We’re not done yet. FireDogLake has a petition to pressure the House to stand firm behind the RESTORE act.
What is wrong with our Senate leadership?
Three times now, DFA members like you and me have made phone calls demanding Senators stand up to the Bush administration and pass a FISA bill without granting immunity to telecommunication companies who spied on innocent Americans.
Each time, Washington insiders predicted that we would fail to stop it. And because of you, each time the insiders were wrong.
But President Bush is determined to get telecom immunity passed before he leaves office because he knows the lawsuits against AT&T and Verizon are America's last chance to hold the Bush administration accountable for spying on you. He's even promised to veto any FISA reform bill that doesn't let his cronies off the hook.
How many Americans will die in Iraq while the Senate spends another worthless day fighting over a flawed bill that only the President and his friends want passed? How many children will continue to go without health insurance because the Senate is too busy helping AT&T instead of fighting to expand S-CHIP or provide health care for all?
Why is a "get out of jail free" card for Verizon more important than stopping global warming?
It's time to take FISA reform off the table until America elects a new President next November. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could end this once and for all -- today.
Call Senator Reid right now and demand: No new FISA reforms while President Bush is still in office.
Democratic Majority Leader
Senator Harry Reid
"Take telecom immunity off the table. Pull the FISA reform bill and extend current law until President Bush leaves office. The U.S. Senate has more important work to get done than figure out how to let AT&T get away with spying on Americans."
Please report your call here:
Wait! Don't stop there. Contact your senators too! They need to know where you stand. Senator Reid is more likely to stand strong if your senator stands with him. Please call your senators now:
Don't forget to report how your calls went here:
Washington insiders say we can't stop this bill. Maybe they are right, but we've heard it before. Let's see what they are saying after you and I and our progressive community make thousands of calls today.
We will stand up to President Bush today. Together, we'll demand the Senate follows our lead.
Voting with the Republicans were the following eighteen Democrats (again, rough count):
Bayh, Inouye, Johnson, Landrieu, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Stabenow, Feinstein, Kohl, Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, Carper, Mikulski, Conrad, Webb, and Lincoln. Joe Lieberman also voted against stripping retroactive immunity.
Nays TRAITORS TO THE US CONSTITUTION
Alexander (R-TN) Allard (R-CO) Barrasso (R-WY) Bayh (D-IN) Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO) Brownback (R-KS) Bunning (R-KY) Burr (R-NC) Carper (D-DE)
Chambliss (R-GA) Coburn (R-OK) Cochran (R-MS) Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME) Conrad (D-ND) Corker (R-TN) Cornyn (R-TX) Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID) DeMint (R-SC) Dole (R-NC) Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV) Enzi (R-WY) Feinstein (D-CA) Grassley (R-IA) Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE) Hatch (R-UT) Hutchison (R-TX) Inhofe (R-OK)
Inouye (D-HI) Isakson (R-GA) Johnson (D-SD) Kohl (D-WI) Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA) Lieberman (ID-CT) Lincoln (D-AR) Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL) McCain (R-AZ) McCaskill (D-MO) McConnell (R-KY)
Mikulski (D-MD) Murkowski (R-AK) Nelson (D-FL) Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR) Roberts (R-KS) Rockefeller (D-WV) Salazar (D-CO)
Sessions (R-AL) Shelby (R-AL) Smith (R-OR) Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA) Stabenow (D-MI) Stevens (R-AK) Sununu (R-NH)
Thune (R-SD) Vitter (R-LA) Voinovich (R-OH) Warner (R-VA)
Webb (D-VA) Wicker (R-MS)
American readers, if your senator is on this list, would you please let them know how you intend to vote when they are up for re-election? Thank you.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008; 2:53 PM
The Senate voted today to preserve retroactive immunity from lawsuits for telecommunications companies that cooperated with a government eavesdropping program, decisively rejecting an amendment that would have stripped the provision from a bill to modernize an electronic surveillance law.
Senators voted 67 to 31 to shelve the amendment offered by Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). A filibuster-proof 60 votes had been needed for the amendment to move forward.
The vote represented a victory for the Bush administration and a number of telecommunications companies -- including AT&T and Sprint Nextel -- that face dozens of lawsuits from customers seeking billions of dollars in damages.
Approval of the amendment would have exposed the companies to privacy lawsuits for helping the administration monitor the calls of suspected terrorists without warrants from a special court following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The amendment was one of a series the Senate is considering today to modify legislation that would extend the government's authority to carry out electronic surveillance against targets outside the United States.
President Bush has called on Congress to rapidly renew the surveillance authority granted to the federal government in the Protect America Act approved last year. But he has vowed to veto any bill that does not shield the companies that helped the government carry out the warrantless wiretapping program he ordered after the Sept. 11 attacks.
About 40 lawsuits have been filed against U.S. telecommunications companies by plaintiffs who alleged that the firms' actions violated wiretapping and privacy laws.
Immunity from such lawsuits must also be approved by the House, which does not provide such protection in its version of the bill.
The Senate bill is aimed at modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The Protect America Act last year gave the government expanded authority to carry out surveillance, but its provisions expired Feb. 1. Congress and Bush agreed to an extension that runs out Friday.
