Washington, Jun 20 - Today, Congressman Tim Walz voted against H.R. 6304, legislation which makes changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA):Kudos to the 129 members that stood up for the Americans' civil liberties and the rule of law this afternoon. We need more people like you. Though the outcome of the vote today is a serious setback, people that are concerned about this particular intrusion on their rights cannot let this issue die. I will personally urge, and I ask everyone to join me, those 129 men and women to do everything they can in Congress to continue this most important battle. We must make our voices heard in order to keep this issues and other civil liberties issues in play. Here is the official vote information.
“There are many parts of this bill that I support. It reaffirms that FISA is the exclusive means for electronic surveillance, and it strengthens protections for Americans at home and abroad. If this was all that this bill included, I could support it.
“Unfortunately, the bill also contains an unprecedented free pass for the Bush Administration’s past actions. It does not allow judicial review of the Administration’s use of warrantless wiretaps, and the process it puts in place to review the telecommunications companies’ participation in that illegal program has a predetermined outcome – immunity.
“Incredibly, this bill actually says that as long as the telecommunications companies can prove that the Bush Administration told them this action was legal, they can get off scott-free. Today, my colleague Roy Blunt called the process of granting immunity to these telecoms ‘a formality.’
“When Richard Nixon said that “when the President does it, that means it’s not illegal,” many Americans were horrified that any President would consider himself above the law. This legislation is even worse, because it essentially says ‘if the President tells you do so something, it’s not illegal,’ even if it violates the plain letter of the law. The process set out in this bill to rubberstamp the actions of the Bush Administration is contradictory to the rule of law in this country.
“This free pass for the phone companies isn’t needed to protect Americans – in fact, it protects only those in the Bush Administration who knowingly broke the law. We can protect our security while protecting our shared values and our freedoms. Unfortunately, this bill does not do that, and I have no choice but to oppose it.
“I have repeatedly said that I could not support a bill that provides a free pass for illegal behavior, no matter who committed it. Our laws matter, and they should be applied equally and fairly to the President, Congress, telecommunications companies, and every other citizen.”
Also, for those interested, my archives are saved somewhere (I think) on my computer. I will look for them and hopefully post them soon.