Grassley Misleads His Town Meeting on FISA

(First-person accounts of what politicians are telling their constituents are very useful. I hope other Bleeding Heartland users will post diaries about what they hear from elected officials and candidates (not only at town-hall meetings, but also any noteworthy radio ads or direct-mail pieces). - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Senator Grassley discussed the pending FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveilance Act) legislation today at a town meeting I attended.  He either does not understand the issue or he purposely misleads his constituents.  I don't know which explanation is more alarming.

 When one woman asked about FISA, the Senator said it had passed the Congress and was going on to the President now.  He then rambled on about how FDR intercepted postal mail during WWII and how Obama supports the new bill and how there are Al Qaeda cells in the US.  He said the government has to listen to all foreign calls without a search warrant  because “by the time you got a warrant the call would be over with.”  

 Doesn't he know that warrants are typically granted after the fact for calls that were intercepted without warrants?  Doesn't he know that calls are not targeted one at a time?  If he doesn't know that stuff, he is less informed that many internet readers.  If he does know, he has just misled his audience.

He went on to say there had been many terrorist plots uncovered since the warrantless wiretapping began, citing the preposterous plots to bomb the Holland Tunnel and  to attack Fort Dix, and reminding us of the “dirty bomber” arrested at O'Hare Airport.  Does he know that none of these episodes had anything to do  with warrantless wiretaps?

 I immediately followed up the woman's question by telling the Senator that the FISA bill was indeed coming before the Senate again next week.  I argued against retroactive immunity for wiretapping crimes that had not even been investigated yet and reminded him that the wiretaps had begun before 9/11.

 Grassley said that if the President told the phone company to do it then they should not be punished.  He said the lawsuits would be more than the entire value of the phone companies.  Apparently he thinks they are guilty and face a big penalty.

 Luckily he did not say that, “If the President orders someone buried alive, it would be OK to do it.”  That question was raised in a Congressional hearing last week and the witness dodged it.  It should be put to Grassley.

Our senior senator does not seem to doubt the unlimited power of the President.  If the current President wants to secretly violate laws instead of getting them changed by a famously compliant Congress, Grassley has no problem with that.

 So why do we even need Senators? 

  • fascinating and disturbing post

    It is sad to see how many members of Congress seem unconcerned by the Bush administration’s abuses of power.

    For any readers who are wondering, it was John Yoo, author of one of the key “torture memos” that guided Bush administration policy, who recently declined to answer a simple question about whether the president could order a terror suspect to be buried alive.


  • How did the audience respond?

    I realize that the traditional media isn’t covering this issue, but I hope that some people are following it online.  Did it seem like anyone else in the audience was engaged, or informed?  Even my conservative friends are worried about the 4th Amendment.

    I have been checking Grassley’s schedule at, and it looks like he is sticking to western Iowa for this visit.  If he comes my way, I’ll drop in and ask him a question.

    • No audience reaction

      FISA was the second topic taken up.  After the woman and I spoke, the topics scattered to oil prices, foreign ownership of US factories, alternative energy, student aid, immigration, border fences, drugs, and other topics.  No more talk about our constitutional crisis during the first 50 minutes of the meeting that I attended.  I had to leave early.  I could not tell if anyone else was informed about FISA.

  • I have heard him say similarly clueless things

    Long after the “Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague” story was debunked by the FBI, Grassley wrote me about it in response to a letter I sent him.

    He should be videotaped saying stuff like this.  We need a YouTube library for his next Senate race.

    Meanwhile, it might be useful to post Latham’s and King’s district schedules on this blog, as a front page info box, and encourage people to film them.

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