Wednesday, January 30, 2008

FISA update

A lot has happened this week with FISA, and while those of us at the ACLU of PA have been busy traveling back and forth across the country (for me, that meant from Harrisburg to Allentown this morning but for the rest of the staff, that meant to Los Angeles and back), we haven't had a chance to give the full update. Maybe you've been following it in your local fishwrap, but unfortunately, some papers have not been giving this issue the focus it deserves. Ah, what the hay, it's only a fundamental shift in government intrusion into our private lives that's at stake.

On Monday, the Senate Republicans made a motion to invoke cloture, i.e. end the debate. That motion failed and one Republican voted against- Senator Arlen Specter. In one breath, I cheer Senator Specter, and in the next, I scold him (which, frankly, is par for the course with ol' Arlen). Specter has proposed that the government be substituted as the defendant in civil cases against telecom companies for participating in the illegal surveillance, and in his floor speech on Monday, he stated that he would support telecom amnesty if his proposal fails.

Then yesterday Congress passed a 15-day extension of the Police America Act to allow Congress more time to finish the bill.

I've pimped Daily Kos a bit on this issue the last week or so, and deservedly so, but as usual, the best and most extensive writer on these Safe & Free issues is Glenn Greenwald of (rated "#1 Blogger" by the Official Andy-in-Harrisburg Blogger Scorecard). You can catch him on this issue here, here, and here.
With all the focus on the travesty of telecom amnesty, it has been easy to forget just how Draconian the Protect America Act really is, how radical are the warrantless eavesdropping powers it vested in the President. In essence, that bill allowed the Government to eavesdrop on every single international telephone call made or received by an American with no restrictions or judicial oversight whatsoever, and further empowered the Government to read every international email sent or received by an American with no restrictions or judicial oversight.

Senator Russ Feingold (rated "#1 Senator" by the Official Andy-in-Harrisburg Senatorial Scorecard) talked with a group of bloggers about how the Police America Act breaks down the wall of privacy for him and his daughter when she sends him an email from England.

Andy in Harrisburg

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