Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Senate FISA Debate To Begin. Where Will Tim Johnson Side This Time?

The outrage in South Dakota over the ongoing FISA re-write happening in Washington has been non-existent (except for me and Cory that is). It seems that our country's blind faith in our elected officials exists here as well so when President Bush says that he needs this legislation passed to keep us safe, most will say "how soon!" Tim Johnson showed that blind faith last February when he crossed party lines and voted to pass a previous version of this spying bill and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin did likewise on the latest version last week.

Now as the Senate gets ready to debate the House version this week I again will ask Senator Johnson to do the right thing and not give in to the right-wing pressure and treat this like what it is, an assault on the 4th Amendment. Don't take my word for it, read this article from David Kris, a former high ranking DOJ lawyer in the Bush Administration. The full article is a must read and can be found here but one of his points really stood out.
Second, more importantly, the pending legislation focuses only on the target’s location (or the government’s reasonable belief about his location) not his status or conduct as a terrorist or  gent of a foreign power. In other words, there is no requirement that anyone – the FISA Court or the NSA – find probable cause that the target is a terrorist or a spy before (or after) commencing surveillance.

Someone please tell me, what part of giving our government the the ability to begin surveillance on US citizens without any probable cause is a good thing? But who needs the 4th Amendment...

And you will notice that not once up until now did I mention the telecommunication company immunity issues contained in this same bill. You see, allegedly the Bush administration has been engaged in the above currently illegal surveillance aided by several telcom's and to date there are 40 or so lawsuits pending that seek to hold these companies accountable for their complicity. This bill would make most of these lawsuits vanish along with any exposure of possible illegal activity by the Bush Administration, sort of like Watergate on civilians with "Deep Throat" being legislated out of existence.

There is little doubt in my mind that Senator Johnson will again vote to approve this bill and unless Barack Obama keeps his promise to filibuster, it will again pass the Senate making it a lock to be signed by the President (after all it is actually more than he asked for). But if for some reason you feel the need to let him know that giving up our rights is a lot easier than getting them back, you can call his office at (202)224-5842 or fax him at (202)228-5765.

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