February 3, 2008 | By Tim Jones

Senate Votes on Surveillance Law This Week

This week, Senators finally cast their votes on amendments to the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This is a critical week
for the privacy and civil liberties of all Americans — the amendments
are the last chance the Senate has to prevent handing the
Administration a blank check to spy on you for years to come.

Of the amendments, the most important is The Dodd-Feingold Amendment to Strike Retroactive Immunity. The vote on this could happen as early as Monday — so email or telephone your Senators now and tell them where you stand!

Friday, former counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke penned a brilliant and revealing editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Clarke, you may remember, was a security advisor to four presidents before retiring in 2003 and becoming a vocal critic of Bush's flawed counterterrorism strategy.

An excerpt (emphasis is mine):

Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.

Simply put, it was wrong for the president to suggest that warrants issued in compliance with FISA would suddenly evaporate with congressional inaction. Instead - even though Congress extended the Protect America Act by two weeks - he is using the existence of the sunset provision to cast his political opponents in a negative light.

For this president, fear is an easier political tactic than compromise. With FISA, he is attempting to rattle Congress into hastily expanding his own executive powers at the expense of civil liberties and constitutional protections.

...

In order to defeat the violent Islamist extremists who do not believe in human rights, we need not give up the civil liberties, constitutional rights and protections that generations of Americans fought to achieve. We do not need to create Big Brother. With the administration's attempts to erode FISA's legal standing as the exclusive means by which our government can conduct electronic surveillance of U.S. persons on U.S. soil, this is unfortunately the path the president is taking us down.

Congressional votes this week are our last chance to avoid this path — contact your Senator now!


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