Monday, July 14, 2008

Tell Barack Obama what you think of his FISA vote

Hat tip to

My thoughts on the response below are that it is full of bunk to put it bluntly. "FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance" was already embodied in FISA. I can see some definite pandering to the "we're tough on terrorists" bunk -- as if caving on this was necessary to stop terrorism. That only lends credence to the administration's claims that what they were doing illegally was necessary to fight terrorism. Oh well.

My Open letter:

(soon to be) Mr. President,

I was deeply, deeply saddened by your decision to vote to approve the
horrible FISA bill.  I think the best indication of how bad a decision
that was came when still-president Bush hailed the bill after it was
passed.  And how could you have sanctioned the precedent, let alone the
specific case, of granting immunity for law breaking (no matter how
altruistic the rationale _might_ be) -- especially when you, nor I, really
know the extent or scope of their actions.

I'm torn because I am interested in replacing every Democrat who sided
with the Republicans on this bill in future elections, yet I do support
you as our best hope for a better America.  Let's say the glean is a bit
tarnished by this though.

Additionally, I don't really understand even what your rationale was so I
think you need to do a better job at openly communicating this kind of
information to your constituency.

I do hope that you will hold these, and the other known lawbreakers from
this administration, accountable once you obtain office and will uphold
the rule of law.


Official response email:
Dear Friend,

Thank you for contacting us and sharing your strong feelings about this important issue.  Please find a statement from Senator Obama below.

We appreciate hearing from you.


Obama for America,

Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

After months of negotiation, the House passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act.  Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.  

It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I voted in the Senate three times to remove this provision so that we could seek full accountability for past offenses.  Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful.  But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act. 

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay.  So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives - and the liberty - of the American people. 

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