The great statement by Senator Barbara Boxer on how those who vote for retroactive immunity, "are perpetuating a cover-up" is good news for everyone who defends the Constitution. While Sen. Boxer has yet to vow to join the Feingold/Dodd filibuster, the thinking by many seems to be that Boxer will fight hard for what she believes in so many activists I've talked to are excited by anticipated aggressive maneuvering by Boxer to stop retroactive immunity.
As for the other senator...there is a great deal of concern that Senator Dianne Feinstein will capitulate. While defending Senator Feinstein against the push to have her formally censured by the California Democratic Party, Chair Art Torres said:
I said I think it's important that you hear this from me because there's also concern about the telecom immunity issue which will come before the senate judiciary committee. Don't believe me, ask my friend Senator Dodd, who will tell you that she led the effort along with him to make sure that that wasn't in the FISA bill that emerged from the senate judiciary committee. That bill as you know does not include the telecom immunity issue, which was a very important issue for me, and I'm proud that she listened, because she does.
Does she? (202) 224-3841
If not, she is likely to again face a censure push by CDP activists seeking to hold her to account.
Senator Dianne Feinstein
c/o District Director Trevor Daley
11111 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 915
Los Angeles, CA
Dear Senator Feinstein,
We are writing with great concern regarding reports the Democratic leadership has struck a deal which will further erode civil liberties by circumventing the original FISA laws, and we ask that you not only oppose this new FISA bill but that you filibuster its advancement in the Senate.
We are deeply disappointed in our Party and its leadership for capitulating to the Bush administration with this utterly unnecessary legislation--but you are our Senator, from the great and progressive state of California, and as your constituents we have a right to expect better leadership from you.
We wish to note that in an official statement regarding a previous FISA bill, you defended the telecom industry, stating they had no choice but to break the law--but in this you were incorrect: They did have a choice, proven by the fact Qwest chose to obey the Constitution rather than wiretap without proper FISA warrants. We would also remind you the telecoms' illegal activity began well before the attacks of 9/11.
We need better answers and better representation from our senior Senator. It was with great pain that, last year, we moved several California Democratic Party caucuses to censure you for your approval of an Attorney General who condoned torture, and for your previous support for telecom immunity. We would prefer not to censure you again, but to instead applaud you for doing what is right and protecting our Constitution rather than protecting corporations and the Bush administration. We ask you to stand with the vast bulk of your constituents who side with the rule of law.
Michael Jay, Delegate, California Democratic Party, 42nd Assembly District
Ricco Ross, California Democratic Party, 42nd Assembly District
Co-Chairs, Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles
Linda Sutton, CDP Delegate, 41st AD, Vice Chair of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles
Last time, the push for censure united an amazing array of organizations in less than a week, including:
Endorsed by the Courage Campaign, MoveOn.org Political Action, Progressive Democrats of America, Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, Women's Caucus of the California Democratic Party, Irish-American Caucus of the California Democratic Party, Steering Committee of the East Bay for Democracy Democratic Club, Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, the Coordinating Committee of SoCal Grassroots, San Diego Democracy for America, the Steering Committee of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, Sacramento for Democracy, DFA-Orange County, Santa Cruz County for Democracy, Trinity County Democratic Central Committee, Diablo Valley Democratic Club, Ventura County Committee to Stop the War, Progressive Democrats Sonoma County, the Inyo County Democratic Central Committee, the Torrance Democratic Club, San Mateo County Democracy for America, Castro Valley Progressives, the Whittier Area Peace & Justice Coalition, Santa Barbara Impeach Cheney & Bush Meetup Group, Democracy for America - Marin (DFA-Marin), Valley Democrats United, the Executive Board of the West LA Democratic Club, Progressive Democrats - San Francisco, Greenwood Earth Alliance, Hammering the Issues, Westchester Democratic Club Executive Board, Young Democrats of UCI, the North (San Fernando) Valley Democratic Club, Lassen Progressives, Castro Valley Democratic Club Executive Board, Progressive Democrats of Marin, Progressive Democrats of America - Metro San Diego Chapter, Sonoma County Democracy for America, Progressive Democrats of America Orange County, and Progressive Democrats of America Ventura County.
