Like many of you, my wife and I called both of our senators to plead for a no vote on Bush’s new FISA bill.
Mrs. Dubya also emailed the Obama people with the earnest request that the senator do the right thing.
Here is the reply from Obama and his campaign staff.
Thank you for contacting us and sharing your strong feelings about this important issue. Please find a statement from Senator Obama below.
We appreciate hearing from you.
Obama for America,
Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.
That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.
After months of negotiation, the House passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act. Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.
It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I voted in the Senate three times to remove this provision so that we could seek full accountability for past offenses. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.
It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives - and the liberty - of the American people.
I had to respond with this open letter to Barack Obama.
Dear Senator Obama,
Thank you for wanting to protect our lives and liberty. As far as your support for the FISA bill is concerned, let me just say you've done a “heck of a job”.
There is nothing in the new FISA law that stops Bush from continuing everything he has been doing. It allows illegally obtained surveillance to be used as evidence against American citizens.
What you are saying is "Trust them. They will monitor themselves by their hand picked Inspectors". Yeah, that's the ticket.
Just like the Office of Professional Responsibility in the Justice Department has yet to catch one errant lawyer. And if it did find any misconduct, it would, of course, be their little secret. And their required annual report has just come for fiscal year 2005.
Yes, we can trust them... to do what they do.
And you are also saying "Trust me, I'll take care of the secret operation later as I see fit...if I am elected"
I have another idea. Let's trust the Bill of Rights.
Senator, few would argue that you are not a brilliant man. Voting for the FISA bill was a reasoned calculation and an intelligent political move. I think I understand the motivations for your vote. What I do not see is the wisdom of it.
You have allowed them to get away with crimes! Any time they, and you, Senator, speak of the rule of law; you will be tainted by the hypocrisy of your elitist double standards. No one else in America has the luxury of bending the law to fit their wrongful behavior.
Sadly, you have also lost the opportunity for desperately needed leadership in defending our Constitution.
The day will come when you may find yourself sharing the same sense of shame as Colin Powell feels for his pre-invasion war mongering at the UN. You will share the disgrace of abetting the crimes and rogue presidency of George W. Bush.
I had wished that you would not be reduced to selling your soul for the job you seek. I had once, briefly, held onto the hope that you would keep it.
You probably know that having a soul, or a conscience, is not necessary to be president. The current gang in the White House has proven that, at all our expense.
Undermining the Fourth Amendment is the kind of change George Bush believes in.
Removing the corporate foxes from the public’s henhouse is the kind of change most Americans believe in.
I continue to hope that it is your desire and goal that the United States will once again have a government of laws and not of men