Thoughts from a Yellow Dog Democrat living in Olympia, in the great BLUE state of Washington

I am a liberal because it is the political philosophy of freedom and equality. And I am a progressive because it is the political path to a better future. And I am a Democrat because it is the political party that believes in freedom, equality and progress. -- Digby

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Senator Cantwell

I sent Senator Cantwell an e-mail yesterday asking her to support Senator Dodd efforts and that I am against retroactive immunity for the Telecoms. She sent me an e-mail back today but I haven't a clue what she supports. See if you have any better luck deciphering it:

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.

As you may know, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 was enacted after a series of Senate hearings revealed CIA abuses throughout the 1970s. This law sets requirements for physical and electronic surveillance and provides for judicial oversight for most federal wiretapping conducted in the United States .

I believe we must take necessary actions to defeat terrorists, including those here in the United States helping terrorists overseas, but we should do so in a way that is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and that protects the privacy of law-abiding Americans.

In August 2007, my Senate colleagues and I considered two bills to amend FISA, both entitled the Protect America Act. The version Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced, S. 2011, would have broadened authority to conduct domestic surveillance, but with expanded judicial oversight. I voted for this bill, but it failed by a 43-45 vote. Another version, S. 1927, introduced by Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO), expands authority to conduct domestic surveillance, but limits the role of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and gives the Attorney General more power to force telecommunications firms to cooperate with surveillance operations. Even though this legislation sunsets in February 2008, it raises critical civil liberties concerns and I voted against it. However, the bill passed by a 60-28 vote. President Bush subsequently signed it in to law on August 5, 2007.

Congress is currently considering legislation on surveillance issues on a more permanent basis. Members of both the House and Senate are working on legislation to balance surveillance activities with the need to protect civil liberties and enhance judicial oversight. The House FISA amendment bill, H.R. 3773 , passed the House on November 15, 2007 by a vote of 227-189. The Senate Intelligence Committee approved its own version of the bill, S. 2248, by a vote of 13-2. Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill contains a provision for retroactive liability protection for telecommunication companies that assisted the government in electronic surveillance after 9/11. The Senate Judiciary Committee also released a version of the bill, though like the House bill, it does not contain retroactive liability protection.

On December 17, 2007, the Senate voted on a motion to consider the Intelligence Committee version of the FISA amendment bill, S. 2248. I voted against this motion, but cloture was invoked by a vote of 76-10. I opposed cloture on the motion to proceed to the FISA amendment bill because I have significant concerns that the bill does not adequately protect the constitutional rights of American citizens, and at the same time it provides blanket immunity to telecommunications companies for their role in the Bush Administration's warrentless wiretapping program without information as to precisely what those companies did. Later that day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced the Senate would delay further debate on the FISA amendment bill until January 2008.

I believe we can protect both national security and civil liberties, and there must be oversight of government and anti-terrorism programs to ensure that civil liberties are indeed protected. I will certainly keep your comments in mind when this issue comes before the full Senate again.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter.

I think she's against retroactive immunity but she seems anxious to make sure we can spy domestically. Wouldn't it be great if our legislators could write in plain English?



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