And Rick Jacobs made the teevee (I do so work for Courage Campaign):
As the focus intensifies over this bill, here are some of the emails I've received as of late.
The House passed a version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) last week that included retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that conspired in Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. And now, as the bill heads to the Senate, it looks like we have one last chance to stop this massive erosion of the rule of law.
Thankfully, we have a few champions, like Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd, who look poised to fight this to the very end, but they can't do it alone. They need both strong support from progressive senators and the vote of those senators currently sitting on the fence. This is where you come in.
Sen. Feinstein could be the deciding voice and vote on stopping retroactive immunity. Please take a minute right now to give her a call and ask her to strip the retroactive immunity provision of FISA.
Senator Feingold effectively summed up the insanity of retroactive immunity yesterday by saying, "It doesn't simply have the impact of potentially allowing telephone companies to break the law. It may prevent us from ever getting to the core issue...which is the president ran an illegal program that could've been an impeachable offense."
I hope that you'll join me and do what you can to help prevent this from happening.
Over the last 8 months, you and I have stopped Congress from granting retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies who illegally spied on Americans for the Bush administration -- at least three times.
On Friday, Democratic Leadership in the House of Representatives decided to stand with President Bush instead of with America. They voted for a so-called "compromise" to let AT&T, Verizon and the entire Bush administration off the hook for lying to America and illegally tapping our phone calls.
If this bill passes the Senate, then Americans will never be able to hold President Bush accountable for warrantless wiretapping.
We need to take action to stop this horrible bill. Last time immunity came up for a Senate vote, Senators Dodd, Feingold and Obama each said they would filibuster to stop it from passing. They will need 60 votes to keep a filibuster going and stop the Senate from caving to pressure to support this fake "compromise".
Call your Senators right now and demand they support a filibuster of any Senate bill that will ultimately grant retroactive immunity to telecoms who spied on innocent Americans.
"I calling to demand Senator (Boxer or Feinstein) support a filibuster of any bill that will ultimately grant immunity to telecommunications companies who spied on innocent Americans. Can I count on the Senator to stand up to President Bush and his fear mongering?"
No Immunity for Telecoms that Illegally Spy on US!
Last Friday, the House of Representatives granted de facto amnesty to the phone companies who cooperated with the Bush administration's illegal spying on American citizens. Our final opportunity to prevent this from becoming law lies with the Senate. We must stop the Senate from making the same terrible decision, a decision that chips away at one of our most fundamental and progressive values-the right to privacy.
Please call your senators right now and tell them to vote against any bill that lets the Bush administration and these telecom companies off the hook for shredding the constitution.
We cannot let the Senate give the phone companies and the Bush administration a free ride for past and future violations of our basic civil liberties. If we join together and ask our Senators to stop this bill by supporting a filibuster and voting NO against a bill that gives the phone companies amnesty, we can protect our privacy rights from this assault by conservative forces in Congress.
Call Your Senators Today.
The Senate switchboard is (202) 224-3121 (see below for a list of direct numbers). Tell them your state and ask them to connect you to your senator. Be sure to speak with both senators from your state. When you complete your calls, let us know what happened using this report form.
In addition to giving phone companies a free pass, this bill fails to restore adequate judicial review for future surveillance, which will continue to put our privacy rights at risk. Protecting our privacy rights is a core progressive value. Don't let them slip away. Take action by calling your senator today. And don't forget to report back to us.
Alan and the CAPAF advocacy team
P.S. We are excited to tell you that we will soon be launching our new advocacy website, IAmProgress.org. IAmProgress.org will be the home to all future CAPAF advocacy campaigns. So look out for the announcement and help us make IAmProgress.org a success.
