In the last couple days, there have been several posts across the blogosphere citing what various candidates running for Congress have said on FISA and retroactive immunity for the telecoms. But so far, it's been all over the map. I'll try to corral all their statements into this diary, so you can see who the "good guys" are.
First, let's start off with the current House and Senate members who voted against this bill. They do deserve credit, as it's their jobs on the line.
Follow me below the fold to see the dozens of Democratic challengers who are standing up for the Constitution, and are against this FISA bill and retroactive immunity.
Now, not all of these statements were made this past week. Some came from 2007, and others came around February when this issue was last up in the air. But hey, they're on record. So here goes, alphabetically by district. If you know of a candidate who HAS spoken out against retroactive immunity and the FISA bill, please let me know in the comments, and please include the link where we can read their statement, and I'll update the diary accordingly.
It was Ben Franklin who said that "any man who is willing to sacrifice essential liberties for the sake of security deserves, neither." We seem to have a country full of people who are willing to sacrifice essential liberties for the sake of an empty promise of security. As a free country, founded on concepts like justice and liberty, the de-evolution of our free society should not be tolerated by any people of conscience.
CA-04: Charlie Brown (seriously, read his entire diary, it's excellent)
I flew missions that monitored electronic communications around the world-often with Soviet MIGs flying off my wing and hoping I'd make a wrong turn. Our standing order was "if you even suspect you are collecting data on an American citizen, you are to cease immediately, flag the tape, and bring it to a supervisor." We knew failure to comply would yield serious consequences-the kind that can end your career, or worse, land you in jail.
In short, professional, accurate intelligence collection guidelines were used to protect America "from all enemies, foreign and domestic," without also undermining the very freedoms we were protecting.
But this debate isn't just about security; it's about accountability. As an officer who was both involved in these programs and held personally accountable for my actions in the name of defending America, I have a problem with giving a few well-connected, well-healed companies who knowingly usurp the law a free pass.
And when I see companies acting "in the interest of national security" held to a lower standard of accountability than the dedicated professionals charged with our nation's defense, silence is not an option.
And to those few companies seeking immunity for breaking the law despite the best of intentions---might I offer a few comforting words on behalf of all who serve, and all who have borne the responsibilities of safeguarding our great nation...freedom isn't free.
Members of Congress take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. So do members of the Executive and Judiciary Branches. Unlike the Bush Administration, however, I will do all in my power to uphold and defend the Constitution, particularly regarding the protections and inalienable rights of all humanity it guarantees to the American people.
We live in an unsafe world. We need to ensure we take all necessary and legal steps to safeguard our country and its citizens. Our Constitution provides for checks and balances against government intrusiveness infringing upon fundamental rights of speech, religion, privacy, unlawful search and seizure, etc. It is ironic that the most efficient way to ensure perfect safety is by discarding these fundamental rights. In fact, some of the most repressive governments today (North Korea, anyone?) rule over some of the safest countries - at least when it comes to walking the streets at night.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration has ignored the Constitutions checks and balances. Instead it has created its own Rule of Law. The Bush Administration has suspended habeas corpus, sanctioned torture and illegal spying on Americans and created an extralegal detention center in Guantanamo. This arrogance continues even though the American people and many of our leading jurists and representatives have stated they want our Constitution followed in the manner envisioned by our Founding Fathers and confirmed by all subsequent administrations except the current one.
In the past the United States has ensured that those persons on its soil or under its jurisdiction or power are treated with the same dignity and respect as American citizens. This is based on that marvelous statement in the Declaration of Independence, [w]e hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights. These inalienable rights are not limited to one gender, one party or one nationality. While we cannot always influence other governments to respect these rights we can guarantee them whenever they involve those on our soil or under our jurisdiction or power.
Therefore, it is ironic that the Bush Administration, which denounces the human rights record of the Cuban government, echoes that record by claiming the Guantanamo detainees are not subject to American due process in legal proceedings precisely because they are housed in Cuba even though they are under American jurisdiction and power. How long will it be before the current infringement of inalienable rights on our own soil, which now consists of illegal spying on Americans, escalates to suspension of Habeas Corpus or even torture against Americans?
No one not the President, not the Vice President, not members of the Cabinet is above the law, nor should any governmental branch be allowed to discard Constitutional guarantees. When I become your congressional representative I will do more than merely recite my constitutional oath of office as a rite of passage. I will act upon that oath and support and defend the Constitution. I will act to restore the constitutional balance between inalienable rights and safety. As Americans we will be free . . . we will be safe . . . and we will not participate in violations of those inalienable rights guaranteed to all by our Constitution.
