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President Bush orders National Security Agency to spy on Americans

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Guest Conyers for Congress   
Guest Conyers for Congress

As the chairmen of the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committees tasked with modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), we are working hard in Congress to pass a FISA bill that protects our national security, preserves our civil liberties, and denies the Senate's retroactive immunity to phone companies that participated in the Bush-Cheney Administration warrantless surveillance program.

 

Now we're at a critical juncture. The House and Senate have passed different versions of the new FISA legislation, and we are meeting to resolve those differences. The president and his Republican allies are using this opportunity to pressure our colleagues to give in and grant retroactive immunity. President Bush has been irresponsibly making false claims that we are more vulnerable to terrorism while this bill remains

 

That's why we need your help, right now, to push back against the White House while the final FISA bill is being negotiated. Will you write a letter-to-the-editor of your local newspaper to speak out and build grassroots support for fixing FISA the right way? Help us respond to White House scare tactics, preserve our civil liberties, and reject the Senate's telecom immunity.

 

We're pushing back against right-wing pressure. So now the Bush-Cheney Administration is ratcheting up their scare tactics and suggesting that congressional Democrats' efforts to get the FISA bill right this time will invite another terrorist attack. They are trying to scare Congress and the American people into accepting a FISA bill that includes the Senate-passed retroactive telecom immunity and erodes our privacy rights.

They've even launched a controversial television ad evoking ticking time-bomb imagery straight out of primetime's 24 to shock the American people into supporting another flawed FISA law. We've seen these tactics before, but we can't let them get away with it this time. We are pushing for a better FISA bill in Congress, but a few loud voices in Washington are more determined than ever to ram through another flawed piece of legislation.

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Guest Newt Gingrich   
Guest Newt Gingrich

Last month, when the Senate was considering the Protect America Act, Sen. Obama voted to deny protection for telecommunications companies under the bill.

 

But just last week, Sen. Obama's adviser, former CIA official John Brennan, told the National Journal that he disagrees with his boss's vote.

 

"I do believe strongly that [telecoms] should be granted that immunity," said Brennan. "They were told to [cooperate] by the appropriate authorities that were operating in a legal context."

 

Sen. Obama might cross a powerful special interest by doing so, but he would do his nation a great service by working to convince Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership to pass the Protect America Act.

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Guest Dan Scott   
Guest Dan Scott

Perhaps the only thing that has stopped government from broadly using “illegal telecom assisted wiretap evidence” against ordinary Citizens is that Telecoms don’t have immunity from being sued by charged criminal and civil asset forfeiture defendants.

President Bush wants Congress to give the Telecom Industry “Retroactive Immunity” for crimes the Telecom Industry might have committed against U.S. Citizens while helping government—illegally spy on Americans’ personal phone calls, faxes and emails?

 

Once Congress gives the Telecom Industry “Retroactive Immunity” what happens to NSA’s millions of illegally collected emails, faxes and phone call information that belong to U.S. Citizens?

 

Previously prosecutors were not allowed access to the Justice Department’s “intelligence files” for domestic criminal prosecutions. In 2003 a court ruling lowered that barrier, allowing prosecutors to review old surveillance. In 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft asked government prosecutors to review thousands of old intelligence files including wiretaps to retrieve information prosecutors could use in “ordinary criminal prosecutions.”

(See http://www.securityfocus.com/news/5452 WASHINGTON (AP) - "U.S. reviewing old, secret surveillance files in terrorism investigations." “4,500 files.” By, Ted Bridis, The Associated Press 2003-06-04

 

Perhaps the only thing that has stopped government from broadly using “illegal telecom assisted wiretap evidence” against ordinary Citizens is that Telecoms don’t have immunity from being sued by charged criminal and civil asset forfeiture defendants. The recent U.S. Senate bill that passed without House passage would give the Telecom Industry “Retroactive Immunity” against persons arrested or charged by the government with “illegal wiretap evidence. Currently no bill introduced by the U.S. Senate or House clearly state what illegal electronic surveillance can or can not be used by police or introduced into court by Government. Police may be free to sift though millions of illegally seized electronic communications to make that decision.

 

Any “telecom immunity bill” passed by Congress should include laws that force TELECOMS to pay “a defendant’s legal defense costs” when a defendant is forced to fight illegal NSA or other illegal government wiretap evidence in court—if the Telecom broke the law assisting government illegal wiretaps.

 

Depending on the kind of “Immunity” Congress gives the Telecom Industry for spying on its Citizens, could set NSA/FBI free—to share that “illegally collected wiretap information” with local, state and federal police in order to initiate almost any kind of criminal investigation.

 

It is problematic Law enforcement agencies will want to use NSA/FBI illegal wiretap evidence and other surveillance to go back perhaps decades to arrest Americans and/or civilly forfeit their homes, inheritances and business using only a "preponderance of civil evidence" under Title 18 of the United States Code.

 

The Patriot Act specifically mentions provisions passed in Rep. Henry Hyde’s bill HR 1658 "The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000." HR 1658 included a "retroactive asset forfeiture provision" that applies retroactively to “assets already subject to government forfeiture”, meaning "property already tainted by crime" provided “that property” was already part of or later connected to a criminal investigation in progress" when HR.1658 passed.

 

In 2000 after HR1658 passed the “old statute of limitations” died that gave government “five years” to seize property from the actual date a “property” was involved in crime. Police now have five-years to seize property from “whenever police claim” they learned a “property” was made subject to civil asset forfeiture. There are over 200 U.S. laws and violations that can subject property to civil asset forfeiture. For example a misrepresentation on a federally insured mortgage loan application can cause the federal the forfeiture of your home.

