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duopolyJune 19, 2008

Our corporate-sponsored Congress further shreds the Bill of Rights by expanding the government’s power to spy on us, and grants immunity to the phone companies that have been criminally cooperating with BushCo’s illegal domestic spying program over the past several years. In a vote expected shortly, the FISA protections of the past 30 years will be gutted. ACLU asks you to take action NOW. Here are some talking points.

In a vote expected shortly, the FISA protections of the past 30 years will be gutted. 

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, reports:

“Congress is poised to once again pass disastrous surveillance legislation, now upping the ante with a thinly-veiled giveaway to some major campaign donors.

“This bill allows for mass and untargeted surveillance of Americans’ communications. The court review is mere window-dressing – all the court would look at is the procedures for the year-long dragnet and not at the who, what and why of the spying. Even this superficial court review has a gaping loophole – ‘exigent’ circumstances can short cut even this perfunctory oversight since any delay in the onset of spying meets the test and by definition going to the court would cause at least a minimal pause. Worse yet, if the court denies an order for any reason, the government is allowed to continue surveillance throughout the appeals process, thereby rendering the role of the judiciary meaningless. In the end, there is no one to answer to; a court review without power is no court review at all.

“The Hoyer/Bush surveillance deal was clearly written with the telephone companies and internet providers at the table and for their benefit. They wanted immunity, and this bill gives it to them.

“The telecom companies simply have to produce a piece of paper we already know exists, resulting in immediate dismissal. That’s not accountability. Loopholes and judicial theater don’t do our Fourth Amendment rights justice. In the end, this is politics. This bill does nothing to keep Americans safe and is a constitutional farce.

“The process by which this deal has come about has been as secretive as the warrantless wiretapping program it is seeking to legitimize. While members and organizations who would seek to fiercely protect the civil liberties of Americans have been denied a seat at the table, one wonders how present the powerful telecom lobby has been.

“Leadership should be leading to protect the Constitution, not bowing to pressure from Republicans, the White House, and the telecommunications companies.

“The ACLU is asking Congress, as the final minutes tick by, to stand up and do the right thing.”

The ACLU asks you call your Members of Congress immediately and lodge your objection.  Word on the wire is that Senator Patrick Leahy will filibuster the vote, which provides Americans with some extra time to take action.

FISA Background

In a 19-page report (sans exhibits) entitled, History Repeated: The Dangers of Domestic Spying by Federal Law Enforcement, the ACLU provides a history of federal abuse of power, warning that “we have once again entered into an era of unwarranted surveillance and harassment….” 

Beginning with a brief comment starting with the 1950s, the report first focuses on the harassment and surveillance endured by American hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and describes how University of California president, Clark Kerr’s career was deliberately destroyed by the FBI for exercising his First Amendment rights in a way that was critical of federal police agencies. 

Based on an investigation led by Senator Frank Church, the FBI’s egregious assault on US citizens was cataloged, and is highlighted in this report. His report prompted Congress to enact protections and guidelines soon to be overturned in Congress’ new gutless FISA bill. 

History Repeated also provides a legislative history, revealing how John Ashcroft, serving as Attorney General in 2002, gutted the 1976 Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise and Terrorism Enterprise Investigation. The monetary history is also detailed, showing that BushCo doubled the funding for domestic spying from 2001 to 2006, while the annual number of terrorist prosecutions declined by two-thirds since 2002. It notes that all prosecutions have declined since 2001. 

Instead of worrying about terrorism or high crimes by this administration, the FBI has focused in recent years on peace groups, environmental and animal rights activities (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!), feminists, and feeding-the-homeless activists who suggest our government spend its funds on “Food Not Bombs.”   

With the newly expanded powers being contemplated, what some suspected was already being done illegally, will be made legal. In March, Jon Stokes of Ars Technica wrote of a Wall Street Journal revelation: 

Gorman’s WSJ piece provides sourced confirmation that the NSA is doing exactly what I and others suspected they were doing, i.e., they’re collecting e-mail headers, Web surfing histories, cell phone call logs, and every other trace of the digital and analog connections that we make to the world, and they’re synthesizing this into complete informational portraits of individuals. (emphasis added)  

Freedom Talking Points 

Many Americans feel unmoved by the fact that the government is spying on them, since they are not doing anything illegal.  This thinking needs to be confronted on a number of grounds: 

1. The 4th Amendment allows us to live and move around privately, without being observed, tracked, or monitored.  Real freedom – native freedom – demands this minimum.  And yet no one can travel anywhere in this country without being caught on film, as Robert O’Harrow describes in No Place to Hide

2. If there is erroneous material in some database(s) that the government has compiled on us, we have no way to correct it.  And of course there is erroneous material in it; we’re talking about a bureaucracy. 

3. Investigations into how the government uses information it collects on people who pose no threat, but are merely exercising their 1st Amendment rights by criticizing their government, reveals a pattern of deliberately sabotaging the target’s career or other aspects of life.  The Church Committee explains: 

 

“The victim may never suspect that his misfortunes are the intended result of activities undertaken by his government, and accordingly may have no opportunity to challenge the actions taken against him. 

4. Believing that info collected will not be used against us is akin to believing that no one will try to subvert elections run on undetectably mutable software. Where the opportunity exists, it will be exploited.  

Surely, there are more reasons readers can develop to use as talking points with friends, neighbors, professors and legislators. 

The duopoly is about to add another unconstitutional law on the books, turning the Land of the Free into Slavery, Inc.  Let’s work on talking points from the ground up, to build the case for freedom.

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