Obama’s support for FISA

Don't spy on me.

from Barack Oba­ma back in in September:
[ I willl ] sup­port a fil­i­buster of any bill that includes retroac­tive immu­ni­ty for telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions companies.

Is this not a defin­ing issue of this cam­paign? What hap­pened to sup­port­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion? This bill legal­izes the con­tin­ued use of unrea­son­able tac­tics that sub­vert Con­sti­tu­tion­al rights. Here are the open­ing lines from Oba­ma’s state­ment sup­port­ing the Bill.


Fri­day, June 20, 2008
State­ment of Barack Oba­ma sup­port­ing Hoy­er FISA bill

State­ment of Sen­a­tor Barack Oba­ma on FISA Compromise

Giv­en the grave threats that we face, our nation­al secu­ri­ty agen­cies must have the capa­bil­i­ty to gath­er intel­li­gence and track down ter­ror­ists before they strike, while respect­ing the rule of law and the pri­va­cy and civ­il lib­er­ties of the Amer­i­can people.”

Giv­en the threats we face? Sounds a lot like George Bush and his ratio­nal­iza­tions. This is a seri­ous moment for Mr Oba­ma. Are we sup­posed to say this is ok? Trust him? I think not. I’m with Russ Feingold.

from Salon:
The ACLU specif­i­cal­ly iden­ti­fies the ways in which this bill destroys mean­ing­ful lim­its on the Pres­i­den­t’s pow­er to spy on our inter­na­tion­al calls and emails. Sen. Russ Fein­gold con­demned the bill on the ground that it “fails to pro­tect the pri­va­cy of law-abid­ing Amer­i­cans at home” because “the gov­ern­ment can still sweep up and keep the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions of inno­cent Amer­i­cans in the U.S. with no con­nec­tion to sus­pect­ed ter­ror­ists, with very few safe­guards to pro­tect against abuse of this pow­er.” Rep. Rush Holt — who was actu­al­ly denied time to speak by bill-sup­port­er Sil­vestre Reyes only to be giv­en time by bill-oppo­nent John Cony­ers — con­demned the bill because it vests the pow­er to decide who are the “bad guys” in the very peo­ple who do the spying.


The ACLU rec­om­mends a no vote on H.R. 6304, which grants sweep­ing wire­tap­ping author­i­ty to the gov­ern­ment with lit­tle court over­sight and ensures the dis­missal of all pend­ing cas­es against the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion com­pa­nies. Most importantly:

• H.R. 6304 per­mits the gov­ern­ment to con­duct mass, untar­get­ed sur­veil­lance of all com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­ing into and out of the Unit­ed States, with­out any indi­vid­u­al­ized review, and with­out any find­ing of wrongdoing.

• H.R. 6304 per­mits only min­i­mal court over­sight. The For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court (FISA Court) only reviews gen­er­al pro­ce­dures for tar­get­ing and min­i­miz­ing the use of infor­ma­tion that is col­lect­ed. The court may not know who, what or where will actu­al­ly be tapped.

• H.R. 6304 con­tains a gen­er­al ban on reverse tar­get­ing. How­ev­er, it lacks stronger lan­guage that was con­tained in pri­or House bills that includ­ed clear statu­to­ry direc­tives about when the gov­ern­ment should return to the FISA court and obtain an indi­vid­u­al­ized order if it wants to con­tin­ue lis­ten­ing to a US person’s communications.

• H.R.6304 con­tains an “exi­gent” cir­cum­stance loop­hole that thwarts the pri­or judi­cial review require­ment. The bill per­mits the gov­ern­ment to start a spy­ing pro­gram and wait to go to court for up to 7 days every time “intel­li­gence impor­tant to the nation­al secu­ri­ty of the US may be lost or not time­ly acquired.” By def­i­n­i­tion, court appli­ca­tions take time and will delay the col­lec­tion of infor­ma­tion. It is high­ly unlike­ly there is a sit­u­a­tion where this excep­tion doesn’t swal­low the rule.

• H.R. 6304 fur­ther triv­i­al­izes court review by explic­it­ly per­mit­ting the gov­ern­ment to con­tin­ue sur­veil­lance pro­grams even if the appli­ca­tion is denied by the court. The gov­ern­ment has the author­i­ty to wire­tap through the entire appeals process, and then keep and use what­ev­er it gath­ered in the meantime.

• H.R. 6304 ensures the dis­missal of all cas­es pend­ing against the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion com­pa­nies that facil­i­tat­ed the war­rant­less wire­tap­ping pro­grams over the last 7 years. The test in the bill is not whether the gov­ern­ment cer­ti­fi­ca­tions were actu­al­ly legal – only whether they were issued. Because it is pub­lic knowl­edge that they were, all the cas­es seek­ing to find out what these com­pa­nies and the gov­ern­ment did with our com­mu­ni­ca­tions will be killed.

• Mem­bers of Con­gress not on Judi­cia­ry or Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tees are NOT guar­an­teed access to reports from the Attor­ney Gen­er­al, Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence, and Inspec­tor General.

There is no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for sup­port of this Bill.

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