The ACLU thinks Senate passage of FISA 2007 with retroactive immunity for telecommunications carriers involved in the NSA warrantless wiretapping program as well as weakened checks on government surveillance is now a foregone conclusion & is turning its attention to the House. Futile as it may be (the votes may already be over as I write this), I sent the following to my Senator, Barack Obama:
In an editorial in this past Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Richard A. Clarke, former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, said, “Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen … For this president, fear is an easier political tactic than compromise. With FISA, he is attempting to rattle Congress into hastily expanding his own executive powers at the expense of civil liberties and constitutional protections.”
I hope your votes on S.2248 (FISA 2007) and its amendments currently before the U.S. Senate will prove out the faith I placed in you this past Tuesday when I cast my ballot for you in the Illinois Presidential Primary. I know that your Senatorial counterpart, Dick Durbin, opposes immunity for telecommunications providers who complied with the Bush Administration’s illegal warrantless wiretap program and also supports amendments to S.2248 preventing “reverse targeting” of Americans (bypassing the need to obtain a court warrant in order to spy on U.S. citizens by surveilling foreign, not domestic, communications).
Senator Feingold & others have proposed amendments to FISA to protect our civil liberties, enforce government accountability, & allow action against illegal wiretapping. I was disappointed by your “abstain” vote today on one of Senator Feingold’s proffered amendments. I hope that your future votes on this bill will reflect a commitment to the integrity of our rights.
As my past communications to you on this issue made clear, while I accept that in an era of global terrorism certain privacies and privileges may need to be foregone in order to enhance our security, I demand accountability from those who would diminish our freedoms. We must proceed in such a way to ensure that power is not centralized and abused. We must maintain mutual transparency whenever possible and accountability in all cases. FISA was drafted specifically to allow the executive branch to engage in intelligence gathering with 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.
Senator Obama, as you cast your votes on S.2248 and its amendments, please 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.