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An Open Letter to Senator Obama

By Marc Ash, t r u t h o u t

Dear Senator Obama, I just slogged through a lecture by The New York Times about how it is the "far left" that is most offended by your vote to ratify retroactive immunity for the US telecommunications companies that provided aid and comfort to George W. Bush's illegal program of domestic spying. Further, The Times implied, "mainstream Democrats" take a more mature and pragmatic view. The piece seemed to read like public relations material. But that's silly - it was news, of course.

In fairness, the political center moves around more than a set of goalposts on the White House lawn. So, the relevancy of the Times's argument has a limited shelf life regardless. The real issue is twofold.

Trust and the Law

A Point by Point rebuttal to Obama's Statement on Why He Voted for the New FISA Bill

By gg

Obama's Letter Begins:

"Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies
must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down
terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and
the privacy and civil liberties of the American people."

This statement on its face is very true and very reasonable.
Obama continues:

"There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the
cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that
authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the
communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the
required court orders."

This statement is also very obvious and reasonable.

Obama continues:

"That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act,
which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without
sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil
liberties of innocent Americans."

Forget Retroactive Immunity, FISA Bill is also about Prospective Immunity

By Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive

Leave it to George Bush to point out a little-noticed aspect of the FISA bill that he likes, but you should hate.

In his chortle over the Democratic cave-in on FISA, Bush said, “It will ensure that those companies whose assistance is necessary to protect the country will, themselves, be protected from lawsuits for past—or future—cooperation with the government.”

The news lies between those dashes.

Opponents of the FISA bill, from the ACLU to Russ Feingold, have been focusing on retroactive immunity for AT&T and Verizon and the other telecom companies.

But what may be even more alarming is the prospective immunity that telecom companies and Internet service providers and others are guaranteed by this bill.

Here are some of the relevant passages:


They tossed out the Fourth Amendment. They believe that an out-of-control dictatorial president should be free to order the government and communications corporations to spy on you with no warrant, with no probable cause, and with no accountability. Therefore, you should feel no qualms about spying on them: everywhere they go, including in their homes: get them on video. We want to see Youtubes of them sleeping! Do not give them a moment outside of the gaze of the public they have betrayed!

Congress Votes to Immunize Lawbreaking Telecoms, Legalize Warrantless Eavesdropping

By Glenn Greenwald,

The Democratic-led Congress this afternoon voted to put an end to the NSA spying scandal by approving a bill to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, terminate all pending lawsuits against them, and vest whole new warrantless eavesdropping powers in the President. The vote in favor of the new FISA bill was 69-28. Barack Obama joined every Senate Republican (and every House Republican other than one) by voting in favor of it, while his now-vanquished primary rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, voted against it. The bill will now be sent to an extremely happy George Bush, who already announced that he enthusiastically supports it, and he will sign it into law very shortly.

Prior to final approval, the Senate, in the morning, rejected three separate amendments which would have improved the bill but which the White House had threatened would have prompted a presidential veto. With those amendments defeated, the Senate then passed the same bill passed last week by the House, which means it is that bill, in unchanged form, that will be sent to the White House — just as the White House demanded. READ THE REST.


Hoffman for Senate

Ogunquit, Maine: The Hoffman for Senate Campaign released the following statement by Herb Hoffman, Independent candidate for the United States Senate.

"Today, the United States Senate will vote to suspend the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution when it approves the FISA bill. Not only will the passage of this bill nullify the 'right of the people to be secure in their persons' which is guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, it will simultaneously add to the nullification of the Constitutionally established balance of powers. I refer to the "immunity clause" for the telecom industry by which over 40 legal suits will not be able to be heard before a court of law."

Once More to the Phones

This is it.

Today the Senate will be debating FISA and retroactive immunity.

By tomorrow, it's likely that voting will be done.

And what we do together over the next 24 hours will determine what the legislation looks like.

I've offered an amendment to strip retroactive immunity from the FISA legislation.

On Monday you joined thousands of Americans online by calling your Senators (with the help of our friends at FireDogLake) and asking them to vote "NO" on any bill containing retroactive immunity.

There's still time for more calls to be made.

I promise you that your voices are being heard in the halls of the Senate.

I promise you that I will continue to fight alongside you until the last vote is counted.

Help me now to ensure that my next email to you will be a celebration of our commitment to the rule of law.

Thanks once again,

Chris Dodd

Senator Chris Dodd: One Chance to Stop Immunity

Do you remember the excitement when we first stopped retroactive immunity in the Senate last year?

We earned that moment together -- both the victory and the feeling that we had made a difference.

That hard-earned success felt so good because collectively we made our voices heard in the well of the Senate and in offices across DC.

On the eve of another vote, it's time for us to speak up again.

Please use the call tool created by our friends at Firedoglake and ask your Senators to vote "YES" on the Dodd-Feingold Amendment to strip retroactive immunity from FISA

We had a lot of great allies that first time around, and together we were able to stop a bad bill: bloggers, Electronic Frontier Foundation, DFA, MoveOn, the ACLU and more ...

