Your help is urgently needed to help defeat a Senate bill to revise FISA, the warrantless wiretapping surveillance program and provide sweeping, retroactive immunity, requested by the president, for telecommunications companies that participated in this program.
President Bush is insisting that the phone companies need this immunity or we would be at risk of future terrorist attacks. I remain unconvinced that this is the case and the House passed bill did not include this measure. As I mentioned in previous emails about this issue, if the president was serious about keeping us safe from terrorism while advocating for this immunity, he would long ago have provided us with the necessary documents for Congress to review this program.
In the Senate today, the pressure is on from Republicans to end debate and force a vote to grant phone companies retroactive immunity before any details of their activities is revealed.
Your help is needed now. Contact your Senators today and ask them to vote no on today’s FISA cloture vote. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an action page below that can help you reach your Senator now.
Even after today, further efforts may be needed to make sure that a bad bill does not pass the Senate.
Thank you for your help today and your continued support for a better democracy.
Here’s what’s at stake with today’s imminent vote on the FISA Amendments Act:
1. The FISA Amendments Act permits the Attorney General of the United States to order physical searches of your home, your workplace, your property or any other place without the warrant required by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. A secret FISA court can retroactively determine that the search was inappropriate, but if the Attorney General decides at his or her own discretion that information gained has something to do with a threat to somebody’s security, the information can still be used. The sick punchline is that the Attorney General is tasked with determining whether the Attorney General’s conduct in this regard is legal.
2. The FISA Amendments Act permits the government to eavesdrop on your private conversations over the phone, by e-mail or by fax, indeed on any American’s such conversations, without the warrant required by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. Even if a secret FISA court retroactively determines that the search was inappropriate, the administration in office can decide that the information gained was important anyway and still use it. And yes, as with physical searches, the administration is itself tasked with determining the appropriateness of its conduct.
3. Telecommunications corporations are prohibited by law from sharing your personal private information with the government unless there is explicit legal authorization. That’s for your protection, and it is, again, mandated by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The FISA Amendments Act lets telecommunications corporations off the hook for breaking this law for year after year during the reign of the Bush administration. What’s worse than simply coddling corporate crooks, by giving telecommunications corporations immunity from lawsuits for breaking the law the Bush administration makes it impossible for its system of warrantless wiretapping to be brought into the court system for adjudication, which is how the constitutionality of government action is decided. If the FISA Amendments Act is passed, say goodbye to your chance to see surveillance of Americans without a warrant ruled unconstitutional. Such cases will be outlawed.
Call the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to the offices of the two Senators for your home state. Fill up their voicemail systems with demands that they support two actions:
1. A vote AGAINST cloture on the FISA Amendments Act. Ask your Senators to keep debate on the bill going, because when debating stops voting can begin…
2. Active support FOR Senator Dodd’s filibuster against the FISA Amendments Act should the vote for cloture prevail. Senator Christopher Dodd has committed to intervening and preventing a vote with a personal filibuster. The more Senators that participate in a filibuster, the easier it will physically be for the filibuster to continue. Also, the filibuster can be stopped if enough Senators vote to stop it. Ask your Senators to at least let the filibuster keep going, and preferably support it with their own bodies.
Call the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Right now!
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