Just Say No to Gutting FISA

by TChris

In the few remaining legislative days before the November election, the president would like nothing more than the enactment of a law authorizing his continued wiretapping of Americans without being bothered to get a warrant (unless it would be a law authorizing him to use sham tribunals to justify the continued indefinite detention of individuals at Guantanamo).

Topping the to-do list is passing legislation officially sanctioning the National Security Agency's secret wiretapping of suspected terrorist communications. The eavesdropping has been carried out without warrants since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A federal judge in Detroit recently ruled the program illegal. ...

The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider as many as four contradictory bills on the issue tomorrow and could approve all of them.

The Specter-Cheney proposal is probably the worst of the bills, but none are necessary. Republican legislators (as well as Democrats who are willing to sell out freedom for fear that they will otherwise appear "soft on security") need to know that we value our right to be free from warrantless invasions of our private communications. They'll know that when they hear from you. Some Republicans are already getting the message, but many of those still advocate changing FISA, even if the changes are less sweeping than those proposed by Sen. Specter. The message they need to hear is: There's no need to fix what ain't broke.

It's good to see a few Republicans finally standing up to the president's usurpation of congressional authority, if not his defiance of the Constitution.

"The president has argued he has inherent authority as commander in chief" to conduct warrantless surveillance, [Rep. Heather] Wilson said. "Congress has inherent authority, as well. And, frankly, I think his arguments are rather weak."

Wilson nonetheless proposes a change to FISA, without evidence that FISA needs revision.

"You need checks and balances in place to make sure future administrations or even civil servants don't get out of line," said A. Wilson (R-N.M.), sponsor of the main House surveillance bill. Unlike Specter's bill, she added, "my bill was not authorized by the White House."

Future administrations? What about the current administration? It doesn't matter what laws Congress enacts; King George only obeys those he likes. Checks and balances need to start now, and that means forcing the administration to obey the law, not rewriting the law to let the president do as he pleases.

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    Re: Just Say No to Gutting FISA (none / 0) (#1)
    by The Heretik on Wed Sep 06, 2006 at 09:23:56 AM EST
    Let's hope the Era of Cowering is over.

    Re: Just Say No to Gutting FISA (none / 0) (#3)
    by eric on Wed Sep 06, 2006 at 12:22:24 PM EST
    I simply don't understand. Why can't they just comply with the law and get warrants? The ONLY answer that I can think of is that they want to spy on political enemies domestically and don't want any record in the FISA court. Is there ANY another possible explanation?

    Re: Just Say No to Gutting FISA (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Sep 06, 2006 at 02:16:52 PM EST
    Thanks, TChris, for keeping this subject fresh. ACLU needs lots of help, especially today, or this atrocity of illegality will go through.

    Re: Just Say No to Gutting FISA (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Sep 06, 2006 at 05:58:09 PM EST
    The Federal judge in Detroit said that the Bush warrantless wiretap executive order violated both the 1st and 4th Amendments and was thus unconstitutional in addition to being illegal for bypassing the FISA law. A bill passed by Congress along the lines of the executive order would likewise still be unconstitutional. Unless the Bush administration can get the Detroit ruling reversed on appeal then all legislative attempts short of a Constitutional Amendment that reversed key provisions of both the 1st and 4th Amendments would be futile. The Detroit ruling appeared to adhere to the language of Hamdin.