Our nation was founded on a system of checks and balances. Unfortunately, the checks and balances in the Constitution and the freedoms Americans hold dear have been slowly eroding. Finally, last week the Supreme Court drew a line in the sand and restored habeas corpus, one of the Constitution's most basic and essential protections against government abuse.
Some in Congress wish to eliminate another essential freedom by allowing the government to spy on its citizens without a warrant and giving lawbreakers who do so immunity from prosecution. Our founding fathers would be outraged at the bargaining away of the Bill of Rights.
You don't fight terrorism abroad by taking away at our freedoms at home.
We now know George Bush's wiretapping program is not a narrow examination of calls made to and from suspected terrorist suspects -- unless you believe that you and I are terrorists. I am worried and angry that the National Security Agency (NSA) has secretly purchased from the three largest telecommunications companies in the country, telephone records on tens of millions of Americans. On December 17, 2005, President Bush said he authorized the program, "to intercept the international communication of people with known links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Then on January 23, 2006, after concerns were expressed that the NSA tapped into telecommunications arteries, Gen. Michael Hayden, then NSA chief, now CIA nominee, asserted his organization engages in surveillance if there is a "reasonable" basis for eavesdropping.
George Bush asks us to believe the NSA is not listening to phone conversations. Does that comfort you? Anyone with experience in data management knows the government now has the information necessary to cross-reference phone numbers, with available databases that link names and numbers to compile a substantial dossier on every American. Evidently, Bush now sees the enemy, and it is us.
I will insist on national security -- we all must -- but we must also insist that America is a land of laws. No one is above the law. If the law is a circumstantial inconvenience for President Bush, the law will soon be irrelevant to the ordinary American. Bush repeatedly asserts that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- which established a special court to confidentially review and authorize sensitive surveillance requests -- does not apply to his surveillance program, so George Bush bypasses the court.
When you elect me to Congress, I will sponsor and pass legislation to remove any doubt that warrantless spying on ordinary Americans is illegal. We must do what is right, let the consequences follow.
What's much MUCH more disconcerting to me is the entire FISA bill...As somebody who has been a prosecutor and dealt with the 4th Amendment, I can tell you that this happened to have been the one amendment in the Bill of Rights that all the Founding Fathers could agree upon; that in order for the government intrusion there had to be probable cause signed off on by an independent magistrate that says you may have committed a crime. I find the entire FISA process to be constitutionally dubious. That doesn't mean that it couldn't be made constitutionally valid but I think that anytime you have wiretaps involved...that deals with an American citizen, you've gotta have a court sign off on it. The only question in my mind is whether or not that has to be done prior to there warrant being executed or whether or not there is some grace period. There is no doubt in my mind that the executive branch itself cannot act as both overseer and executioner (of warrants or wiretaps). That, I think, is constitutionally impermissible; I think it's a violation of the judiciary's proper role of interpreting laws.
As a former prosecutor [and] law clerk in the US Attorney's office in the Major Frauds and Economic Crimes section...I've never heard of anybody being given immunity when you don't know what they've done. It's not how the immunity process works. You don't say to somebody 'Whatever you've done, don't worry about it.'...It's unthinkable to me as a lawyer and as somebody who will have...sworn to uphold the Constitution that I could ever support that.
FISA should never have been expanded. The government's ability to spy was extensive enough already. The government is failing us in so many ways right now, this can just be added to the list. I want a safe, secure country. I have lived my life trying to secure exactly that. Frankly, the reason I joined the service was to defend my country's beautiful liberties and secure them for future generations of Americans. Some attribute the following quote to Benjamin Franklin "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." No one can express the ideology of our democracy better than one of the founders.
As far as telecommunications immunity, my understanding is that legal culpability is determined in context. It is quite a thing to have the power of the executive branch of the government pointed in your direction making demands. Lack of courage to say "no" under such circumstances is no surprise. I think courts are well equipped to unravel this type of legal factual minutia and get to a just result. Immunity from the law is something to be dolled out sparingly.
Said land conservation activist Shafroth: "While this current bill takes some small steps to weaken the authority of the president to unilaterally spy on Americans, it does not go far enough in protecting our civil liberties."
Internet entrepreneur Polis said that "phone companies should not be given a pass and should be held accountable for their involvement in unwarranted wiretapping."
And former state Senate President Fitz-Gerald criticized the bill's "de facto immunity for telecommunications companies that broke the law."
"The government has no right to listen and wiretap any phone without judicial oversight," she said.
Fitz-Gerald said the House version of the legislation amending FISA was better than an earlier U.S. Senate version, but "it still was not acceptable and I would have rejected the House measure."
Shafroth said he would have voted against the bill because "many of the protections in the bill are superficial and there are too many avenues left to the president to unconstitutionally spy on American citizens."
