Just Say No to Gutting FISA
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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