True patriots and my former and current senators, Russ Feingold and Dick Durbin, have introduced legislation to redress the unchecked excesses of the PATRIOT Act and recent FISA amendments. I signed the Credo petition and sent this note of largely recycled text to my unelected Senator, Roland Burris, urging him to support this bill, which is also endorsed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
As your constituent, I urge you to join your fellow Senator Richard Durbin in supporting the JUSTICE Act, which would roll-back the overraching provisions of the PATRIOT Act, as amended, and put in place important accountability safeguards to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens while preserving the government’s ability to obtain intelligence to provide for national security.
In an era of global terrorism, I accept that certain nonessential privacies and privileges may need to be foregone in order to enhance our security. However, 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. The Foreign Intelligence Survelliance Act (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. Unfortunately, the USA PATRIOT Act and its reauthorizations and even more recent FISA amendments weakened these protections to allow additional unsupervised, classified, wiretapping authority (even though FISA already granted technology-neutral survelliance authority and ex post facto warrants), as well as granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications providers who complied with prima facia illegal NSA requests for such wiretaps during the Bush Administration.
The JUSTICE Act redresses many of these missteps, providing appropriate checks on wiretaps and national security letters, protections for libary and bookstore records, and nullifying immunity for telecommunications carriers.
I fully expect my elected representatives to act to protect us from the specter of terrorism, the fear of which robs us of our freedom of assembly, our freedom of movement, and the sense of security required for us to pursue the promise of life, liberty, and happiness which is our birthright. As importantly, however, I expect my elected representatives to defend us against the specter of Big Brother, the presence of which also engenders fear, and which robs us of our freedom of speech, our freedom of thought, and the privacy and security which are also our birthrights.
Reasoned estimates place the likelihood of a U.S. citizen dying in a terrorist attack less than that of accidentally drowning. Neither the public’s unreasoned fear of terrorism nor the government’s perceived need to be seen as doing something to combat it should force us to give up our hard-fought essential liberties, yet we have already done sowith the overreaching PATRIOT Act and the Bush administration’s unconstitutional warrantless eavesdropping program, which has been subsequently sanctioned by Congress in its amendments to FISA.
Please redress this situation by supporting the JUSTICE Act, allowing U.S. citizens to demand accountability from telecommunications carriers for any past misdeeds, thereby ensuring that the rule of law is upheld, and ensuring government accountability going forward by granting appropriately flexible, but checked, wiretapping authority. Thank you for working to restore our rights and liberties.