In debate on the Senate floor before the vote, Dodd said it was a bad precedent to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies, and he urged senators to "allow the courts to do their job."
Arguing against the amendment, Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) said that permitting lawsuits against the companies would lead to public disclosure of vital intelligence-gathering methods and would discourage the private sector from cooperating with the government in the future. He said the companies facing lawsuits had acted "in good faith," and he called the immunity provision "an essential part of this bill."
Seventeen Democrats and one independent joined 49 Republicans in voting against the Dodd-Feingold amendment. Among those voting with the majority was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who is battling for the Democratic nomination, voted in favor of the amendment. His chief rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), did not vote.
Civil liberties groups denounced the Senate's action.
"When companies break the law, they should be held accountable by our government -- not given a multimillion-dollar favor," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington Legislative Office. "The millions of Americans who are telecom customers deserve to know that their phone conversations are private."
In a statement, she charged that telecommunications companies "illegally turned over private customer call information to the government." But instead of "having faith in the U.S. court system to fairly handle these cases," she said, the Senate opted to "give the telecom providers a get-out-of-jail-free card."
The Senate today also rejected two other amendments aimed at diluting the immunity provision. One would have allowed the lawsuits to go forward but would have made the federal government--not the telecommunications companies--the defendant in those cases. The measure, co-sponsored by Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), was rejected 68 to 30.
The other rejected amendment, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), would have authorized the secret FISA court, which oversees federal surveillance of foreign intelligence and terrorism suspects inside the United States, to decide whether a company could be sued for providing customers' records to the government.
It was defeated by a vote of 57 to 41.
Kathy's US Politics Blog
Should Congress Provide Blanket Immunity For Wiretaps?
If you believe in the Constitution ... if you believe that White House actions require more than "make it so" commands to be judged legal under the Constitution ... then you need to contact your US Representative. Now. (Note: most of the readers of USP oppose telecom immunity -- see the poll.)
Political expediency is the name of the day; President Bush threatens to veto any FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) legislation that does not contain immunity for telecommunications firms that performed warantless wiretaps at Administration behest.
So Democrats in the Senate capitulate: today 18 Democrats joined the 49 Senate Republicans to keep the telecom immunity provision in FISA . Who were they? Bayh, Carper, Conrad, Feinstein, Inouye, Johnson, Kohl, Landrieu, Lincoln, McCaskill, Mikulski, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, Stabenow and Webb. Clinton did not vote; Obama voted against amnesty. (See details on 12 key senators.)
Coupled with last week's admission by the Department of Justice that there will be no investigation of the waterboarding of Gitmo prisoners because the DOJ had ruled the practice "legal" at the time, Americans who believe in the rule of law should be up in arms. Glenn Greenwald details the damage:
The Senate today -- led by Jay Rockefeller, enabled by Harry Reid, and with the active support of at least 12 (and probably more) Democrats, in conjunction with an as-always lockstep GOP caucus -- will vote to legalize warrantless spying on the telephone calls and emails of Americans, and will also provide full retroactive amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, thus forever putting an end to any efforts to investigate and obtain a judicial ruling regarding the Bush administration's years-long illegal spying programs aimed at Americans...
Analogously, in 1973, The Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize for its work in uncovering the Watergate abuses, and that led to what would have been the imminent bipartisan impeachment of the President until he was forced to resign in disgrace. By stark and depressing contrast, in 2006, Jim Risen, Eric Lichtblau and the NYT won Pulitzer Prizes for their work in uncovering illegal spying on Americans at the highest levels of the Government, and that led to bipartisan legislation to legalize the illegal spying programs and provide full-scale retroactive amnesty for the lawbreakers. That's the difference between a country operating under the rule of law and one that is governed by lawlessness and lawbreaking license for the politically powerful and well-connected.
From Frank Church and the bipartisan oversight protections of the post-Watergate abuses in the mid-1970s to Jay Rockefeller, Dick Cheney, legalized warrantless eavesdropping and retroactive telecom amnesty in 2008 -- that vivid collapse into the sewer illustrates as potently as anything could what has happened to this country over the last eight years.
Reminder: Rockefeller has three telecoms in his top 10 political campaign donors: AT&T Inc, #2; Time Warner, #5; Verizon, #7.
Related: What is cloture? ; What is FISA? ; What is the RESTORE Act? ; What is the wiretapping issue? ; What happened in August to make warrantless wiretaps temporarily legal? ; FISA Reports to Congress, 1979-2006 ; Getting To Know Your Government: The Senate
What can you do?
IF the House holds firm on its original version of the bill (ie, rejects the Senate version), then the matter is punted to a conference committee. That, in and of itself, does not guarantee that the immunity provision will be deleted from the final bill, however.
Firedog Lake and Glenn Greenwald have started an online petition, asking the House to stick to its guns and its own FISA reauthorization bill, called the RESTORE Act.
By all means, sign the petition. But don't stop there.
Pick up the phone and contact your Representative. Phone calls "count more" than faxes which "count more" than emails which "count more" than online petitions. Think about it -- there is a time and resource cost associated with the phone call. If calling's not an option, then FedX a letter. (I've called mine -- will you call yours?)
This is far more critical (Clinton advisers, listen up) than electioneering.