Once again, we're going to need every last hand on deck today and tomorrow if we're going to stop this bill one more time.
Please make your voice heard by calling your Senator's office, right now.

Ray McGovern's Response to Obama's FISA Explanation

It's a Deal Breaker for This Intelligence Officer
Submitted by Ray McGovern on July 3, 2008 - 11:11pm.

Dear Senator Obama,

I speak from 30 years of experience in intelligence work. I don't know who actually briefed you on the eavesdropping legislation, but the bill is unnecessary for intelligence collection and POISON for our civil liberties—not even to mention the unconscionable retroactive immunity provision.

You have made a big mistake, Senator, in indicating you intend to vote for it. There is still time to change your mind. That's what big people do.

Your penultimate paragraph seals it for me. What you are saying relies not on principle—and still less on respect for the law, or respect for our Constitutional rights.

What I hear you saying is an all too familiar refrain: "Tough s___, progressive voter. You know you've got nowhere else to go. You want McCain in there?"

He Was For the 4th Amendment Before He Was Against It

A Bush-41-appointed Federal District Judge yesterday became the third judge -- out of three who have ruled on the issue -- to reject the Bush administration's claim that Article II entitles the President to override or ignore the provisions of FISA. Yesterday's decision by Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California also guts the central claims for telecom immunity and gives the lie to the excuses coming from Congress as to why the new FISA bill is some sort of important "concession." More than anything else, this decision is but the most recent demonstration that, with this new FISA bill, our political establishment is doing what it now habitually does: namely, ensuring that the political and corporate elite who break our laws on purpose are immune from consequences. READ THE REST.

And consult this Time-line Of Obama's Statements On FISA.

Obama advisor Greg Craig: Adding insult to injury

By Glenn Greenwald

In today's New York Times, James Risen -- who won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing Bush's illegal NSA spying program -- has an article reporting on Obama supporters who are criticizing Obama for his FISA reversal and who are attempting to defeat the bill which Obama supports. The article quotes Jane Hamsher, Markos Moulitsas and myself and features the very innovative effort by Obama supporters to use his campaign's social networking tools to urge Obama to oppose the FISA bill (more on that campaign here). For his article, Risen spoke with Obama adviser Greg Craig, a partner at the Washington law firm Williams & Connolly, and this is what Craig told Risen: READ THE REST.

FISA Amendment Just In Time To Steal Election

Would the White House be Able to Eavesdrop on Obama Under the FISA Bill Barack Supports? You Bet.
By Elliot D. Cohen, BuzzFlash

Senate Democrats and Republicans alike are now poised to pass H.R. 6304, known as the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a bill touted by both House and Senate leaders to be a compromise proposal to prior Senate Bill 2248. Unfortunately, H.R. 6304 may give the Bush administration, in its last months, the ammunition it needs to hijack the 2008 presidential election.

Surveillance Protest Group Tops Obama Website

By Ari Melber, The Nation

Protesters are storming Barack Obama's website. But they all support Obama.

A grassroots group of activists has been organizing on MyBo, Obama's official social networking portal, to protest the Senator's recent decision to back controversial legislation granting the President more spying powers. The effort hit a big milestone on Tuesday afternoon: It is now the largest self-organized group on Obama's website, topping networks that were launched over a year ago. The spying protest, "Senator Obama - Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity – Get FISA Right," launched last week. (See Obama Network Organizes and Revolts Over Spying, The Nation.)

Chris Dodd Says He Still Opposes Telecom Immunity

For the last nine months, when retroactive immunity has surfaced, we have been able to delay its passage.

We were able to stop it in December because I had an army behind me.

Two months later, it stalled again -- this time in the House.

And last week, we managed to delay action one last time.

But when the Senate returns from the July 4th recess, we will vote on FISA legislation that includes retroactive immunity for telecom companies that may have illegally helped the Bush administration spy without warrant.

It's a bad bill and we need action to stop retroactive immunity from becoming law.

I've introduced an amendment with Senator Feingold to strip immunity from the bill.

This amendment has the support of Majority Leader Reid and Senator Obama, but it needs 51 votes to pass.

Will you sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of our amendment?

Sign on now!

Together, we can prevent this assault on our Constitution.

EFF Supports Senator Bingaman's Immunity Amendment: Congress Should Know What It is Immunizing

Here are three different ways to preserve some tattered remnant of the Fourth Amendment while generally discarding it: READ MORE.

Obama Network Organizes and Revolts Over Spying

By Ari Melber, The Nation

Barack Obama tapped his sizeable grassroots network on Saturday, coordinating over 4,000 "Unite for Change" meetups across the country through the campaign's social networking portal, MyBo. At the same time, however, other supporters worked furiously over the weekend to organize a new MyBo campaign to protest and pressure Obama. Many activists are outraged by the Senator's recent announcement that he will back a controversial bill to grant the Executive more spying powers and immunize telephone companies accused of illegal surveillance. Both efforts demonstrate how Obama's national network, which broke fundraising records and turned the first term Senator into an unlikely presidential nominee, can respond to top-down edicts and spring into action for self-organized protests.

