Fear & FISA
Since I generally don’t bother to listen to President Bush’s weekend radio addresses, I missed until the ACLU pointed it out in a message today that he’s calling for changes to FISA that would legalize the NSA’s “warrantess wiretapping” program. I sent the following to my Senators & Representatives.
I understand that the Bush Administration is pushing legislation to modify the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in order to codify into law the prima facia illegal wiretapping the NSA has been conducting for the past 5 years under executive order. As your constituent, I ask you to oppose all attempts to weaken safeguards on intelligence gathering activities. While I support the aggressive detection and pursuit of terrorists and the use of the best technology at our disposal in doing so, I equally support strong, effective checks on such power. FISA was drafted specifically to allow the executive branch to engage in intelligence gathering while maintaining necessary secrecy while at the same time enforcing appropriate judicial checks to prevent abuse. Checks and balances are an essential feature of our republic and must be preserved to protect us against the corruption that unmitigated authority inevitably brings with it. Given its technology-neutral applicability to any communications medium and the latitude it grants for ex post facto warrants, I see no compelling reason to amend FISA to allow additional unsupervised, classified, wiretapping authority.
Please perform your constitutional role as a check on executive power. Use this opportunity to call again on the Bush administration to respond to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s unanswered requests and outstanding subpoenas obliging the administration to account for the current NSA warrantless wiretapping program. Engage in an open, vigorous debate both about the need for surveillance and the need for accountability. Ensure that transparency and accountability remain enshrined in law and carried out in practice even as we protect our nation against terrorist & other serious security threats.