 

Most property and business owners that defend their assets against Government Civil Forfeiture claim an “innocent owner defense.” This defense can become a criminal prosecution trap for both guilty and innocent property owners. Any fresh denial to the government when questioned about committing a crime “even when you did not do it” can “involuntarily waive” your right to assert in your defense—that the “Criminal Statute of Limitations” has passed for prosecution. Any fresh denial of guild, even 30 years after a crime was committed may allow Government prosecutors to use old and new evidence, including information discovered during a Civil Asset Forfeiture Proceeding to launch a criminal prosecution. For that reason many innocent property and business owners are reluctant to defend their property and businesses from Government Civil Asset Forfeiture. Re: waiving Criminal Statute of Limitations: see USC18, Sec.1001, James Brogan V. United States. N0.96-1579.

 

Imagine NSA sharing its illegal-domestic surveillance information with countless police agencies that are increasingly dependent on forfeiting Citizens’ property to pay their department’s operating costs. Police can too easily take an innocent person’s hastily written email or phone call out of context to allege a crime was committed. Imagine Police using the Patriot Act’s low standard of proof “a civil preponderance of evidence” to judge NSA illegal domestic wiretap information, perhaps to go back before 2000 to civilly seize a Citizen's home, business or other property. No conviction is required for U.S. Government to civilly forfeit a Citizen’s home or business.

 

Under the Patriot Act, witnesses can be kept secret while being paid part of the assets they cause to be forfeited.

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Guest Congressman Ron Paul   
Guest Congressman Ron Paul

Last month, the House amended the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to expand the government’s ability to monitor our private communications. This measure, if it becomes law, will result in more warrantless government surveillance of innocent American citizens.

 

Though some opponents claimed that the only controversial part of this legislation was its grant of immunity to telecommunications companies, there is much more to be wary of in the bill. In the House version, Title II, Section 801, extends immunity from prosecution of civil legal action to people and companies including any provider of an electronic communication service, any provider of a remote computing service, “any other communication service provider who has access to wire or electronic communications,” any “parent, subsidiary, affiliate, successor, or assignee” of such company, any “officer, employee, or agent” of any such company, and any “landlord, custodian, or other person who may be authorized or required to furnish assistance.” The Senate version goes even further by granting retroactive immunity to such entities that may have broken the law in the past.

 

The new FISA bill allows the federal government to compel many more types of companies and individuals to grant the government access to our communications without a warrant. The provisions in the legislation designed to protect Americans from warrantless surveillance are full of loopholes and ambiguities. There is no blanket prohibition against listening in on all American citizens without a warrant.

 

We have been told that this power to listen in on communications is legal and only targets terrorists. But if what these companies are being compelled to do is legal, why is it necessary to grant them immunity? If what they did in the past was legal and proper, why is it necessary to grant them retroactive immunity?

 

In communist East Germany , one in every 100 citizens was an informer for the dreaded secret police, the Stasi. They either volunteered or were compelled by their government to spy on their customers, their neighbors, their families, and their friends. When we think of the evil of totalitarianism, such networks of state spies are usually what comes to mind. Yet, with modern technology, what once took tens of thousands of informants can now be achieved by a few companies being coerced by the government to allow it to listen in to our communications. This surveillance is un-American.

 

We should remember that former New York governor Eliot Spitzer was brought down by a provision of the PATRIOT Act that required enhanced bank monitoring of certain types of financial transactions. Yet we were told that the PATRIOT Act was needed to catch terrorists, not philanderers. The extraordinary power the government has granted itself to look into our private lives can be used for many purposes unrelated to fighting terrorism. We can even see how expanded federal government surveillance power might be used to do away with political rivals.

 

The Fourth Amendment to our Constitution requires the government to have a warrant when it wishes to look into the private affairs of individuals. If we are to remain a free society we must defend our rights against any governmental attempt to undermine or bypass the Constitution.

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Guest Caroline Fredrickson   
Guest Caroline Fredrickson

Contrary to the administration’s persistent fear mongering, the expiration of the Protect America Act has not caused the collapse of our intelligence capabilities. All that has happened is that an unnecessary law has not been renewed. In fact, while testifying before Congress Wednesday, FBI Director Mueller claimed he was unaware of any wiretaps being imperiled or denied since the PAA lapsed.

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Guest A Better Mouse Trap   
Guest A Better Mouse Trap

The Senate approved, 69-28, (HR 6304) "to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, through 2012 and grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications firms that helped the government spy on Americans after 9/11 without court warrants. The bill would permit surveillance without specific warrants on totally foreign communications passing through U.S. switching points; authorize the secret FISA court to issue blanket warrants for surveillance of communications between U.S. and foreign locations and continue the existing requirement that strictly domestic spying targeting Americans be authorized by the FISA court on a case-by-case basis."

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Guest Kurt   
Guest Kurt

Government sued for operating electronic Dragnet

 

On September 18, 2008, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a lawsuit against the NSA, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney's chief of staff David Addington, former Attorney General and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and other government agencies and individuals who ordered or participated in the warrantless domestic surveillance. They sued on behalf of AT&T customers to stop the illegal, unconstitutional, and ongoing dragnet surveillance of their communications and communications records. The EFF's ongoing case may be bogged down by constitutional questions due to new FISA provisions, but they won't impact the new case.

 

Late Friday night, the Government started the formal process for retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies sued by EFF and others for their involvement in the warrantless surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. The immunity is a key part of the unconstitutional FISA Amendments Act passed by Congress in July. EFF will be challenging the new law as unconstitutional and that challenge is set for a hearing before federal judge Vaughn Walker,

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