Dodd Stands Strong, Obama Cowers and Whimpers and Waffles

Only 15 Senators stood up for the 4th Amendment today. Obama took his now customary course of NOT voting at all, neither Yes nor No. Here's the roll call.

Robocall to Steny Hoyer by Reverend Lennox Yearwood

Listen to Rev and Call Hoyer. Then Call Rev and Tell Him to Run for Congress in Hoyer's district!

Questions on FISA

Received by Email from a comment on a site on another site ...

* Can you help us non-techie geeks understand the following:
* 1. Why did AbuG and Andy Card go to the hospital bed to try and pressure Ashcroft to sign off on something that he refused? What could that something be?
* 2. Why did Comey refuse to certify the spying program? What do you think troubled him?
* 3. Why did Joe Nacchio and Qwest believe what the NSA requested of them was illegal? What could that have been? Why did the government then retaliate against Nacchio and Qwest?
* 4. Why is the government using "state secrets" as the only defense against all the lawsuits?
* 5. The EFF lawsuit, with a sworn affidavit by an AT&T technician, charges that NSA had a "backbone tap." What could such a tap be and what are the implications?

Telecom Donations Tied to FISA Vote

By Mike Lillis, The Washington Independent

Supporters of the spying bill received twice the contributions as those against it.

When scores of House Democrats joined Republicans last week to reauthorize a controversial White House spying program, many critics attributed that support to election-year jitters. But as liberal voters continue to bash Democrats on the issue, some campaign finance reformers charge that political contributions from the telecom industry, which benefited handsomely under the bill, probably also swayed votes.

In an analysis released Tuesday,, a nonprofit campaign finance watchdog group, found that lawmakers voting Friday in support of the wiretap deal averaged roughly twice the donations from the nation's leading telecoms - Verizon, Sprint and AT&T - over the last three years as those voting against it.

Dodd, Feingold, Wyden, Boxer to Filibuster Telecom Immunity - Now What's Obama's Excuse? And the Other 95 Senators?

Surely they're not all as cowardly and stupid as Steny Hoyer, fearing being criticized for backing majority opinion and standing up for the Fourth Amendment. Surely they're not all owned by the telecoms. Surely they're not all being blackmailed by Karl Rove. Surely they're not all dumbly obeying Obama or Reid.

In Memoriam Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Dodd and Feingold to Filibuster Telecom Immunity - Now What's Obama's Excuse? And the Other 97 Senators?

From Dodd and Feingold:

“This is a deeply flawed bill, which does nothing more than offer retroactive immunity by another name. We strongly urge our colleagues to reject this so-called ‘compromise’ legislation and oppose any efforts to consider this bill in its current form. We will oppose efforts to end debate on this bill as long as it provides retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that may have participated in the President’s warrantless wiretapping program, and as long as it fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans.

“If the Senate does proceed to this legislation, our immediate response will be to offer an amendment that strips the retroactive immunity provision out of the bill. We hope our colleagues will join us in supporting Americans’ civil liberties by opposing retroactive immunity and rejecting this so-called ‘compromise’ legislation.”

Feingold Says House Should Not Impeach for an Impeachable Offense Because the House Doesn't Want to Do It

“One of the Greatest Intrusions, Potentially, on the Rights of Americans Protected Under the 4th Amendment”–Sen. Feingold Blasts Telecom Spy Bill

Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: It’s being described as the most significant revision of the nation’s surveillance law in three decades. The Senate is preparing to vote on rewriting the nation’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and giving immunity to phone companies involved in President Bush’s secret domestic spy program. On Friday, the Democratic-controlled House approved the measure by a vote of 293-129. The legislation gives the government new powers to eavesdrop on both domestic and international communications. The American Civil Liberties Union has warned it would allow for the mass, untargeted and unwarranted surveillance of all communications coming into and out of the United States.

While Democratic leaders in Congress, as well as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, have hailed the bill as a “compromise,” Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin describes it as a “capitulation.” Senator Feingold has been the leading congressional voice against the Bush administration’s warrantless spy program since it was exposed nearly three years ago. Today, the Wisconsin senator joins us from Washington, D.C.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Senator Feingold.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: Good morning, Amy. Gets One Right has stood up on its hind legs and threatened to bite the hand that usually beats it mercilessly expecting to be licked:

On Friday, House Democrats caved to the Bush administration and passed a bill giving a get-out-of-jail-free card to phone companies that helped Bush illegally spy on innocent Americans.

This Monday, the fight moves to the Senate. Senator Russ Feingold says the "deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation." Barack Obama announced his partial support for the bill, but said, "It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses."

Last year, after phone calls from MoveOn members and others, Obama went so far as to vow to "support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies." We need him to honor that promise.

Can you call Senator Obama today and tell him you're counting on him to keep his word? Ask him to block any compromise that includes immunity for phone companies that helped Bush break the law.

Obama's presidential campaign: (866) 675-2008


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