Obama’s support for FISA

Don't spy on me.

THEN:
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.

NOW

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.

H.R. 6304, THE FISA AMENDMENTS ACT OF 2008

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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