Thursday, June 26, 2008

Call Your Senators, Call Your Congresspeople

If you're not familiar with the FISA issue, this Glenn Greenwald post is a good place to start. It's actually a criticism of Keith Olbermann for failing to denounce Barrack Obama's new, mealy-mouthed position on the bill and, by extension, on the Fourth Amendment. For your convenience, here's the text of that Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I've been writing every day to Senator "Change We Can Believe In" Obama, and to Senator "Ready to Lead on Day One" Clinton, and to my own reps in the House and Senate. I'm told emails are good, calls are better, letters and faxes (because they occupy physical space in their offices) are best. When I call, I always say:

1. My name and city/state. I'm calling to ask X's position on the heinous new FISA bill. (Remember, it's already passed the House -- the Senate is taking it up on July 8.)

2. I'm concerned that the bill retroactively immunizes telecom companies who may have assisted the Bush administration in illegally spying on me and other Americans.

Usually I'm told that the Senator/Congressperson hasn't reviewed the specifics of the bill because they're still being discussed. I answer: "Regardless of the specifics of the bill, what's her position generally on retroactive immunity? Is she against, generally, warrantless spying? Is she speaking out about it? Will she vote against any bill that contains these?"

Sometimes I'm told that the Senator/Congressperson hasn't released a position yet. So I ask: "Why not?"

And sometimes they'll throw out some distraction like, "I do know the Senator voted in favor of cloture ..." which only means he voted to stop debate; to block a fillibuster. If you follow that, fine -- pursue it. If you don't, go back to your point. "If he wants my vote, and my respect, he should go find a microphone and use his position to protect the Constitution. Where's he at on that?" etc., etc.

Sometimes I'll even ask the person who answers the phone what his/her position is on the matter. They're all policy wonks, so it's wicked hard for them to spit out, "I like illegal spying and retroactive immunity."

Obama said he'll support the heinous FISA bill, but that he'll try to stop the retroactive telecom immunity part of it. The trouble with that is that, at least when he said it last week, it was all for show. The Senate Majority Leader had crafted a doomed amendment just so Obama and others could say they tried to block the immunity. So the bottom line is the same: will the Senator vote against any bill containing retroactive telecom immunity, yes or no?

Here's a July 1 message from Senator Russ Feingold. He's kick-ass. He and Senator Chris Dodd have been leading the opposition to the current FISA bill:

Senator Chris Dodd also has a thing you can sign to become a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the Dodd/Feingold amendment to stop Retroactive Immunity.