Tuesday, March 21, 2006

You want a litmus test issue? THIS is a litmus test issue. The Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006

I can't even check my email these days without being outraged or insulted by some fresh assault on my liberties. I will be calling my Senators. Not just the one, either. My Republican senator deserves an earfull on this one.

Daily Kos: The Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006:

"Yesterday, these four Senators [Republican Senators Mike DeWine, Olympia Snowe, Lindsey Graham, and Chuck Hagel] introduced the 'Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006.' The bill would legalize the President's crimes. It would allow this Congress to rubber-stamp the administration's violation of FISA and the Fourth Amendment by condoning warrantless spying. According to their ass-backwards approach to oversight, the President can continue to spy on Americans without a warrant for 45 days. After 45 days, the President has three choices:

1. 'Stop' the spying: Because naturally, we can trust this government to cease and desist on demand, given its amazing track record of self-restraint;
2. Ask the FISA court for a court order: Because naturally, this President has shown great respect for the FISA court process and would dutifully follow Congressional directives when it comes to applying for a FISA order; or
3. Inform the Intelligence Sub-committee: Because, of course, the President has proven he can be trusted to follow the law and notify intelligence activities about warrantless spying.

The bill is co-sponsored by four so-called 'moderates' in order to hide its radical and catastrophic nature. What these four extremists accomplish with their bill is to amend the Constitution unilaterally--without the consent of the states--by nullifying the Fourth Amendment. Warrant? Reasonable cause? Psssh. Remnants of a pre-9/11 world, my friends."

Now, before you get all huffy and say the president NEEDS this to fight terrorism, recall that FISA provides for 72 hours of immediate surveillance while the paperwork happens, and that a grand total of two warrants have been turned down by the FISA court in it's 25 odd years of existence.

This is not about listening in on "terrorists." This is about conducting surveillance on people the Administration is afraid of. Quite different propositions. The only reason for this legislation is to cloak in apparent legitimacy the illegal acts of the President.

It's no more legal for Congress to authorize a violation of the Fourth Amendment than it is for the President to violate it himself.

I wonder if the Senate just doesn't care any more? Have the Republican Senators decided that they simply cannot afford to permit a fair election in 2006? One has to wonder what this domestic surveillance is supposed to find. But it is difficult to forget how much power J. Edgar Hover amassed with his private files, and what a sigh of relief passed when those files somehow vanished.

You want a litmus test issue? THIS is a litmus test issue.

This trumps flag-burning, gun banning and family values all in one, for NONE of those are meaningful without the fourth amendment's guarantee that we may proceed about our private lives and business without nosy people poking into our business to determine whether or not it may alarm our "Dear Leader."

From the Washington Post

The Bush administration could continue its policy of spying on targeted Americans without obtaining warrants, but only if it justifies the action to a small group of lawmakers, under legislation introduced yesterday by key Republican senators.

The four senators hope to settle the debate over National Security Agency eavesdropping on international communications involving Americans when one of the parties is suspected of terrorist ties. President Bush prompted a months-long uproar when he said that constitutional powers absolve him of the need to seek warrants in such cases, even though the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires warrants for domestic wiretaps.

The program, begun in 2001, was first publicized late last year.

The bill would allow the NSA to eavesdrop, without a warrant, for up to 45 days per case, at which point the Justice Department would have three options. It could drop the surveillance, seek a warrant from FISA's court, or convince a handful of House and Senate members that although there is insufficient evidence for a warrant, continued surveillance "is necessary to protect the United States," according to a summary the four sponsors provided yesterday. They are Mike DeWine (Ohio), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine).

All but Graham are members of the sharply divided intelligence committee, whose Democratic members have unsuccessfully sought an investigation into the NSA program. Hagel and Snowe threatened last month to join the Democrats' request unless the administration and Congress agreed on a way to bring the wiretap program under the review of FISA's court and Congress.

I suggest calling the offices of all four and reminding them their duty is to the people, not to the President.

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