Domestic Surveillance: March 2008 Archives
People in states that have yet to hold primaries should insist that Clinton and Obama take a stand on the frightening Homegrown Terrorism Bill before they give either candidate a vote.
All the Michigan/Florida controversy and Superdelegate issues aside, it seems like forcing the Democratic contenders to fight for their right to represent is better for all of us than the early anointing that generally happens. If they address actual issues, rather than engaging in irritating "red phone" banter, that is. They don't have so many differences (on Iraq, health care, the economy) that will affect our everyday lives, but their willingness to address our civil liberties emergency - or not - will reverberate for generations.
Right now, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is mulling over the Homegrown Terrorism Act. Obama is on the Committee and as of late last year had not taken a position on this bill that will create vast new arenas for the monitoring of U.S. citizens.
After nearly eight years of unchecked lawlessness and abuse of executive privilege, it's time make sure the next president knows that we will watch him or her like hawks, not grant extended powers in our already endemic surveillance society for monitoring everyday people who oppose a given administration's policies. Essentially, these candidates, who have pledged their lives to public service, are agreeing to be monitored by us and it's our job to do so.
Right now, the most important questions to many are, "Will you take the lead in repairing our looted and vandalized systems of government?" "Will you restore the rule of law?" "Will you resurrect our image in the eyes of the world?"
I am looking at both Obama and Clinton right now, and though Obama seems more promising, and had the mettle to take a stand on telecom immunity, I'm still not convinced that he is prepared to lead us out of our civil liberties emergency.
Rather than simply giving candidates our support or not, we could hold to the notion that it is our job not just to get excited by a speech, go to a voting booth, and cling to a fantasy that vacant campaign promises will become policy. Rather, with our vote we are giving them permission to be accountable to us.
We can promise the candidates that we will remain active stewards of democracy. We will insist that basic Constitutional safeguards remain in place. We are not afraid to press for impeachment, to protest, to create new parties whose representatives - unlike Congressional Democrats - will do what they were voted in to do.
If your state hasn't voted, contact Clinton and Obama's campaign offices and ask whether or not they will at the very least ensure that the vague language that could threaten first amendment rights is removed from the Homegrown Terrorism Bill and that independent civil liberties oversight of the commission is provided.
The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) tells us that although Telecom immunity has gotten all the press (certainly I've been fixated on it), judicial supervision is most important:
Yikes! The CDT provides an excellent overview, clearly breaking down what the issues are with the different bills, and what's at stake.
The House bill, as noted, puts judicial approval where it belongs - at the beginning of the process. In a huge concession to the government's arguments, the House bill does not require judicial approval of individual targets, even if they might communicate with someone in the U.S. Instead, the House bill creates a system of "program warrants" or "basket orders," under which the government can designate the individual targets on its own discretion.The House bill also takes significant steps to cut off an argument used by the Administration to justify post 9-11 warrantless surveillance outside the requirements of FISA. The House bill's "exclusivity" provision indicates that a Congressional authorization of the use of military force should not be construed to authorize surveillance unless it does so explicitly. The Senate bill, in contrast, merely repeats current law. It therefore invites the argument that Congress might implicitly authorize warrantless surveillance in the future when it authorizes the use of military force.
Send support to House leaders! Let them know you want legislation that maintains the rule of law.
~~ Center for Democracy and Technology