THE BLOG

Warrantless Wiretaps And Retroactive Immunity Are Un-American

May 20, 2008 | Updated May 25, 2011

Earlier today I did a post at DownWithTyranny mentioning a campaign to hold accountable wayward Democrats who have voted or are threatening to vote with the Republicans to stomp on the Constitution. Readers of Crooks & Liars, Firedoglake, Digby, Salon and DownWithTyranny had an opportunity to vote and pick which among the small handful of Democrats who voted with the Republicans to allow for warrantless wiretaps and grant retroactive immunity to lawbreaking telecom executives would be the first to be targeted. Chris Carney (PA) was the overwhelming favorite. And the TV and radio spots, newspaper ads and billboard ads are ready to go. Staffers of other House Democrats have asked us to hold off for a few days in the hope that they can bring carney to his senses. I doubt then can, but we are going to give them the chance to work with him on this.

Today Rand Beers has an important piece here at HuffPo that talks about a progressive perspective on national security. The vision he presents is very different from the failed policies of George Bush. Wiretapping American citizens without a warrant is not part of it-- nor is granting retroactive immunity to criminal executives of major corporate donors to political campaigns.

Last night, we contacted many of the Blue America candidates and asked them to explain how they feel about Bush's demands on the FISA bill. Glenn Greenwald and DWT quoted some of them in our earlier posts. Here are a few of the others that you might be interested in reading:

Congressman Tom Allen (D-ME) voted against retroactive immunity and against warrantless wiretaps. Last night he told us why: "Warrantless domestic surveillance is yet another example of the Bush Administration denying civil liberties to ordinary Americans. I strongly oppose retroactive immunity for telecom companies and will continue to vote against it. Neither the government nor large telecommunications corporations are above the law; everyone must be held accountable."

Victoria Wulsin isn't a member of Congress yet but her district is represented by extremist Jean Schmidt who voted in favor of warrantless wiretaps and in favor of granting retroactive immunity to the lawbreaking telecoms (who donate to her campaign) This morning, this is what Vic had to say about that: "The Bush Administration has run roughshod over the Constitution and now they expect the American people to pay for it by granting retroactive immunity to big corporations that illegally violated their customers' privacy. Congress cannot not let itself be bullied into giving away the civil liberties that belong to every American, and I promise that as a congresswoman I will never put the interests of corporations before the rights of the people."

Jim Himes, who is running to replace Bush rubber stamp Chris Shays in Connecticut felt just as strongly: "I strongly oppose granting retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies who may have illegally spied on Americans at the behest of the Bush administration. The issue at stake here is simple and fundamental-- no person, president, or corporation is ever above the law, period. Protecting our nation from the real threats to our security is one of the most serious responsibilities of Congress. Yet Chris Shays and the rest of Bush's allies in Congress have once again abdicated this
responsibility by reducing the debate on security to peddling fear, straw men, and mistruths for partisan political gain. America is better than this, and both parties in Congress should be too."

And this isn't just a red state/blue state issue. Larry Joe Doherty, who is gaining tremendous traction against pathetic Bush rubber stamp Michael McCaul in a sprawling Texas district between Austin and the Houston suburbs, is just as adamant as anyone else about protecting the Constitution. "This out of control president has systematically shredded the Constitutional protections of every American, trashing the patriotism of anyone who is willing to stand up to him. To think that the U.S. Congress should come along behind George Bush rubber-stamping the suspension of the Bill of Rights is offensive to me. Congress is sworn to protect the Constitution, and gagging the courts from upholding the Rule of Law is the wrong way to protect this country from its enemies."

Not many candidates have been as proactive on this issue as Martin Heinrich in New Mexico. He's made it a big issue in his campaign and has written a lot about it. This morning he summed up his thoughts in 3 short sentences: "In America, no one is above the law. We shouldn't compromise the integrity of our justice system to protect George Bush's friends and allies in the telecommunications industry. Anyone who illegally spies on American citizens should be brought to justice."

Leslie Byrne, a former and future member of Congress from northern Virginia, has been talking about this too. Here's what she told us today: "In March I said, 'I'm against immunity. The telecommunications companies who complied (not all did) have some of the highest priced legal talent available. They should have asked for a court ruling before handing over their customers records. I was very pleased that the US House found their voice on this issue.' I can only add that I hope the House continues to use that voice to protect Americans."

Let me end with a comment from Mark Begich, the Alaska Democrat running against one of Bush's worst-- and most unhinged-- senatorial henchmen, Ted Stevens. Mark is a hawk on rule of law. "The Alaskan Constitution protects the right of privacy. The 4th Amendment demands a warrant be issued for any search. And FISA says that domestic electronic surveillance must be approved by a special court. None of these facts should be forgotten on behalf of telecommunications companies that now face legal consequences for the role they played in the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. I am strongly opposed to retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."

Watch the TV spot-- and if you want to contribute to any of our candidates, please... give whatever you feel you can.