Action Item: Defeat Warrantless Wiretapping
- If you could forward this to your RLC state list-serve, it would save me the trouble of doing so. Thanks for your help. --Aaron-- forwarded message --
Please forward widely!
Dear Aaron J.,
It's not too late to give Congress a piece of your mind within your legislators' home district before the August recess ends on September 4! BORDC has found a list of many of the town hall meetings scheduled across the country, and we'd like to share it with you, asking that you use it to speak out about the recently passed Orwellian "Protect America Act"!
Please go to your local meeting with as many allies as you can gather and tell your representatives that warrantless wiretapping violates our fundamental rights to privacy, and threatens each of us. We're being treated as terrorist suspects by our own government when it demands the right to eavesdrop on our conversations and emails with no particularized suspicion.
FOUR STEPS TO GIVING CONGRESS A PIECE OF YOUR MIND
1. Look on the list and find a town hall meeting near you.
The American Bankers Association has compiled an extensive list of town hall meetings througout the country (see http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?key=404260836&url_num=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fbordc.org%2Finvolved%2Faug07townmeetings.php).
At the above link, you can find upcoming town hall meetings taking place on or after August 23 for the following states: AZ, CA, CO, GE, HA, IO, IL, IN, KA, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, TX, VA, WA, WI.
If you have trouble with accessing this information, please let us know, and we'll send you information for your area only.
2. Find out how your representative voted. What you might say to your Senators or Representative depends on how they voted. Just before recess, the House and the Senate each considered two bills: The Republican-sponsored Protect America Act" (aka "Police America Act") (S 1927, http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?key=404260836&url_num=2&url=http%3A%2F%2Fthomas.loc.gov%2Fcgi-bin%2Fbdquery%2Fz%3Fd110%3ASN01927%3A), which won in both houses, gave the White House exactly what it wanted. It gave the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence increased powers to conduct surveillance on Americans. The two bills sponsored by the Democrats (HR 3356, http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?key=404260836&url_num=3&url=http%3A%2F%2Fthomas.loc.gov%2Fcgi-bin%2Fbdquery%2Fz%3Fd110%3AHR03356%3A and S 2011, http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?key=404260836&url_num=4&url=http%3A%2F%2Fthomas.loc.gov%2Fcgi-bin%2Fbdquery%2Fz%3Fd110%3ASN02011%3A), which lost, sought to appease the White House by going only so far, and no further. However, even that compromise went too far!
In some districts, newly elected Democrats who were sent to Washington, DC, to stop the war in Iraq actually voted for the PAA. In other places, Democrats and Republicans voted purely along partisan lines. No one who supported any of the bills was voting to restore the Bill of Rights, which has been so severely undermined since this so-called "war on terror" began.
So, first, check to see how your representatives voted. Here are the roll calls:
S 1927 (the Republican-sponsored bill that passed in the Senate)
S 1927 (the Republican-sponsored bill that passed in the House)
S 2011 (the Democrat-sponsored bill that failed in the Senate)
HR 3356 (the Democrat-sponsored bill that failed in the House)
3. Organize people to come out to the meeting with you. Let allies know that you are going, alert the media, and let us know too (contact West@... or East@...). Today is the time to strategize about how you want to approach your representative so that you can be most effective. Let us know what you're planning so that we can spread word among others in your area. See these BORDC webpages for more information.
Don't forget to take along a copy of the BORDC resolution book , a compilation of resolutions passed by towns, cities and states, upholding civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. We are currently updating the book and a revised version will be available on our website within the next week.
4. Take a few talking points with you.
- The President's warrantless wiretapping program went on illegally for 6 years. In January 2007, President Bush suddenly announced he would submit wiretap requests via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Then in August, he insisted that Congress legalize warrantless wiretapping on disgraced Attorney General Gonzales' orders, completely removing even the slimmest oversight. Congress must hold the Administration accountable for its past law breaking, not legalize this illegal surveillance.
- According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress has made more than 50 changes to FISA since the law was originally passed in1978 including many updates since September 11, 2001. So, all the talk about FISA's antiquated dial-telephone laws needing to come into the 21st century is false. Because the U.S. is a communications hub, and overseas calls transit the U.S., the White House claimed it needed this law so it could continue its legal pursuit of wiretapping foreign calls. If that kind of change was needed, the bill could have consisted of this simple sentence: "No warrant shall be required under FISA if the sole basis for issuing the warrant is that the communication would transit the US."
- When the government subjects Americans' phone calls to massive and non-specific wiretaps, it may also be sharing our calls with other governments or entities. Before considering a change in the law, Congress should have asked: "Has the National Security Agency ever lost control of its surveillance system?" For a fuller account of this potential risk, see NPR's "Wiretapping in the Digital Age" (August 17, 2007).
- Though the law is set to expire in six months, the Attorney General's wiretapping orders can last for a year.
- We know from long experience that occasionally, government officials make errors or act maliciously. Without oversight from another branch of government, the risks to our liberties are too great. Currently, there is no oversight outside the executive branch, and we know from the widespread misuse and abuse of National Security Letters that checks and balances are crucial to maintaining honest government.
- Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid have said they'll make changes in the law that was hurriedly passed in August -- when they return to D.C. in September. But a few changes here and there are not enough! Until our Congress demands accountability, and restores checks and balances, we will continue to live in fear that our government is looking over our shoulder. So, Congress must get tough on restoring our Bill of Rights now!
- The White House must be compelled to release documents created by White House, National Security Agency and Department of Justice lawyers justifying the so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program." The American people have the right to know how this executive branch legally justified warrantless surveillance against its own people.
- 412 local governments have passed resolutions opposing government overreaches of power, unwarranted searches, and detentions without trial. It's time the Congress heeds the will of the American people, and starts restoring civil liberties lost during the past 6 years.
If a town hall meeting is not happening in your area, make the extra effort to call your representatives' local offices and find out when you can either attend a town hall meeting or have a sit-down meeting with your representative and/or his/her staff. Don't take no for an answer. It's not a sufficient reply to the urgency of these threats to our Bill of Rights.
Thanks for all you do!
Nancy Talanian, Director
Hope Marstons, West Region Organizer
Ben Grosscup, East Region Organizer
Susan Heitker, Administrator
Lauren Tomkiewicz, Haywood Burns Fellow
The BORDC needs your help. Please contact info@... if you'd like to start a local BORDC. Please help BORDC bring the post-9/11 civil liberties to new communities and states by helping to fund a BORDC field organizer to work in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. To contribute funds or stock online, go to www.bordc.org/donate.php, or mail a check or money order to:
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
8 Bridge St., Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060
Your purchase of buttons, bumper stickers and booklets also helps. See our catalogue to order materials.
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