Polis said the nation must restore people's trust in their government, but "rushing FISA reform through Congress is not the answer."
It is disappointing that some of our Democratic leaders are rushing FISA reform through Congress. I strongly oppose telecom immunity that paves the ground for the further erosion of our privacy and civil liberties.
Our Democratic leaders in Washington should stand firm against allowing Republicans and the Bush Administration to violate the civil liberties of our citizens any more than they already have; phone companies should not be given a pass and should be held fully accountable for their involvement in unwarranted wiretapping.
Rather than providing cover for the Bush administration, our leaders should show backbone and not allow FISA reform to be rushed through Congress.
The fear mongering tactics of President Bush and his cronies on Capitol Hill are tired; the American public now understands that we can have security at home while also protecting the civil liberties of our law abiding citizens.
"In Congress, I will always stand up for the fundamental American belief that no man, and no corporation, is above the law. As always, this is a matter for the courts to decide-- not for Congress, and absolutely not for the same Bush Administration who may have violated the law in the first place. It is great to see so many American citizens of all backgrounds coming together to stand up for the rule of law and in opposition to retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies who may have illegally spied on American citizens at the Bush Administration's request. I am disappointed that Chris Shays and so many others continue to stand with President Bush by refusing to stand up for this most fundamental of American principles."
What, exactly, is the Right Wing's problem with the Fourth Amendment? Why do they constantly seek ways to evade and subvert the Fourth Amendment? It seems to have worked pretty well, for over 200 years. And over 99% of the time, the federal judges give all POTUS the warrants he wants.
What it really comes down to is that they want a dictatorship. It's issues like this one, where the Right has to choose between conservatism and fascism, when you see their true colors.
As the "New York Times" said in its June 18 editorial: "The bill is not a compromise. The final details are being worked out, but all indications are that many of its provisions are both unnecessary and a threat to the Bill of Rights. The White House and the Congressional Republicans who support the bill have two real aims. They want to undermine the power of the courts to review the legality of domestic spying programs. And they want to give a legal shield to the telecommunications companies that broke the law by helping Mr. Bush carry out his warrantless wiretapping operation."
The problem is special interest money, Curtis said, coupled with a business-as-usual attitude in Washington.
"This is the root cause of the Democrats' inability to stand up to the Republicans. They are all eating from the same trough," Curtis said. "This is why we need leadership that will stay true to our values rather than cater to special interest contributors."
"The laws that were created under FISA were sufficient to meet our country?s national security needs. What the Bush administration has done, again, is present Americans with a false choice between national security and civil liberties, while this bill increases neither. I oppose any broad retroactive immunity provided to companies who may have broken the law. The legal purpose of immunity is to use the protection granted by such immunity as an inducement to divulge information about what occurred. Immunity in this case would do the opposite: it would shut down any investigation into what actually occurred."
The latest demand from President Bush, that the US Congress shield telecommunication providers from liability for breaking federal law, is a real step backwards in the important mission of authorizing an effective intelligence surveillance program. Congress not give blanket immunity for any unlawful acts, it should renew its call for increased oversight of the telecom providers that may or may not have broken federal surveillance laws.
Further, the US Congress must not budge in insisting that any surveillance program with the capability of eavesdropping on US citizens be subject to court oversight.
The Congress should insist on codifying in the statute a court order requirement for any surveillance done on American citizens.
This last August, Representative Marshall voted for a temporary bill that allowed for expanded wiretapping and surveillance on Americans without a court order. Allowing that regime to continue is unacceptable.
After reading the FISA bill -- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- I thought "This can not be good for Americans. That the Bush Administration wants unlimited powers for spying on not only terrorists, but on any American citizen. This is against and violates the Constitutional Fourth Amendment [right of] privacy. This also allows warrant-less monitoring of any form of communication in the United States." I was disappointed and dismayed with my Congressman John Barrow supporting this Bush Republican initiative against Americans. Too often Congressman Barrow from the 12th district in Georgia has voted with Bush and the Republicans on key issues.
The Congress is considering a bill that guarantees retroactive immunity for telecom companies who participated in the President's illegal wiretap program, and that fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. This measure would require the courts to grant immunity to big telecom companies for their past illegal eavesdropping on American citizens, and authorize future surveillance on citizens without adequate checks and balances to protect their rights.
This is wrong. No one should get a free pass for breaking the law. Iowans and all Americans have a right to live their lives without government intrusion on their privacy.
If elected, I would vigorously oppose this measure. I believe that the constitutional rights of everyday Americans are at issue here, and full accountability is needed. No President should ever have unchecked power. Americans in the U. S. with no connection to suspected terrorists should never have their privacy abridged by an overzealous, unchecked executive branch. As Americans, we can protect ourselves without destroying our Constitutional rights. We need to focus on the very real threats we face, and not waste our resources on spying on loyal Americans.
