Friday, August 10, 2007

Hold your elected officials accountable for their vote on the FISA amendment

As you undoubtedly know, late last week Congress rolled over and played dead, passing the horrible amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with the Orwellian name "Protecting America Act of 2007." (I guess we need protection from those pesky constitutional rights.)

The amendment broadly expands the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants. It takes oversight away from the FISA court and gives it to the attorney general (that well-known protector of constitutional rights) and the director of national intelligence. (For a longer explanation of why this bill is so bad, click here.)

Senator Arlen Specter choose to vote for this atrocious bill. At several stops on the town hall tour he's been taking around Pennsylvania this week, he's been asked to explain his vote. His answer? He respects the director of national intelligence; he plans to get rid of Attorney General Gonzales, so it doesn't matter that this act gives him incredible powers; and it's up for renewal in six months so it doesn't really matter anyway.

Call me crazy, but passing laws based on the personalities involved (or on your belief you'll be able to get rid of one of said personalities) seems kind of counter to that whole "checks and balances" thing.

The only bright spot in this bill is that, as Specter points out, it's up for renewal in six months. We need to make sure that the same thing doesn't happen with this as happened with the PATRIOT Act (another bill people passed with the assurance of "hey, it's only temporary!"). Tell your senators and representatives how you feel about their vote on this important issue! Click here to see how your representative voted.

You can also sign the national ACLU's petition to Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi, telling them we will not tolerate their continued abandonment of their responsibility to hold the Executive Branch in check.

Sara in Philly


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