normalconst.jpgJames Madison, in a speech to the Virginia Convention in 1788

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.

Mr. Madison, meet President Bush, the current Congress, and imprecise legislative drafting:

…For Neal, who has been a librarian for 34 years, the issue is not academic. He recalled his time working at Penn State University in the 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, when the FBI demanded information about the reading habits of international students. The staff refused, but the experience jolted Neal, who said he felt that library users’ privacy rights had been “violated.”

Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said: “The librarians have fingered an issue that is particularly problematic in the Senate legislation. When a group of Americans communicate with one targeted non-American abroad, everyone’s privacy is at risk. We are not saying the government should have to seek a warrant for every overseas foreigner, but court oversight is essential.”

The Association of Research Libraries, representing 123 institutions, the American Library Association, with more than 65,000 members, and the Association of American Universities, representing 60 U.S. institutions, each say they seek to amend the draft bills to make clear that the term “communications provider” does not include libraries. Although a report by the House Judiciary Committee states that libraries are not meant to be subject to the provision, it does not have the force of law, according to Prudence S. Adler, associate executive director of the research library group….

Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), the intelligence committee vice chairman, who helped craft the bipartisan Senate bill, said librarians need not worry. The government, he said, would seek to monitor only “suspected terrorists.” If a surveillance target communicates with a U.S. citizen or a resident who is not a target, the latter’s communications would be “minimized” or blacked out, he said, and the bill would require a court to approve the minimization procedures.

“You know what happens if that [library exception] gets into the bill?” Bond said. “You would have your libraries filled with al-Qaeda operatives.”

As James Madison also said, “The truth was that all men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.” And the truth is, Sen. Bond, getting a warrant is all that is required for proper oversight for governmental officials desiring to surveil American citizens. As they have been required to do for years and years.  I do not trust George Bush with the power to do so otherwise because he has shown, repeatedly, that he has not earned our trust.  You can start by learning that the Bush Administration sought unfettered access to telecommunications data long before 9/11 — without a warrant and without following the FISA laws.  No one should have that much unfettered power without some third party oversight — that’s just common sense and experience talking.  Meanwhile, instead of being interested in working toward a commitment to the rule of law, toward justice, and toward better government, President Bush is more interested in playing chicken with the DOJ.  Classy.  (Glenn has more.)

The FISA Bill is set for mark-up as early as November 8th. The vote on the Mukasey nomination comes even earlier. Patriots stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law.

UPDATEThe ACLU has a line by line analysis of the Senate FISA bill available for reading.  They also have a one-page summary.

You know what to do:

Sen. Harry Reid — (202) 224-3542     FAX  202-224-7327

Senate Judiciary Committee Contact Information:

Every Senate direct dial number can be found here (including links to just about every senator’s web page, which include both DC office contact information and local office numbers as well).  You can reach your Senators toll free thanks to these numbers that katymine found:

1 (800) 828 – 0498
1 (800) 614 – 2803
1 (866) 340 – 9281
1 (866) 338 – 1015
1 (877) 851 – 6437

Also, the Senate Judiciary Committee membership and contact information is as follows:

Arlen Specter – Pennsylvania – (202) 224-4254      Fax (202) 228-1229
Joe Biden — Delaware — (202) 224-5042      Fax: 202-224-0139
Orrin G. Hatch – Utah – (202) 224-5251      Fax (202) 224-6331
Patrick J. Leahy (Chairman) – Vermont – (202) 224-4242      Fax (202) 224-3479
Charles E. Grassley – Iowa – (202) 224-3744      Fax (515) 288-5097
Edward M. Kennedy – Massachusetts – (202) 224-4543      Fax (202) 224-2417
Jon Kyl – Arizona – (202) 224-4521      Fax (202) 224-2207
Herbert Kohl – Wisconsin – (202) 224-5653      Fax (202) 224-9787
Jeff Sessions – Alabama – (202) 224-4124      Fax (202) 224-3149
Dianne Feinstein – California – (202) 224-3841      Fax (202) 228-3954
Lindsey Graham – South Carolina – (202) 224-5972      Fax (864) 250-4322
Russell D. Feingold – Wisconsin – (202) 224-5323      Fax (202) 224-2725
John Cornyn – Texas – (202) 224-2934      Fax (972) 239-2110
Charles E. Schumer – New York – (202) 224-6542      Fax (202) 228-3027
Sam Brownback – Kansas – (202) 224-6521      Fax (202) 228-1265
Richard J. Durbin – Illinois – (202) 224-2152      Fax (202) 228-0400
Tom Coburn – Oklahoma – (202) 224-5754      Fax (202) 224-6008
Benjamin Cardin — (202) 224-4524      Fax (202) 224-1651
Sheldon Whitehouse — (202) 224-2921      FAX  (202) 228-6362

(Fantastic street sign intersection photo via Twolf1.)