Today, Rep. Mark Kirk once again showed how out-of-step he is with Illinois' 10th district, by siding with the Bush administration to protect telecommunications companies who participated in illegal spying on American citizens. Kirk has received over $80,000 in contributions from the telecom companies he has continually voted to protect.
Coming in the wake of his vote against outlawing waterboarding, Kirk has shown that he is more interested in following the Bush administration than upholding our international agreements, like the Geneva Convention, and protecting our constitutional rights.
Congressional Candidate Dan Seals (IL-10) released the following statement today:
"While I was pleased to see the House Democrats stand their ground against granting amnesty to the telecommunications companies who broke the law, I was disappointed to see Mark Kirk side once again with the Bush administration and his campaign contributors over the 4th amendment.
"The U.S. Constitution is not a discretionary document. It's time we elect leaders with the courage and independence to stand up for our most sacred rights. When I go to Congress, I will stand up for our Constitution and ensure that no one is above the law."
I like Brad Ellsworth, and yes he is that good looking in person, I like Baron Hill, and always have, I like Joe Donnelly and have since the first time I met him, and the same for Senator Bayh, but I really, really, really, have a fondness for this piece of paper called the United States Constitution.
I would not have voted as they did on FISA, but I am more liberal than they are and we all know that, you know that, I know that, and they know that. Some in Indiana are afraid of being called a Liberal and the word comes from Liberty, so I think we should embrace it.
Brad, Baron and Beyond, (Sorry, I couldn't resist, it's the blogger in me) voted the way they did because of National Security, and I do not hate them for voting what they believe, because I believe in National Security too, but I also understand the potential for expansion of the FISA bill, and the potential danger. I love this country but since 2000, have feared this government and do not agree with granting this administration any additional power. It is my hope that in 6 months this will not be re-newed, it is my fear that it will.
There are several reasons why I feel this bill is unnecessary. First, I think that we have lost focus on the fact that a competent Administration could have actually gone a long way in preventing this tragedy. The Bush Administration was warned in advance of 9-11 and did nothing at the time to prevent it. I believe if the Bush Administration would have acted on the intelligence provided them, then the 9-11 tragedy could have been avoided through the laws that existed at the time.
I also believe this law is an extension of the Bush Administration's attempts to politicize the Justice Department. Prosecuting entities are provided by the Constitution with checks and balances on which to operate. They already have very broad powers and if they found a credible threat would have no problem getting a warrant in a timely fashion.
Finally, I believe that FISA and this compromise are an abomination to the Constitution because it seeks to circumvent the checks and balances provided all of us by that sacred document. I strongly oppose giving the Telecom Corporations immunity when they knew they were breaking the law, when the Bush Administration asked them to break the law.
I saw where my opponent in this race, "Exxon Ed" Whitfield voted for this Legislation. I think it is pretty ironic when the very Republicans who lecture us regarding limiting the roll of the Federal Government propose, and push through, the House of Representatives a bill that vastly broadens the powers of the Federal Government. This is one issue on which Progressives, Moderates and Conservatives should all be able to agree. There are certain things on which none of us should ever compromise, and the Constitution is one thing on which I will never compromise as Representative of Kentucky's First District.
Personally I'm tired of Tim Walberg and George W. Bush using fear about our national security to score cheap political points. Congress has passed legislation to ensure that tools are in place to protect our country's safety, but Walberg and Bush seem more interested in protecting big corporations that have helped them listen to our phone calls, read our emails, violate our privacy, then they are about protecting law-abiding citizens. I believe our Constitution, and our rights, including our right to privacy, are worth fighting for. If our government or big corporations break the rules, they should be held accountable.
I would have voted no. Let me start out by saying that, I am absolutely committed to keeping America safe, taking on the terrorists, and defending our national security. I was a Lt. Commander in the Navy Reserve, and I spent time over in the Persian Gulf. I understand what kind of pressure our people are under to get good intelligence. Good intelligence is absolutely critical to the safety of our soldiers and to protecting our country. We can't function without it.
We definitely need to update FISA to give our intelligence agencies the tools they need, while also absolutely guaranteeing that Americans' rights are protected.
There are important updates that we need to make to FISA, but I can't support the retroactive immunity - and I sincerely hope that those provisions get stripped out in the Senate.
I am troubled by the House passage of HR 6304, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. There is much we can do to prevent terrorism, but such measures do not require the sacrifice of fundamental constitutional freedoms which our country was founded upon. This legislation demonstrates the need for leaders in Congress who have experience in the military and in Iraq, and who value the rule of law as we fight the War on Terror.
