Brynn Craffey

Call to protect the Fourth Amendment

Filed By Brynn Craffey | June 20, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Action Alerts, Politics
Tags: Congress, FISA, Russ Feingold, Telecom

As I write this, the House of Representatives is poised to vote has voted--or may have already voted--on the bill to "reform" FISA--the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The Democratically controlled House is on the edge of giving has given the White House and Congressional Republicans everything they wanted--most importantly, retroactive immunity against legal prosecution for telecommunication companies who assisted the Bush White House in spying illegally on American citizens' phone calls and emails. After that, it only remains for the Senate to follow suit--something they've pretty much already said they would do--and AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and other corporations will get away with openly having committed felonies and the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights will be effectively eviscerated.

Why is this important to LGBT folks?

Well, we don't have to look back far in history to find a time--the 1950's, I was alive then albeit, a kid--when being gay was enough to get you investigated for "Un-American" activities. For a much more recent example of government agencies equating LGBT identity as subversion, check out the video clip on Waymon's post today.

The fact is, being an outspoken LGB or T activist is possibly sufficient - maybe even likely, if you're vocal enough -- to put you at risk of having your electronic communications secretly monitored by the US government.

Another reason stopping this bill is vital is that, until now, telecoms and the White House have successfully fought all attempts to disclose exactly who was being spied on, by whom and when. Legal discovery was the last hope of forcing the recalcitrant parties to reveal their secrets. This FISA re-write granting telecoms retroactive legal immunity preempts this.

It is galling that the Democratic leadership shoving this bill through Congress has been presenting it as a "compromise" to be proud of. As one of the few courageous Democrats to oppose it, Russ Feingold, has so succinctly stated:

"The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President's illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration." [emphasis mine]

According to Glenn Greenwald at Salon, standing up to the Bush White House on telecom immunity was the single legislative issue on which the Congressional Democratic majority elected in 2006 had not yet folded under Republican pressure.

They are in the process of folding have folded now.

If you care about the Bill of Rights, call and/or email your congressional representative and senators now. Likewise, call Senator Barack Obama's campaign. Previously, Sen. Obama stated his opposition to telecom immunity, but as this bill has been proceeding to the floor for a vote, he has remained uncharacteristically silent.

Update:You can read the House roll call.

While I do not see Obama's vote ilisted, he Obama did issue a statement in favor of the capitulation. I am deeply disappointed by this and it rekindles my early fears that Obama's eloquent words do not match his legislative actions, especially when powerful business interests--such as telecommunications and the media--are involved.

Update II A I stated in comments below, Obama's vote is not listed on the roll-call, as--D'uh!-- it was the House that voted today, not the Senate. The Senate will probably consider the bill next week. For a great summary of the situation, see this clip from Countdown, featuring Constitutional law professor, Jonathan Turley.

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Wilson46201 | June 20, 2008 6:10 PM

Our new progressive Democratic Congressman, André Carson of Indianapolis, voted against this FISA bill. He and Democrat Baron Hill of southern Indiana were the only two of the Hoosier Delegation to vote against it.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 20, 2008 6:26 PM

I wrote the update too quickly: Sen. Obama's vote is not listed on that link because the roll-call is the House vote. The Senate has not yet voted.

I'm sorry, sometimes my passion clouds my thought process.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 20, 2008 7:58 PM

It’s the war.

This is not a surprising move for the political masters of a late stage ‘national security state’. The US government, supported by most Democrats and Republicans has developed several nasty habits to protect their genocidal oil theft including massive surveillance of Americans, operating concentration camps and delivering foreign nationals to mercenaries to be tortured and killed.

The US government’s oil-grabbing invasion and occupation of Iraq was begun by George Bush 1. Bill Clinton escalated it with a terrible genocide that murdered hundreds of thousands of babies and children. George Bush is continuing the genocide, although his targets are mostly older children and adults.

McCain and Obama are right centrist politicians who are for "phased' withdrawal which means a longer war. Naturally both want to keep a sharp eye out for antiwar activits like those Richard Nixon referred to as traitors and bums (the day before the Kent State murders). What better way than using the massive capacity of the NSA to tap phones and read e-mails without supervision. That's why both of them support FISA and both of them voted to extend the life of the Paytriot Act in 2006. They know exactly what they're doing.

