A few good links on FISA

Paul Rosenberg put up a post well worth your time if you are disturbed by the House vote on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Key point:

MapLight.org is reporting that House Democrats who changed their vote to support Telco immunity received much more, on average than their counterparts who did not change position.  This is a group correlation, of course.  Not all those who voted for immunity received more money than those who voted against.  Indeed, 11 of those who voted for immunity received nothing at all from the three Telcos.  But the group correlation is quite strong.

Click the link to find a chart listing all 94 House Democrats who voted against retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies on March 14, but voted for the FISA bill containing immunity on June 20. (Our own Leonard Boswell is in this group). The chart shows how much money each of them received in PAC contributions from AT&T, Sprint or Verizon.

Boswell is in the middle of the pack, having received $10,000. I wouldn’t assume those contributions are the only reason he has favored the telecommunications companies’ interests over protecting constitutional rights. But he does have a long history of voting with Republicans and corporate interests rather than with the majority of House Democrats on a lot of issues.

The Des Moines Register ran a strongly-worded editorial on FISA in the Wednesday edition:

Federal law authorizing secret intercepts of international communications may need amending to account for changes in technology and behavior of terrorist groups, but the job should be put off for a new Congress and a new president next year. In the current political climate, with an election looming, the temptation is to ram something – anything – through to avoid the accusation of being weak on terrorism, even if the constitutional privacy rights of American citizens are sacrificed in the process.

That apparently motivated 105 House Democrats to go along with 188 Republicans to give President Bush what the Washington Post described as “one of the last major victories he is likely to achieve.” That, along with the administration’s last-minute decision to allow the Democrats to toss in an additional $95 billion in domestic spending in a war-appropriations bill.

That’s a pathetically small price for authorizing this president, and future presidents, to ignore the 4th Amendment restrictions on “unreasonable searches and seizures.” […]

Those are just some of the problems with the House bill. It’s hard to say how many others exist, however, because there was precious little public debate. The operations of the spying program are classified secrets, and only a select few members of Congress have been clued in on how it works. Even legal experts are struggling to decipher the bill.

This is in stark contrast to 30 years ago, when the FISA law was enacted after months of public discussion, hearings and testimony. Changing the law implicating a fundamental constitutional right mandates nothing short of that same process today.

My only quibble with this editorial is where were the Register’s reporters on this issue during the third district primary campaign?

Boswell advocated retroactive immunity for telecoms in February, then changed his position in March. In early May, there was some speculation that he had cooperated with House Republicans to get this provision back on the table.

I tried for weeks to get Boswell’s office to comment on this issue and got the runaround. Naturally, they were not going to return phone calls from a blogger supporting Ed Fallon. But the Register’s Jane Norman or Thomas Beaumont could have at least forced Boswell to clarify where he stood on FISA before Iowa Democrats voted on June 3. Why didn’t the Register’s assignment editors give this issue some space this spring?

Glenn Greenwald has been writing extensively on FISA over at Salon, and I highly recommend his latest post, Chris Dodd’s speech and a glimmer of hope for stopping the FISA bill. It’s long and includes some great quotes from Dodd and Senator Russ Feingold, as well as many other links to good commentary on this issue.

Speaking of Feingold, Josh Orton of MyDD linked to the Progressive Patriots Fund Campaign Store. (Feingold is the honorary chair of that fund.) At the store you can buy t-shirts and mousepads with the slogan “Don’t Spy On Me” and a drawing of a telephone cord curled up like the famous Revolutionary War-era “Don’t Tread On Me” flag featuring a rattlesnake.

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