Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, reports:
"Congress is poised to once again pass disastrous surveillance legislation, now upping the ante with a thinly-veiled giveaway to some major campaign donors.
"This bill allows for mass and untargeted surveillance of Americans' communications. The court review is mere window-dressing all the court would look at is the procedures for the year-long dragnet and not at the who, what and why of the spying. Even this superficial court review has a gaping loophole 'exigent' circumstances can short cut even this perfunctory oversight since any delay in the onset of spying meets the test and by definition going to the court would cause at least a minimal pause. Worse yet, if the court denies an order for any reason, the government is allowed to continue surveillance throughout the appeals process, thereby rendering the role of the judiciary meaningless. In the end, there is no one to answer to; a court review without power is no court review at all.
"The Hoyer/Bush surveillance deal was clearly written with the telephone companies and internet providers at the table and for their benefit. They wanted immunity, and this bill gives it to them.
"The telecom companies simply have to produce a piece of paper we already know exists, resulting in immediate dismissal. That's not accountability. Loopholes and judicial theater don't do our Fourth Amendment rights justice. In the end, this is politics. This bill does nothing to keep Americans safe and is a constitutional farce.
"The process by which this deal has come about has been as secretive as the warrantless wiretapping program it is seeking to legitimize. While members and organizations who would seek to fiercely protect the civil liberties of Americans have been denied a seat at the table, one wonders how present the powerful telecom lobby has been.
"Leadership should be leading to protect the Constitution, not bowing to pressure from Republicans, the White House, and the telecommunications companies.
"The ACLU is asking Congress, as the final minutes tick by, to stand up and do the right thing."
The ACLU asks you call your Members of Congress immediately and lodge your objection. Word on the wire is that Senator Patrick Leahy will filibuster the vote, which provides Americans with some extra time to take action.
In a 19-page report (sans exhibits) entitled, History Repeated: The Dangers of Domestic Spying by Federal Law Enforcement, the ACLU provides a history of federal abuse of power, warning that "we have once again entered into an era of unwarranted surveillance and harassment...."
Beginning with a brief comment starting with the 1950s, the report first focuses on the harassment and surveillance endured by American hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and describes how University of California president, Clark Kerr's career was deliberately destroyed by the FBI for exercising his First Amendment rights in a way that was critical of federal police agencies.
Based on an investigation led by Senator Frank Church, the FBI's egregious assault on US citizens was cataloged, and is highlighted in this report. His report prompted Congress to enact protections and guidelines soon to be overturned in Congress' new gutless FISA bill.
History Repeated also provides a legislative history, revealing how John Ashcroft, serving as Attorney General in 2002, gutted the 1976 Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise and Terrorism Enterprise Investigation. The monetary history is also detailed, showing that BushCo doubled the funding for domestic spying from 2001 to 2006, while the annual number of terrorist prosecutions declined by two-thirds since 2002. It notes that all prosecutions have declined since 2001.
Instead of worrying about terrorism or high crimes by this administration, the FBI has focused in recent years on peace groups, environmental and animal rights activities (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!), feminists, and feeding-the-homeless activists who suggest our government spend its funds on "Food Not Bombs."
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