Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dems to Buckle on FISA? SB 1096 Farewell

In a final act of gratuitous self promotion regarding the defeat of SB 1096, I leave you with this quote of mine in today's SF Chronicle :

"This is a victory for California consumers," said Zack Kaldveer of CFC. "It's also a victory for our state's Constitution, which explicitly protects the individual's right to privacy. When it comes to medical prescriptions, there is nothing more private. This bill crossed the line."

Now onto the illegal wiretapping/FISA/Telecom Immunity debate that has taken a dark and disappointing turn.

As you may have heard, the Democrats in the house appear to be close to cutting a deal (meaning giving in to Bush demands). Yes, the same telecom companies that gave our government the green light to listen in on our phone calls now could be immune from any lawsuits filed by us "regular folks". Of course, the issue has never been how much money they may or may not lose, the issue is what information they know that the Bush administration doesn't want to come out in court.

Yet, unbelievably, inexplicably, and despicably, enough Democrats are still, even though they have the majority, the next President, and are on the popular side of the issue itself, ready to buckle under the pressure to do the wrong thing...again! I'd also like to mention, where the hell is Obama on this? He teaches constitutional law for gosh sakes!!

Here's today's NY Timed editorial which hits the nail on the head: Bush vs. The Bill of Rights:

This week, the White House and Democratic and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill hope to announce a “compromise” on a domestic spying bill. If they do, it will be presented as an indispensable tool for protecting the nation’s security that still safeguards our civil liberties. The White House will paint opponents as weak-kneed liberals who do not understand and cannot stand up to the threat of terrorism.

The bill is not a compromise. The final details are being worked out, but all indications are that many of its provisions are both unnecessary and a threat to the Bill of Rights. The White House and the Congressional Republicans who support the bill have two real aims. They want to undermine the power of the courts to review the legality of domestic spying programs. And they want to give a legal shield to the telecommunications companies that broke the law by helping Mr. Bush carry out his warrantless wiretapping operation.


Lawsuits against those companies are the best hope of finding out the extent of Mr. Bush’s lawless spying. But Democratic leaders in Congress are reported to have agreed to a phony compromise drafted by Senator Christopher Bond, the Republican vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

Under the so-called compromise, the question of immunity would be decided by a federal district court — a concession by Mr. Bond, who originally wanted the FISA court, which meets in secret and is unsuited to the task, to decide. What is unacceptable, though, is that the district court would be instructed to decide based solely on whether the Bush administration certifies that the companies were told the spying was legal. If the aim is to allow a court hearing on the president’s spying, the lawsuits should be allowed to proceed — and the courts should be able to resolve them the way they resolve every other case. Republicans, who complain about judges making laws from the bench, should not be making judicial decisions from Capitol Hill.


The new bill has other problems. It gives the government too much leeway to acquire communications in the United States without individual warrants or even a showing of probable cause. It greatly reduces judicial review, and it would remain in force for six years, which is too long.

Can't the Democratic majority in Congress just extend the temporary authorization until the next President (i.e. Barack Obama)? Why would there be a rush to pass this abomination while a known and proven enemy of the Constitution - George W. Bush - is still President?

As the Times points out, Senator Barack Obama opposes immunity and voted against the temporary expansion of FISA. They also agree with me on this: its time for him to take a leadership role on this issue...he's the new captain of this party, and boy do they need one right now.

On that note, here's a Action Alert from the ACLU today...Congress needs to hear how we feel!:

Despite the outrage coming from a broad coalition of concerned citizens, by tomorrow night the House of Representatives will vote on whether or not to gut the Constitution and give immunity to phone companies who broke the law and spied on Americans.

We have to act now. Even if you’ve emailed, called or visited your members of Congress about FISA, we need you to contact them again today. Congress is moving so fast and so secretively that we only got a copy of this bill this morning. I can tell you it’s horrible. It contains vacuum cleaner style surveillance that sweeps up the phone calls and emails of Americans.

And it’s blatantly unconstitutional. The bottom line is that this is legislation that benefits a few of our country’s largest corporations while taking away basic rights from the rest of us. And it is unacceptable.

Put Congress on notice that the American people don’t want a "compromise" that sells out our rights. Act now. We’re hearing the vote is tomorrow, so we could have less than 24 hours.

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