Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Push is Coming to Shove" today on civil liberties

By Carol Gee

A "poster boy for fear mongering," Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona) is the Ranking Member of the Constitution Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He just appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal program prior to going to going into the Judiciary Committee to help mark up the House's changes to the Protect America Act. He is shoving fear out there as fast as he can and not all of the callers are buying it, thank goodness. The Bush has announced that our current president (OCP) will make remarks about FISA this morning in the White House Rose Garden. OCP will raise the fear level further and in a very calculated way to increase pressure on people in Congress to give him every kind of spying power he wants. Speaker Nancy Pelosi just gaveled the full House into order. I dearly hope she and other Congressional leaders will shove back at some point. We will see after today more about the House Democrats' plans. The bill mark up session will be also be broadcast on C-SPAN.

Today in Washington begins and I have a front row seat to it all. It feels just a bit momentous to me. So, naturally I went online, the only place to find out the "real skinny." I wanted to know the latest about what is going on with the Protect America Act and FISA. Thus I went online to read Glenn Greenwald's column at His column from yesterday was updated three times. Here is his latest addition (I replicated his links). I quote:

UPDATE III: The full text of the bill introduced by Conyers and Reyes is here.

I'll be on the Mike Malloy Show on Nova M Radio (with guest host Sam Seder) tonight at 9:15 p.m. Eastern to discuss the FISA bill as well as the story regarding the torture memo from last week. Local listings and live streaming are here.

Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies, one of the nation's premiere FISA experts, has issued a statement (via email) which provides, in part: "We welcome the bill by Chairmen Reyes and Conyers as an important first step towards restoring the civil liberties protections lost in August. Their bill would be a vast improvement over the current law passed at the President's urging, and it is much more protective of any of the bills considered in August." Martin goes on to emphasize, however, that even this current bill violates the Fourth Amendment by failing to require individual warrants for every international call (Russ Feingold's statement made a similar objection).

Along those lines, and in response to emails and several comments (including this one from Arne Langsetmo), I should clarify one comment above that was confusing. The original FISA did not require warrants if the target, calling into the U.S., was foreign and the intercept was made from outside of the country. Where the intercept was physically made within the U.S., however, FISA did require a warrant any time the call involved a "U.S. person" even if the target was foreign. It was that critical warrant requirement -- for international calls where the intercept is made within the U.S. -- that the August bill abolished.

I am not holding my breath that enough Democrats will find their will and oppose this power-grabbing administration. Our safety is at stake. It is just that I have a very different definition of safety than does the current administration and its Republican supporters. Dare I be optimistic?

Update - 4:30 PM -- Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake put up a good post about Rep. Conyers' House hearing this morning. She did an instant transcription of Rep. Jerry Nadler's statement and included some excellent links.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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