The MoveOn.org Political Action Team & Friends Committee on National Legislation – 2007-10-11 23:08:50
(October 11, 2007) — Newsweek recently reported that the nation’s biggest phone companies, “working closely with the White House, have mounted a secretive lobbying campaign to get Congress to quickly approve a measure wiping out all private lawsuits against them” for helping the Bush administration illegally wiretap innocent Americans. (1)
Yesterday, President Bush weighed in publicly, promising to veto an upcoming bill dealing with our nation’s wiretapping policy if it doesn’t give corporations retroactive immunity for their lawbreaking. (2) Pending lawsuits could be the only way Americans ever find out how far Bush went in breaking the law—Bush’s threat yesterday is an attempted cover-up. (3)
Some Democrats like Sen. Russ Feingold immediately said no to Bush. (4) But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said retroactive immunity “is not off the table.” (5)
• Can you call your Congressperson today? Tell your representative to oppose retroactive immunity for phone companies’ lawbreaking.
Then, please report your call by clicking here.
Yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union summed up the situation well:
Why is the president of the United States trying to get the telecommunications companies off the hook for their illegal activity? He is supposed to be upholding laws, not encouraging companies to break them. Businesses that break the law should be held accountable. We expect these companies to keep our personal information private, and if they break the law, there should be consequences—not a re-write of the rule book. (6)
After September 11, the Bush Administration began working with phone companies to monitor the private phone calls and emails of millions of ordinary Americans without legally-required warrants. A former AT&T employee says the company even let the government set up shop right in their office—a charge AT&T has refused to confirm or deny. (7)
Since then, lawsuits have been filed against these companies for breaking the law—and these suits could allow facts to surface that the Bush administration has so far refused to give Congress. Retroactive immunity for phone company lawbreaking could prevent the truth from ever coming out.
That’s why we need lots of members of Congress to oppose the idea of letting these phone companies off the hook for past lawbreaking. Can you call your Representative today?
1. “Case Dismissed? The secret lobbying campaign your phone company doesn’t want you to know about,” Newsweek, September 20, 2007
2. “Wiretap laws face new static,” ZDNet News, October 10, 2007
3. “Congress Stand Firm: America Deserves A Legal Decision on Warrantless Wiretapping,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, October 10, 2007
4. “Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold In Response to the President’s Remarks on FISA,” October 10, 2007
5. “Wiretap laws face new static,” ZDNet News, October 10, 2007
6. “ACLU Response to President Bush’s Request for Telecom Amnesty, Civil Liberties Group Lauds House Committee Vote to Reject Telecom Immunity,” ACLU Press Release, October 10, 2007
7. “Wiretap laws face new static,” ZDNet News, October 10, 2007
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Action: Say No to Illegal Government Spying
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Your representative will have an opportunity next week to restore oversight of government programs to eavesdrop on your telephone and Internet communications that were stripped away by legislation passed earlier this year.
But the legislation to be considered next week needs to be strengthened to ensure that the government obtain an individual warrant every time it eavesdrops on the communications of US citizens.
Here’s what you can do: The full House has scheduled a vote on legislation sponsored by Representatives John Conyers (MI) and Sylvestre Reyes (TX) that would restore many of the legal protections against government spying that were stripped away in legislation passed last August 2007.
But the Conyers-Reyes bill, the RESTORE Act (H.R. 3773), still authorizes the government to spy on any person in the United States without an individual warrant, so long as that person is not the “primary” focus of the investigation.
This legislation should be amended to include language sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (NJ) that would ban the government from spying on any U.S. citizens without first obtaining an individual warrant from a court. This is a basic right guaranteed by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.
Please urge your representative to support legislation that would restore court oversight of government spying programs. Tell your representative that the legislation needs to state explicitly that the government must obtain an individual warrant every time it eavesdrops on the communications of U.S. citizens:
• Read background on this legislation:
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