August 7, 2007
Summer Barbeques and Warrantless Surveillance
It was like the PATRIOT Act all over again. A bill rushed through without public hearings and public involvement. A bill crafted by the White House, squelching basic American freedoms. Despite all the calls and faxes sent to our Congressional representatives, most caved in to the White House's insistence that unfettered spying on Americans is somehow required to fight terrorism.
Illegal Wiretaps Made Legal
Congress passed the "Protect America Act" on Saturday evening and President Bush signed it into law on Sunday. This hastily passed law not only legalized the illegal wiretapping program the executive branch initiated after 9/11, it also:
- Gives the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence power to conduct warrantless interception of electronic communications, provided the "target" is foreign, but the government need not show probable cause that the target is a terrorist,
- Allows warrantless surveillance of innocent Americans at home and abroad, including U.S. soldiers and their families, provided the "target" is foreign,
- Eliminates the courts from meaningful oversight,
- Requires telecom companies to give the executive branch information without a warrant,
- Eliminates meaningful oversight by Congress, an Inspector General, or other auditor outside the executive branch to report on abuses or misuses of the surveillance power,
- Potentially overrides the law's 6-month sunset provision by allowing surveillance directives to be issued for up to one year.
If you haven't yet looked up the House and Senate Roll Call votes giving away our Fourth Amendment protections of privacy from warrantless searches, please look for the names of your representatives on the roll call votes and thank those who opposed the bill:
Barbeque Time for Congress
Now it's time to serve up some summer barbeque dishes of "Not With My Liberties, You Don't!" We have the whole month of August to grill our elected representatives, who will be back home in their districts until September 3.
Congressional Democrats also did their political best to compromise with the White House. They proposed legislation in the House and Senate, which they said would have given the Director of National Intelligence the means to conduct surveillance on possible terrorism-related phone calls for which he asked, and nothing more. But even those bills were "lesser of two evils." The proposed compromise bills still succumbed to the proposition that the Bush Administration needs more tools for its "war on terror," which has only made us less safe and much less free. Torture, Guantánamo, CIA black sites, stripping habeas corpus, and Bill of Rights erosions have led to the elimination of many of our civil liberties that are fundamental principles in our system of justice, and opened the door wide for more human rights abuses.
All of our Congressional representatives need a heavy dose of grassroots backbone-building support so they can go back to Washington, DC, and restore our civil liberties and once again check the powers of an administration hungry for excess power.
We need to set all of our Congressional representatives straight. We have this one month to look at them face-to-face, and let them have it--grassroots justice!
Resources To Raise Public Fury
Please take a look at BORDC's August Recess Action page, which has ideas about how you can help raise a public fury in the wake of this enormous Congressional betrayal of the Bill of Rights and our country's traditional checks and balances.
You can also take a look and listen to the BORDC workshop on meeting with Congressional representatives for a range of tips and strategies for building effective relationships with those who represent us in Congress.
In addition, consider updating or passing a resolution, such as the one passed by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors in March 2006, urging President Bush to stop the warrantless surveillance of Americans. See BORDC's web page on how to start a resolution effort in your community.
A sustained grassroots uprising is the only way we are going to restore our Bill of Rights. We cannot stop until we have won back and increased the basic rights guaranteed to all of us!
Thanks for all you do!
Nancy Talanian, Director
Hope Marston, West Region Organizer
Ben Grosscup, East Region Organizer
Susan Heitker, Administrator
Lauren Tomkiewicz, Haywood Burns Fellow