Friday, February 29, 2008

Coming back to FISA...

I stated in my last post that I would spend some time discussing the dangers of the proposed amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. Last year, Congress passed the Protect America Act, which expired a couple of weeks ago. At the beginning of February, the Senate voted to make the Act permanent. As discussed in a previous post, the Act provides protection for telecommunications companies assisting in the NSA Domestic Surveillance Program by substituting the Federal Government for those companies in litigation against them over the program. Making this law permanent would insulate the federal government, permanently, from repeated violations of the Fourth Amendment. The defense oriented rhetoric coming from the Whitehouse is remarkably abhorrent on this issue, particularly in regard to amendments to FISA.

I find it very interesting that this rhetoric specifically states that the proposed bill would permit the government to use third parties to assist in foreign intelligence gathering without the threat of reprisal. I am amused that the focus is on avoiding the need to obtain court orders for foreign surveillance. Interestingly, FISA doesn't restrict the ability of the President to order wire taps on targets outside of the country. Originally, FISA operated as a check to verify that the President wasn't doing something in violation of an international treaty or the US Constitution. The notion that the purpose of the bill is to empower foreign intelligence gathering is downright absurd. The President already has this power, so an expansion of FISA isn't necessary. Moreover, the only reason to propose these amendments is to side-step the fourth amendment. If the purpose is really to target foreign targets, why is the NSA tapping the phone lines of everyday Americans? Watching Bob Smith on the corner has nothing to do with catching Osama Bin Laden. The administration may argue that this is necessary to root out homegrown terrorism, an fear mongering buzz word recently in the news, however, this kind of problem has always been considered a problem for law enforcement. This new encroachment into personal privacy takes a step well beyond the historical roles for the Federal Government.

The worst part of this whole situation, though, is the Whitehouse's insistence on pursuing domestic surveillance regardless of having Constitutional or Legislative authority.

The House of Representatives was correct in letting this bill die. It should never be revived either. Passage of this bill will only verify for the President that he can continue to violate the Constitution without fear of retribution. Hopefully, the 2008 Presidential election will provide some form of restitution to the American people by electing a candidate who won't so willingly discharge his constitutional oath. If this bill is to pass, it would provide an ample basis to pursue impeachment as the President would be in clear violation of his oath by enforcing a law that clearly abrogates the Constitutional restrictions of the Fourth Amendment.

Impeach the President, and replace any member of Congress who continues to permit such gross violations of the supreme law of the land. That is what American citizens deserve to see happen.

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