Wednesday, February 13, 2008

NRCC Fearmongering on FISA Bill

I'm on the NRCC email list. It's painful reading, but occasionally I catch nuggets like this fearmongering message sent out by Chairman Tom Cole. The latest email is titled "The Terrorist Threat to America Never Expires."

Even though our intelligence agencies have helped us successfully avoid attacks on our soil, in a few days from now, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) will expire. If Congress lets this bill expire, our intelligence personnel, both here and abroad, will be extremely handicapped and will have a harder time saving American lives from terrorist threats.

The President and Republican leaders in both the House and Senate believe it is long overdue for Congress to pass and send to the President a long-term bill that updates the FISA laws vital to our national security.

Do you agree with your Republican leaders that we need permanent FISA legislation?

American families deserve security and not uncertainty, and they understand that our terrorist surveillance laws help keep our country safe from attack. It speaks volumes about the national security priorities of congressional Democrats that they have failed to permanently close the terrorist loophole after six months. The time for excuses has expired, it's now time for action.

If you believe it’s time to draft responsible legislation that ensures that we quickly close the intelligence gap, sign this petition today.

Cole never mentions that the White House denied violating the Fourth amendment and spying on domestic calls. The Supreme Court ruled in Katz v. United States that national security and executive privilege does not allow the federal government to domesticly wiretap without a warrant.

Retroactive immunity would allow telecommunication companies to gather information and conversations on American citizens. A Mellman Group poll found 63 percent want to government to require a warrant before domestically wiretapping phone calls.

Support for this constitutional right is both deep and wide, cutting across every demographic segment. Whether they are old or young (age 60+ 61% warrants required, age 50-59 61%, age 40-49 66%, age 18-39 66%), more or less educated (college grads 67%, some college 65%, high school or less 57%), black or white (black 83% warrants required, whites 60%), upper class or lower (upper/upper-middle 63% warrants required, middle 66%, working/lower 57%) overwhelming majorities favor requiring warrants for government wiretaps of Americans’ international conversations. Eight-in-ten percent (80%) of Democrats, 56% of independents, and even half (50%) of the President’s own Republicans oppose tapping Americans’ international conversations without a warrant.

Public demand for requiring warrants for wiretaps of Americans’ international conversations also cuts across geography. Large majorities in every part of the country favor requiring warrants: 72% in the Northeast, 64% in the South, 62% in the West, and 57% in the Midwest. Both less religious voters (68% warrants required) and those who are very religious (59% warrants required) oppose wiretapping Americans’ international conversations without a warrant. The same is true of both households with veterans (58%) and non-veteran households (65%).

Public opinion is on the Democratic Party's side. That did not stop several Democrats from voting to extend FISA.

Jay Rockefeller (D-WV),
Evan Bayh (D-IN),
Daniel Inouye (D-HI),
Tim Johnson (D-SD),
Herb Kohl (D-WI),
Mary Landrieu (D-LA),
Claire McCaskill (D-MO),
Mark Pryor (D-AR),
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR),
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA),
Ken Salazar (D-CO),
Tom Carper (D-DE),
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD),
Jim Webb (D-VA),
Ben Nelson (D-NE),
Bill Nelson (D-FL),
Kent Conrad (D-ND),
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

No Democrat in Congress is arguing that terrorists should be protected from wiretapping. The argument goes to sheds when the Bush administration is forced to defend this assertion. The exchange between Russ Feingold and Alberto Gonzales is a perfect example.

Feingold: Do you know anyone in government who ever took that position?

Gonzales: No, but that is not what I said.

Feingold: It is a disgrace and disservice to your office and the President to have accused people on this Committee of opposing eavesdropping on terrorists.

Gonzales: I didn't have you in mind or anyone on the Committee when I referred to people who oppose eavesdropping on terrorists. Perish the thought.

Feingold: Oh, well it's nice that you didn't have us "in your mind" when making those accusations, but given that you and the President were running around the country accusing people of opposing eavesdropping on terrorists in the middle of an election, the fact that you didn't have Congressional Democrats in "mind" isn't significant. Your intent was to make people think that anyone who opposed the "TSP" did not want to eavesdrop on terrorists, even though that was false. No Democrats oppose eavesdropping on terrorists.

Gonzales: I wasn't referring to Democrats.

The White House wants retroactive immunity because they are afraid what telecommunication companies will say about the administration in court. Bush may have foolishly thought going around the FISA court was protecting America. Bush is protecting his own self-interest. The President has made warrantless wiretapping and torture conservative values.

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