The Fourth Amendment doesn't exclude lobbyists. The "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" means George Bush and the other Washington politicians can't grant immunity to law breakers no matter how much they give to campaigns.
It is unfortunate that it appears that the telecom industry has managed to falsely conflate its quest for retroactive immunity for lawbreaking with the issue of national security. The Founding Fathers understood that our safety as a nation depended on our being a nation of laws. Retroactive immunity undermines the rule of law, and therefore undermines our principles and security as a nation.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) issued a release today taunting Linda Stender, candidate for New Jersey's 7th Congressional District, on the issue of Congress' re-authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Stender hit back this afternoon.
"It's clear from this nonsensical attack that the national Republicans know they're in jeopardy of losing this seat," said Stender campaign spokesman Joshua Henne. "Linda Stender believes we can defend both our nation's security, and the Constitution. The Bush Republicans sadly still haven't learned its possible to walk and chew gum at the same time."
In America, no one is above the law. We shouldn't compromise the integrity of our justice system to protect George Bush's friends and allies in the telecommunications industry. Anyone who illegally spies on American citizens should be brought to justice.
This Friday, legislation was passed that will take away constitutionally guaranteed rights. The FISA bill strips Americans of these rights and protects telecommunications companies from being held accountable by the people.
I am standing up against my own party because I believe we can have sound legislation that defends our country and, at the same time, protects our Constitution. If we are to hold our government accountable, retroactive immunity is the wrong path to go down.
It's time to support Democrats with democratic values and principles, Democrats who will work on behalf of the American people and protect their rights. When I'm elected to Congress, I will be that Democrat.
Today, Darius Shahinfar, candidate for the 21st Congressional District, called the compromise reached on amendment of the Federal Information Surveillance Act (FISA) a compromise of Constitutional principles.
"The critical problem of this compromise is that it contains a free pass for the Bush Administration's and telecommunication companies' past actions. The Administration's use of warrantless wiretaps cannot be reviewed, and the process to review the telecommunications companies' participation in the wiretapping program leads inevitably to immunity for those companies" Shahinfar said.
Darius' remarks come at a time when the controversial piece of legislation would allow immunity to phone companies who currently face lawsuits for violating the constitutional rights of their members, according to plaintiff claims.
"By passing this piece of legislation, we are telling our government and our citizens that as long as the President tells you to do so, breaking the law is legal. No one, not even the President, is above our laws, especially when it comes to the issue of protecting our Constitutional rights."
When asked further of his views about FISA, Shahinfar continued, "FISA was created 30 years ago, is applicable with today's advanced technology and has been a vital tool in collecting intelligence for our nations' security.It had not been an issue, until this administration decided to use it improperly and against its intended purpose. This will not make Americans any safer from threats at home or abroad; rather it will put us at the mercy of secret agreements between corporations and our government."
If the Bush Administration had read the constitution the first time, we wouldn't find ourselves having this debate. Granting amnesty to these companies would set a precedent that would allow others to arbitrarily ignore the constitution. No one should be above the law in America.
Growing up in Western New York, one of the first lessons I was taught was that each of us has to take responsibility for our actions. As a social studies teacher, I came to understand this principle in the broader context of our democracy. We are, first and foremost, a nation of laws. Each of us should be treated equally under the law, and no one should be given special treatment. The founding fathers designed the courts as the proper place to weigh one's actions under the law, not the White House. I trust that the courts, which have ensured the rights and liberty of all Americans for over 200 years, are more than able to continue providing the wisdom and protections that keep us free.
NY-29: Eric Massa (you should really read the entire diary and Massa's analysis)
At the heart of the debate is the truncation of the Fourth Amendment, which outlines the right of the people to be secure in their persons and belongings. That right, which many would consider a bedrock of basic liberties in the Nation, is altered to allow the Federal Government to conduct searches and seizures of personal property without a warrant from a court of law.
But the bigger problem here is the immunity that would be given if it is found that the government and cooperating officials acted without due justification. Under current law, those involved can be held accountable and the individual on whom the actions were perpetrated can seek redress before the government. This right to seek redress is another fundamental individual liberty that the Revolutionary War was fought to gain for all Americans. This current bill takes away the right of citizens to seek redress.
The Bush Administration has run roughshod over the Constitution and now they expect the American people to pay for it by granting retroactive immunity to big corporations that illegally violated their customers' privacy. Congress cannot not let itself be bullied into giving away the civil liberties that belong to every American, and I promise that as a congresswoman I will never put the interests of corporations before the rights of the people.
I am opposed to affording any immunity to the telecommunications companies who may have broken the law by their participation in handing over information or granting wire-taping access to the Bush Administration without first properly receiving permission through FISA Court.
