourth Amendment to our Constitution requires the government to have a warrant when it wishes to look into the private affairs of individuals. If we are to remain a free society we must defend our rights against any governmental attempt to undermine or bypass the Constitution.

With mounting opposition to REAL ID by states across the country, combined with the recent backtracking by the administration and the Republican Congress on warrantless wiretapping and retroactive immunity, I am feeling just a tinge of optimism! The fight is clearly not over, but privacy appears to be making a bit of a comeback.

Click here for Paul's entire floor speech.

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