Since I have a nasty cold that has mostly robbed me of my speaking voice, I chose to respond to the ACLU’s call for calls by instead sending e-mail messages to my Senators Obama & Durbin as well as Senate majority leader Harry Reid:
I understand that the Senate will very soon take up legislation addressing the Bush Administration’s “warrantless wiretapping” program operated by the National Security Agency. I want to express my support for the work done by Senator Durbin & others on the Senate Judiciary Committee attempting to call the Administration to account for this prima facia illegal program and for the committee-approved legislation which refuses to grant immunity to telecommunications providers who violated the law by complying with the NSA’s illegal wiretapping requests.
While I support strong protective national security measures as part of a holistic approach to combat terrorism, I, like the majority of American voters (as documented in the recent Mellman Group telephone poll), stand against any actions which violate fundamental American values and our national laws. As you know, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) regulates wiretaps involving U.S. citizens and provides a flexible judicial oversight mechanism for approving (even after the fact) surveillance through special classified courts. The NSA warrantless wiretapping program circumvented FISA. The Democratic Congress should be exercising its Constitutional role as a check on executive power by vigorously investigating this violation of the law which was ordered by President Bush and which by precedent should be an impeachable offense, not retroactively rubber-stamping it by considering legislation such as the current Intelligence Committee bill or the “Protect America Act”.
At this time, two core principles must be observed above all else. First, we must affirm the rule of law by acknowledging & enforcing the principle that no person, not even the President of the United States, is above the law. FISA was violated. We should not grant anyone immunity but should instead aggressively investigate and see that justice is carried by holding accountable all those who have acted illegally. Second, we must uphold the Constitutional principle of checks and balances. I have no doubt that clandestine surveillance is entirely necessary to protect innocent Americans. However, no branch of government may be allowed to gather to itself unchecked power for whatever good purpose it may be initially intended. The framers of our Constitution clearly understood the inevitability of abuse of such unchecked power. Any legislation Congress approves must include independent review of surveillance authority to protect this fundamental principle which undergirds the stability of our republican form of government.
Please carry out the will of the American people and your Constitutional duty an a check on the power of the executive by holding investigations into the FISA violations and ensuring that any new surveillance legislation passed by Congress includes appropriate oversight and accountability.