As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

14 Patriots

Russ Feingold and 13 of his compatriots have sent a letter to Harry Reid asking that he put forward the version of the FISA bill that came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which does not have telecom amnesty, instead of the Intelligence Committee bill, which does.

"The Judiciary Committee FISA bill fixes many of the flaws of the surveillance law we enacted in August and the new bill approved by the Intelligence Committee. Everyone agrees that we should give our intelligence officials the tools they need to go after suspected terrorists. There's no reason we can't do that while still protecting the privacy of innocent Americans and ensuring adequate oversight of these broad new surveillance authorities -- and without setting the dangerous precedent of granting retroactive immunity to companies that allegedly participated in an unlawful program," Senator Feingold said.

"I strongly urge the Majority Leader to take up the Judiciary Committee's version of the FISA legislation. It is absolutely essential that as the Senate begins debating reforms to FISA we do not include retroactive immunity provisions for telecommunications companies that may have engaged in illegal conduct. Additionally, the Judiciary Committee's version of the FISA legislation contains much stronger safeguards which will serve to protect Americans against the President's warantless wiretapping program," Senator Dodd said.

"The Judiciary Committee bill restores oversight and accountability to the FISA program without unnecessarily providing retroactive immunity to companies that cooperated with the Administration's warrantless wiretapping program. It is my hope that this bill will be considered by the full Senate," Senator Obama said.

"Of course we have to do everything we can to protect the American people, but we must fight international terrorism in a way that is consistent with our Constitution and the Bill of Rights," Senator Bernie Sanders said.

The full letter is here. I am pleased to belong to the same party as these Senators:

Feingold, Dodd, Obama, Sanders, Menendez, Biden, Brown, Harkin, Cardin, Clinton, Akaka, Webb, Kennedy and Boxer.

We need 26 more patriots to step up and demand a restoration of a rule of law in tatters. By contrast, we have the worm recently installed as the Attorney General, dissembling away in today's LA Times.

It therefore is vital that Congress put surveillance of terrorists and other intelligence targets located overseas on surer institutional footing. The Senate Intelligence Committee has crafted a bill that would largely accomplish that objective. Recognizing the uncommon complexity of this area of the law, the committee held numerous hearings on the need to modernize FISA, received classified briefings on how various options would affect intelligence operations and discussed key provisions with intelligence professionals and with national security lawyers inside and outside government. This thorough process produced a balanced bill approved by an overwhelming, and bipartisan, 13-2 vote.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's bill is not perfect, and it contains provisions that I hope will be improved. However, it would achieve two important objectives. First, it would keep the intelligence gaps closed by ensuring that individual court orders are not required to direct surveillance at foreign targets overseas.

Second, it would provide protections from lawsuits for telecommunications companies that have been sued simply because they are believed to have assisted our intelligence agencies after the 9/11 attacks. The bill does not, as some have suggested, provide blanket immunity for those companies. Instead, a lawsuit would be dismissed only in cases in which the attorney general certified to the court either that a company did not provide assistance to the government or that a company had received a written request indicating that the activity was authorized by the president and determined to be lawful.

And we all know that this Attorney General would NEVER dismiss the telecom companies from prosecution.

The point is that, especially in the face of a FISA ruling yesterday announcing that they will not make their opinions on the illegal wiretapping program public, there is no other way to learn what the government has done with our personal information, without letting these lawsuits against the telecom companies go forward. If Mukasey is so worried about the massive financial liability of the telecoms, he's essentially admitting that they broke the law. And no company and no individual should be given carte blanche to do that.

I'm looking for 26 more patriots who can sustain a filibuster and keep unaccountable lawbreaking out of a federal statute.

Labels: , , , , , , ,