It just means we have to defiantly redouble our efforts to end the war.

Thanks for an excellent post, Brynn.

This is why I feel it is wishful thinking to believe that Democrats and Republicans are all that different.

When it comes down to brass tax, members of both parties are concerned with one thing, their aristocratic power.

And if this violation of the 4th Amendment was not enough, there is another bill worming through the scoundrels hands in Congress that will effectively track every electronic purchase by credit cards, paypal, and electronic checkout services

The article is here:

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 20, 2008 9:04 PM

"This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer." Will Rogers

According to those rascally reds over at the ACLU, this bill, supported by McCain and Obama, is dangerous because;

H.R. 6304 permits the government to conduct mass, untargeted surveillance of all communications coming into and out of the United States, without any individualized review, and without any finding of wrongdoing.

H.R. 6304 permits only minimal court oversight. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) only reviews general procedures for targeting and minimizing the use of information that is collected. The court may not know who, what or where will actually be tapped.

H.R.6304 contains an “exigent” circumstance loophole that thwarts the prior judicial review requirement. The bill permits the government to start a spying program and wait to go to court for up to 7 days.

H.R. 6304 further trivializes court review by explicitly permitting the government to continue surveillance programs even if the application is denied by the court. The government has the authority to wiretap through the entire appeals process, and then keep and use whatever it gathered in the meantime.

H.R. 6304 ensures the dismissal of all cases pending against the telecommunication companies that facilitated the warrantless wiretapping programs over the last 7 years. The test in the bill is not whether the government certifications were actually legal – only whether they were issued.

Members of Congress not on Judiciary or Intelligence Committees are NOT guaranteed access to reports from the Attorney General, Director of National Intelligence, and Inspector General.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 21, 2008 5:13 AM


Thank you for this post. America has gone crackers, and is still recovering from "Patriot act" hysteria. Our razor thin majority in Congress has plenty of blue dogs in it.

Each of these communications companies has a legal department who advised them.

Each of them regularly lobby congress thus they probably feel they know the will of the government.

Each of them have certain forms of government supervision already so exactly how do you say no?

One of the reasons I left the United States was the erosion I saw in the Bill of Rights and that genuine privacy was to become a thing of the past.

Who is watching us on the internet right now?

Bush will still grant himself a preemptive pardon along with Vice President Cheesy and the rest of White House Plumbers Gang of the new millennium. Actions of Congress frequently make no sense to the guy on the street. They do not know or care about their legal rights and would likely vote against them if they were put in a referendum.

Obama had better vote against this, or be prepared for an interesting series of election debates.

"I'm sorry, sometimes my passion clouds my thought process."

Brynn, that's not a bad thing. This is something we need to be passionate about.

Somehow we have to give up our rights to make our country safer? One has to wonder about the rationale of this. At what point does it end?

May I suggest that if you oppose HR 6304, you give your Senator a call next week? This is a piece of legislation that needs to be fillibustered.

This is an erosion of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. People should be afraid of this, very afraid.

I think it's worth noting that a lot of the Democrats who voted for this were in on it from the start. Bush told a bunch of them before he started domestic surveillance and told them to keep quiet (including Pelosi, if my memory is correct). Not giving telecom immunity would probably implicate her along with a good deal of the Democratic leadership.

That said, this makes me feel very hopeless for America. What is this, 1984?

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 21, 2008 4:18 PM

Bush told a bunch of them before he started domestic surveillance and told them to keep quiet (including Pelosi, if my memory is correct). Not giving telecom immunity would probably implicate her along with a good deal of the Democratic leadership.

That's an excellent point, Alex.

This vote has really discouraged me. Equally bad, today's NY Times (print version) doesn't even devote a front page story to the topic! On page A11, there's an article that extols the so-called "bipartisanship" and "harmony" in Congress that led to what they call a compromise bill—as Greenwald points out, “bipartisanship” has now come to mean Democrats siding with the unpopular Republican minority to give the Bush White House everything it wants. Hunting 400-pound wild pigs is givenåç front-page placement, but not the evisceration of the Fourth Amendment.

That's what I'm thinking: No one cares!