Direct Phone Numbers to Senators (Listed by State)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) (202) 224-3553; (202)228-2382
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) (202) 224-3841; 228-3954
The Senate is about to vote on whether to pass a bill
granting immunity from the law to phone companies for
illegal spying. This could be our best and last chance to
hold the telecoms accountable for breaking the law --
please contact your Senators today and tell them to stand
If passed, the bill would place a Congressional seal of
approval on the President's illegal spying program. Phone
companies that knowingly broke the law and sent millions of
Americans' personal phone calls and emails to the
government would be handed what amounts to a
get-out-of-jail-free card. Some have called the bill a
bipartisan compromise between extremes, but this is pure
spin. In reality, it's nothing less than a complete cave to
the phone companies' and White House's demands. It would
destroy the country's best chance for a judicial ruling on
whether the President and his allies can break the law with
Please, call your Senators today. Tell them you see through
the spin, tell them to stand up for civil liberties and the
rule of law, tell them to vote "no" on the FISA Amendments
On Friday, House Democrats caved to the Bush administration and passed a bill giving a get-out-of-jail-free card to phone companies that helped Bush illegally spy on innocent Americans.1
This Monday, the fight moves to the Senate. Senator Russ Feingold says the "deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation."2 Barack Obama announced his partial support for the bill, but said, "It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses."3
Last year, after phone calls from MoveOn members and others, Obama went so far as to vow to "support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."4 We need him to honor that promise.
Can you call Senator Obama today and tell him you're counting on him to keep his word? Ask him to block any compromise that includes immunity for phone companies that helped Bush break the law.
Obama's presidential campaign: (866) 675-2008
Then, help us track our progress by clicking here:
These companies helped the Bush Administration illegally spy on the emails and phone calls of innocent Americans. By giving "immunity" to these companies, all lawsuits brought against them by civil liberties groups would be thrown out of court. That means we may never find out how far Bush went in breaking the law. And once it's done, it can't be undone. That's why we need Obama to promise to block any bill that has immunity.
Supporters of the House bill say it doesn't guarantee immunity-it just kicks the issue to a court to decide. But that's deceptive. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) points out:
"It gives [Bush's] attorney general the power to decide if cases against telecommunications companies will proceed. The AG only has to certify to the FISA court that the company didn't spy or did so with a permission slip from the president. A note from the president is not a legal defense. Allowing phone companies to avoid litigation by simply presenting a 'permission slip' from the president is not court review."5
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit group working with the ACLU to hold these companies accountable, adds, "whatever gloss might be put on it, the so-called 'compromise' on immunity for phone companies that broke the law is anything but a compromise...no matter how they spin it, this is still immunity, period."6
President Bush and the phone companies know that the facts are against them. A judge appointed by President Bush's father already wrote one opinion finding that "AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal."7
But we'll never know how far their illegal actions went unless we fight back now. Can you tell Barack Obama you're counting on him to keep his word and block any compromise that gives immunity to lawbreaking phone companies?
Obama's presidential campaign: (866) 675-2008
Then, help us track our progress by clicking here:
Despite the outrage coming from a broad coalition of concerned citizens, by tomorrow night the House of Representatives will vote on whether or not to gut the Constitution and give immunity to phone companies who broke the law and spied on Americans.
We have to act now. Even if you've emailed, called or visited your members of Congress about FISA, we need you to contact them again today.
Congress is moving so fast and so secretively that we only got a copy of this bill this morning. I can tell you it's horrible. It contains vacuum cleaner style surveillance that sweeps up the phone calls and emails of Americans. And it's blatantly unconstitutional.
The bottom line is that this is legislation that benefits a few of our country's largest corporations while taking away basic rights from the rest of us. And it is unacceptable.
I'm going to spend the rest of the day on the phone calling Capitol Hill trying to stop this bill. I hope you will spend whatever time you can to make the voice of freedom heard in Congress -- make calls, ask your friends and family to call -- please do whatever you can.
Put Congress on notice that the American people don't want a "compromise" that sells out our rights. Act now. We're hearing the vote is tomorrow, so we could have less than 24 hours.
Believe me, no matter what happens, the ACLU will continue fighting this -- if necessary, in the courts.
Thank you for all you have done through this fight. Your dedication has truly inspired me and all of us at the ACLU. Now, let's hit the phones!
Caroline Fredrickson, ACLU
Caroline Fredrickson, Director
ACLU Washington Legislative Office