With Congress in the middle of recess, surveillance issues have receded from the front pages. But look a few pages further in, and you'll find signs that the issues are very much on the minds of ordinary Americans:
Once again, Congress will vote on new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act legislation. President Bush says he will not sign any bill that doesn't include retroactive immunity for telecom companies which have, in his words, "helped the government in the war on terror" by allowing access to customers' phone calls and e-mails.
Exactly how the telecoms behaved and what information they passed onto the government is not known. The issue is not that complicated, though. Do we citizens really want our landlords, or others, for example, to "help" the government search our homes without a warrant? Of course not. The assault on our constitutional liberties is the same but without the high-tech mumbo jumbo that surrounds the FISA debate.
It's important to recognize that it's our Constitution that ultimately protects us, most notably from the abuses of those who are sworn to uphold it. Congress needs to continue to stand firm and deny immunity for the telecom industry. Ignorance of the law, or being encouraged to ignore it, is no defense.
I was beginning to think our representatives in the House would give this president everything he asked of them. Not so today (Friday). They said ``no'' to immunity for telecom companies. Thank you all.
Congratulations to Sen. Leahy for standing against legalized lawbreaking. Why do we have laws, if they can be selectively broken by the privileged few, with no penalties attached? We must not fall for scare tactics again. Getting rid of the Constitution does not make us safer; it makes us something less than Americans. It makes us unfree. Is there a greater danger than that?
If the House passes the Senate FISA with immunity for the telecom companies, Americans who have been illegally spied on will have no recourse...
President Bush is actually concerned about the telecommunication companies getting sued because when the companies are sued, his administration will be pulled into the illegal wiretapping quagmire.
We elected House and Senate members to protect our rights. It is time for our legislators to do their job.
and Lynn Barnett of Vernon Hills, Illinois:
I applaud the efforts of the Democratic leadership to pass the Restore Act (HR 3773). I strongly agree that our national security needs can be met by this bill, which does not grant retroactive immunity to the telecom companies for their "collaboration" with the government. I think the courts should decide whether the telecoms deserve immunity for their release of records to the Bush administration, without court orders and in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Unfortunately, Mark Kirk voted against this bill, as did many of his Republican colleagues. I disagree with Congressman Kirk on many issues, but his support for the erosion of my civil rights is especially troubling. (He voted for the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Bill S3930, which stripped habeas corpus rights from detainees). He already knows this, but I will be voting for Dan Seals in November.