Our media system is broken. If people understood what just happened, that the president was given (or will be shortly given) the ability to spy on anyone he wants to, they'd be out in the street.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 22, 2008 4:13 AM

Alex I think the parallels are really to what is already in effect in the UK. Basically all streets are under camera observation. No phone conversations are truly private and the public does not care. The root cause of this was IRA terrorism and whenever government gets a new privilege of control it is virtually impossible to secure the right of privacy back to the individual.

My street name in Chicago was "flash" because I would take pictures of drug dealers in the park and of the front of drug houses when people came and went. One of these people told me I had no right to take their picture. I reminded them that this is America. The police backed me up (told me I was stupid to be doing what I was doing), but told the gang members I had an absolute right to take pictures in public places. This was an act of Fascism on my part to keep my community safe, in that the police kept telling me we had no drug problem I sought to prove it with Kodachrome.

I would point out at Lincoln suspended Habeas corpus during the civil war for the right to be restored later. There are many times "rights" have been suspended in America to be returned to the people later. The newest enemy is that the rights we have been used to having did not allow for the invention of the light bulb.

I thought I had a good Congressman, until he voted for this FISA bill. Fine Democrat he is! He will be hearing from me.

No, I'm not turning on him. He supports T inclusion in ENDA, he knows me by both names in both genders, and he's far, far better than his GOP opponent (the malodorous Nazipublican Anne Northup, his predecessor). But next time I see him, I just have to ask him why. It's bad enough that crud like the wireless tapping, the Patriot Acts, Real ID, etc., happened the last few years, but we all must hold Obama and the resulting Congress feet to the fire the next few years.

As for writing my Senators, I'm not wasting the paper or bandwidth, since they're Mitch "Closet Queen" McConnell and "Alzheimer Jim" Bunning. We can't pay them enough to vote our way. We'll have to settle for sending McConnell home to his big lobbyist-paid-for estate on Dundee Rd. instead, this November.

However, Democrats, be on your guard. Get it through your heads: America wants the garbage of the last 8 years taken out in 2009. That means the Patriot Acts, DADT, Real ID, paperless electronic balloting, and warrantless wiretapping all must go. Deliver, or you, too, can be replaced.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 25, 2008 9:08 PM

Here's some new information.

According to a report by out of Berkeley, CA, the Congressional Democrats who voted to end our Fourth Amendment rights may have been influenced by brib... er, donations from big telecoms like Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. says that over ninety Democrats changed their votes after getting an average of $8,000.00 each in 'donations'. Coincidentally, for their small investment the telecoms saved billions in legal fees and fines. Talk about cheap, Democrats can be bought for pennies. The 96 or so Democrats joined with Republicans to give telecoms total immunity for illegally abetting the governments warrantless, unconstitutional spying on phone calls and e-mails.

Some of the worst offenders among the ninety plus Democrats who voted to nullify the Fourth Amendment and the Bill Rights were:

Rep. James Clyburn, $29,500
Rep. Steny Hoyer, $29,000 (house whip)
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, $28,000
Rep. Frederick Boucher, $27,500
Rep. Gregory Meeks, $26,000
Rep. Joseph Crowley, $24,500
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, $24,500
Rep. Melissa Bean, $24,000
Rep. Thomas Edwards, $22,500

Here's an invaluable tool to automatically track 'donations' with a web 2.0 data mash up tool. It correlates campaign contributions given to members of Congress and their votes, clarifying the details of how to bribe the Congress, or in poli-sci-speak, "How a Bill Becomes A Law". Or, what happens to 'honor' and the Bill of Rights when the Chamber of Commerce runs the government.

Anyone who imagines that that Democrat's aren't every bit as corrupt as their Republican cousins, whether they start out that way or not, is terminally gullible. A Republican politician is a corrupt baboon in a people suit with a corrupt theocrat attached at the hip. A Democratic politician is a corrupt Republican in drag.

(Thanks to Christopher at From the Left for the MAPlight link - although he wouldn't agree with my conclusions.)

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 27, 2008 7:32 PM

Bill, I read about the Telecom "contributions" also, and was outraged.

The good news is, due largely to the efforts of senators Dodd and Feingold and the efforts of an outraged online community, the bill has been delayed in the Senate until after the July 4th holiday.

It still looks like an almost done deal. But keep calling your senators, urging them to oppose the bill.

And I disagree, the Dems, as a party, do differ in crucial ways from the Republicans. One telling example: President Gore would not have invaded and occupied Iraq after 9/11.