I am hoping that before the current legislation makes its way to the President's desk, members of the U.S. Senate will see that the protection of civil rights should precede any special treatment for any special interest. When the Patriot Act was first debated and wrongly passed, the telecommunications lobbying arm kept quiet and now they want to ensure that justice is silenced forever.
As the daughter of a cop, I have great respect for our Constitution and the pursuit of the truth. Any immunity that is granted before giving the American people the opportunity to even uncover a violation is a violation unto itself.
The Constitution also places no one above, below or immune from the law. The House Judiciary Committee was absolutely correct today to reject President Bush's demand for blind and blanket immunity for large telecom companies who aided illegal spying. It should be noted that not all such companies heeded the call for unchecked Presidential power, and those who resisted should be commended. For the others, blind immunity for crimes, especially when not even yet fully documented, is an alien and disturbing idea to Americans.
"Finally, to those who imply that by opposing warrantless, illegal spying in America, Democrats somehow are aiding our enemies: I urge you to take an evening off, turn off that distracting talk radio and Fox News, and spend a quiet evening reading the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution. You may learn something new, and wonderful.
This out of control president has systematically shredded the Constitutional protections of every American, trashing the patriotism of anyone who is willing to stand up to him. To think that the U.S. Congress should come along behind George Bush rubber-stamping the suspension of the Bill of Rights is offensive to me. Congress is sworn to protect the Constitution, and gagging the courts from upholding the Rule of Law is the wrong way to protect this country from its enemies.
Has anyone in Washington these days ever heard of (let alone read) the U.S. Constitution-- remember that document? We were guaranteed certain rights. It seems many Republican members of Congress lay awake at night, thinking what rights can we take away from our fellow Americans today.
Specifically my opponent J. Randy Forbes, VA (R) wanted to add language that would have ensured that nothing in the bill would be construed to prohibit surveillance of, or grant any rights to, a state sponsor of terrorism or agents of state sponsors of terrorism. In addition, the language would have permitted the intelligence community to conduct surveillance of any person concerning an imminent attack on the United States, any U.S. person, including members of the Armed Forces, or an ally of the United States, Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, members of the al-Queda Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or any terrorist or terrorist organization. This language failed to garner enough votes to be included in H.R. 3773.
The right-wing is operating in force in Congress and the typical corporate Republicrats are once again falling in line. We have a Democratic majority in the House and yet they seem to be as confused by the meaning of the Constitution as the Republicans. Apparently, since impeachment is off the table, so is the U.S. Constitution. When I look at this new bill I can't help wondering if this is the new Democratic thinking, "If we make all illegal actions legal, then the President and Vice President have done nothing wrong. Ergo there is no need to consider impeachment because no laws were broken."
"This "compromise" will not make Americans safer," said Perriello, a national security consultant with experience in Afghanistan, Darfur and West Africa. "If Congress and the President were serious about national security they would have spent their time and energy giving our brave intelligence officers the resources they need, not the American freedoms that our armed forces defend. Our constitutional principles are never up for negotiation."
No one in this country should be above the law and saying Alberto Gonzales told me it was okay is hardly an excuse. I oppose retroactive immunity for the telecoms who engaged in illegal surveillance. Unfortunately, Frank Wolf has again sided with the President on this issue voting in favor of immunity for those who circumvented the FISA courts and our legal process.
Honestly, I don't understand why at this point any member of Congress would think it was a good idea to give George Bush the power to grant immunity to anyone he wants around warrantless wiretapping - and to cover all tracks in the process. George Bush has proven, over and over again, that he cannot be trusted to uphold either the letter or the spirit of the laws that protect the people of the United States from the abuse of our government.
All I can say is that I'm sorry Congress failed on this one - and that I will honor the pledge I hope to take to uphold the Constitution.
WY-AL: Gary Trauner (also see here for some excellent choice quotes Gary dug up from our own Founding Fathers)
Wow. I am deeply saddened today by the news that the US House has voted to pass a bill amending the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which strikes at the very core of American democracy - our Constitutional Bill of Rights and the rule of law. It enables our federal government to intercept, without probable cause, all international communications of American citizens, and it provides retroactive immunity for companies that may have broken the law (if they did nothing wrong, why would they need immunity?).
Wow! Is that what it's come to? Our federal government says you must do something, even if it is against the law, and we "need" to do it? Well, I don't care whether it's the Republican Leadership in Washington DC or the Democrats in the House, I'll proudly tell them - and you - where I stand on warrantless wiretapping, the rule of law and protecting our national security:
I want to ensure that my children, and all of our children, are safe from terrorist attacks by beefing up our intelligence capabilities, protecting vulnerable targets, proactively taking out terrorists such as Al-Qaeda in their hideouts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and around the world, and working to remove safe havens for terrorists by winning the battle of ideas, not simply the battle for Tikrit.
