There is likely to be a vote this afternoon on the FISA bill proposal in the House. If you have not contacted your Representative about this issue recently, please do so: no telecom immunity, stand up for the rule of law and the Fourth Amendment. While you are at it, please take the time to vote in our poll on which Blue Dog will get pressure for not standing up on this.
As Glenn points out, the House Dems have reviewed the documents given to them by the WH regarding their claim of need for telecom immunity and enhanced unilateral executive powers. And, what do you know, the House (unlike the Senate Intel Committee) calls the justifications for what they are: utter bunk.
We have concluded that the Administration has not established a valid and credible case justifying the extraordinary action of Congress enacting blanket retroactive immunity as set forth in the Senate bill….
In our view, the arguments for blanket retroactive immunity – that a decision not to enact it will irreparably harm the relevant carriers and that it will endanger our national security – have not been substantiated, either in a public or a classified setting….the relevant carriers are significant companies that appear capable of dealing with the lawsuits and accusations brought against them. We have seen no indication that in the event these actions were allowed to proceed, either their reputations or their financial viability would be meaningfully impaired. As a matter of fact, it could just as easily be asserted that the carriers could be best served by clearing their names, or that their reputations would suffer greater harm as a result of a legislative enactment of blanket retroactive immunity….
While the information we have seen does not justify retroactive legal immunity, we do believe another option is available that would protect the legitimate interests of carriers in light of the legal framework that already exists. Under current law, carriers that cooperate with government surveillance activities are already entitled to immunity from lawsuit under many circumstances. For example, one statute provides that “no cause of action shall lie in any court” against a telecom company that provides the content of telecommunications to the federal government when the company has received a court order or “a certification in writing” by the Attorney General or a designee stating “that no warrant or court order is required by law, that all statutory requirements have been met, and that the specified assistance is required.”
However, based on both unclassified and classified information, we have concluded that carriers may be unable to demonstrate their claims to immunity in court under current law because of the state secrets doctrine and related constraints concerning classified information….
This is not, nor has it ever been, about providing protection for the telecom companies. This has always been an effort to keep the American public from knowing what illegal overreaches the Bush Administration has been involved in all along, since well before 9/11. The sole thing that is preventing the telecom carriers from fully litigating their case in court is the Bush Administration assertion of state secrets to keep the public from knowing just how far they have taken this domestic spying. It’s a CYA shell game…again and again.
There is a reason John Poindexter was brought back on board for the Bush Administration, given his Total Information Awareness background — and with Dick Cheney’s knowledge of the inner-workings of government and the shifting of its budgetary devices to black ops budget parameters, the public would never have known for certain that the NSA was being used to illegally spy on the American public in contravention of the Fourth Amendment…except that we found out about it.
Just like we found out about the PR gaming and lies that were the foundation for promoting invasion of Iraq. The truth has a funny way of wiggling out from underneath the lies when you least expect it.
The bottom line is that the press will not do politicians’ jobs for them. When a politician fails to clearly explain what’s wrong with her opponent’s position, few journalists will take it upon themselves to craft their own critiques. Only by drawing clear contrasts with the president, and backing up their strong words with strong actions, will Democrats shift the national security conversation to their advantage. They did that last month and reaped a bountiful harvest of favorable press. That success can continue, but only if House Democrats don’t lose their nerve in the coming weeks of negotiations.
The press isn’t going to dig in an do the work on this (with a few notable exceptions — see Lichtblau’s FBI overreach story today), but we are more than willing to help pick up the slack and keep this issue front and center for elected representatives. Just like we have been doing since these illegal domestic spying intrusions were revealed back in 2005. This has been a long-term fight for liberty, and we will keep this going as long as it takes.
Please call your Representative today — and make sure they know that we are watching how they vote, just like the NSA is watching all of us. As always, it’s up to us — being a patriot is something that you do. Now let’s get to work.
PS — For those of you who will be attending Take Back America next week, I’ll be on a panel with Rep. John Conyers and Prof. David Cole of Georgetown Law entitled "The Republic Against The Rogue Presidency" at 10:30 am ET on Tuesday morning. Hope to see you there!
(YouTube — The Police "Every Breath You Take.")
UPDATE: For those of you who just missed the brief statement from President Petulant on this, I’ll sum it up: "You must respect my AUTHORITAY. If you don’t I’ll veto the bill." My response: "Good, we get the FISA law as is and you still don’t get a pass for breaking the law. Sweet."
UPDATE #2: More here on potential bill votes today…