I believe in the Constitution and rule of law, the two things that define our great American experiment. We must not gut our freedoms in order to save our freedoms. If we do that, those who use terror as a tactic will achieve their goal - after all, what would we be fighting to protect?.
We can protect our nation without sacrificing everything our founding fathers and millions of veterans fought for; the FISA law, already updated in 2001 after 9/11 and recently patched to fix some omissions due to changing technology, works.
I would rather bring Osama Bin Laden to justice than help large corporations avoid justice.
If we value our Constitutional rights such as the 2nd amendment right to bear arms, we better think twice about ignoring other Constitutional rights, such as the 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure without a warrant and probable cause. Because once we cherry pick the Constitution, someone will eventually come after the rights we hold most dear.
Finally, the truth is that Congress last year passed a temporary extension of the Protect America Act that was vetoed by the President and voted against by the Republican leadership and certain Democrats. They said they would not accept a bill that does not include giving a free pass to companies that might have broken the law! Incredible. It deserve saying one more time - these so-called leaders are telling us the Protect America Act was so important, without it America is not protected from terrorists; however, they were willing to block this incredibly important Act, and leave America unprotected, unless large corporations were let off the hook for knowingly breaking the law. Because unlike you and me, who in the event of potential wrongdoing only get off the hook by presenting our case in a court of law, they think large corporations should be held to a different standard - no accountability.
The Alaskan Constitution protects the right of privacy. The 4th Amendment demands a warrant be issued for any search. And FISA says that domestic electronic surveillance must be approved by a special court. None of these facts should be forgotten on behalf of telecommunications companies that now face legal consequences for the role they played in the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. I am strongly opposed to retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.
The Church Committee's investigations resulted in the creation of a permanent Senate Committee on Intelligence, and the passage of substantial legislation, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978.
Church's work is now being shredded by the Bush Administration.
FISA established a legal framework for electronic eavesdropping at home, including a special FISA court. It was originally passed to allow the government to collect intelligence involving communications with "agents of foreign powers."
The Bush Administration exploited this narrow exception in the passage of the Patriot Act that allows use of FISA to obtain personal records from many sources including libraries and internet service providers, even when they have no connection to terrorism.
Even worse, the Bush Administration now uses FISA to get around the constitutional requirement of seeking a warrant before it eavesdrops on communications by the NSA.
When I am elected to the Senate, I will demand an end to the abuse of FISA and a return to the checks and balances espoused by Frank Church and the Church Committee.
As a former Congressman, Frank Church staff member, and U.S. Army intelligence office, I will help lead the way back from the civil liberty abuses of this administration.
The secret warrantless wiretapping program was flat out wrong. The Bush administration went too far when it may not have even been necessary. Almost 99 percent of wiretapping applications were approved when they were submitted to judges. We must do all we can to ensure that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the necessary tools to protect our homeland but individual privacy and civil liberties must be protected because those are the freedoms we fight for. That is America. And I think we should be focused finding terrorists and not protecting corporate CEOs. I'm sure there was pressure from the Bush administration and that isn't an enviable position to be in for a company but what is wrong is wrong and there must be accountability. When mistakes were made in my companies, I took responsibility, took action and solved the problems.
I was encouraged by news a few months ago that both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed new FISA bills with added privacy protections. Now Mitch McConnell and his Republican leadership in Washington need to work with Senate and House Democrats to finalize legislation that protects the safety, and freedoms, of all Americans. I hear this issue will be brought up again in the Senate sometime during the summer.
ME-Sen: Tom Allen (who just voted against it in the House)
As I have stated before, neither the government nor large telecommunications corporations are above the law; everyone must be held accountable. This 'compromise' fails to hold either the Bush administration or the telecommunications companies to the same standards that apply to other Americans.
Having lost my brother in the World Trade Center on 9/11, I am very sensitive to the importance of the U.S. intelligence community's ability to effectively monitor foreign terrorist targets. However, our country must preserve our constitutional principles and such monitoring must be accomplished without compromising the civil liberties of American citizens. I am hopeful that Congress is on the verge of finally properly scrutinizing the Bush Administration's warrantless surveillance programs, and can create reasonable legislation that provides our government the tools it needs to monitor legitimate international threats, while at the same time not compromising the personal liberties of law-abiding Americans. Members of congress must ensure that any surveillance of U.S Citizens be granted with the proper warrant. If they fail to accomplish this, then we will have lost something very sacred about America and what our system of values is supposed to provide for all Americans.
The provision for corporate immunity for the telecom companies who may have violated federal law is unacceptable and unfortunately another example of the Bush administration wanting the legislative branch to craft legislation that protects the executive branch from its own incompetance.
The bill will force federal district courts to immediately dismiss any cases against telecommunications companies that participated in illegal surveillance. This is unacceptable. The Constitution of the United States was violated. Over several years telecommunications companies turned over the records of millions of innocent Americans to the federal government without proper oversight and without a warrant.
The Bush Administration disregarded the Fourth Amendment when it authorized this surveillance and now Congress may provide the Administration and these companies a free pass. This is a mistake. The Senate is set to vote on the FISA bill this week. For the sake of our constitution and the foundation of our democracy, I urge all Senators to unite in opposition to this bill.
If I'm elected to the Senate, I will not hesitate to fight to protect our civil liberties and the laws this nation was founded upon.
I have spoken out against immunity for telecommunications companies throughout this campaign. Last February, I urged my supporters to sign a petition to pressure my opponent, Republican Senator Gordon Smith, to vote against the FISA bill that granted retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.
Unfortunately, Gordon Smith voted in favor of granting retroactive immunity. I expect him to do the same when the Senate votes on this issue in the coming days. For years, the Bush Administration has been undermining the balance of powers. Checks and balances must be restored and a vote against the immunity bill would be a critical starting point.
On Christmas morning 2004, outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, my buddies and I drove to our base camp to use the computers. We wanted to be with our kids when they woke up that Christmas. To get there we drove through a near ambush--anytime we drove on the Jalalabad Road, it was risky, and we had an incident on our way.
That Christmas morning, I suspect the government listened to our conversations. They occurred between two countries; Afghanistan and the US. They probably didn't realize the difference in tone in my voice as I spoke to my wife and children that morning as my heart raced still from our encounter on the road. My wife did.
I fought to defend our country and our constitution in Afghanistan. I fought for the right to privacy for every Texan. Mr. Cornyn must now stand up for the privacy of every Texan and American too. We as a nation cannot grant anyone sweeping amnesty if they violated the law.
Americans understand the need for safety and the need for intelligence gathering. What they will not accept is an abuse of power, of crossing the line on American's privacy.
I would join Sen. Dodd in opposition to any retroactive provisions that allow a "get out of jail card" for violating the Constitution. If Mr. Cornyn had ever had the opportunity to have his Christmas conversation listened to by the government, on a day that he feared for his life in a convoy on Jalalabad Road, he would do the same.
Then there's those whose names have been bandied about the blogosphere that we'd like to think they'd be opposed to Bush taking away the Fourth Amendment, but where I cannot find a single statement from them about this specific issue. Much help would be appreciated in figuring out exactly where they stand on FISA.
House AZ-03: Bob Lord (nobody asked him in his diary two days ago?)
FL-18: Annette Taddeo
FL-21: Raul Martinez
FL-24: Suzanne Kosmas
IL-11: Debbie Halvorson
MD-01: Frank Kratovil
MN-02: Steve Sarvi
NE-02: Jim Esch
NM-02: Harry Teague
NM-03: Ben Ray Lujan (who even diaried here last week, but nobody asked him about FISA!)
NV-02: Jill Derby
NV-03: Dina Titus
OH-15: Mary Jo Kilroy
OH-16: John Boccieri
TX-07: Michael Skelly
WV-02: Anne Barth
Senate KS-Sen: Jim Slattery
MN-Sen: Al Franken (though he did write a satire piece about wiretapping)
MS-Sen: Ronnie Musgrove
NE-Sen: Scott Kleeb
And then there's even some Democratic challengers who have come out in FAVOR of this FISA bill.
For his part, Adler released a statement today, underscoring his own support for reupping FISA "so that our intelligence community has the tools needed to keep America safe in a dangerous world. We must also protect the freedoms for which our troops have made so many courageous sacrifices."
She was asked if she would have voted for, or against, the FISA bill this week which would have granted retroactive immunity to Telcos for felony violations of the current FISA law.
Ms. Hagan explained that she was against Telcos spying on Americans, but that she would have voted FOR the bill, and granted them immunity, but that future law breaking would not be tolerated.
And of course, Mark Udall running for the Senate in Colorado voted for this bill last week. And perception on the blogs seems to be that Mark Warner and Jeanne Shaheen would've supported this bill had they been in the Senate, so I'm not exactly holding my breath to hear statements from them against telecom immunity.
Now, some of the candidates above still have a contested primary to go, like in CO-02, where all three of them came out against it, even as the person they're trying to replace, Mark Udall, voted for it. There's other districts, like in AZ-01 and NY-21, where only that candidate has released a statement on FISA, and others haven't seemed to. (I'm looking at you, Ann Kirkpatrick.) If you guys can find statements by them, please let me know in the comments.