By William Lewis via Scoop.co.nz:
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has been one of the hot button issues for the current Congress controlled by the Democrats. One would think that the Democrats would be intrerested in defending our rights. We would be wrong in thinking so (IMHO):
HR 3773, The FISA Amendments Act of 2008, recapitulates a series of executive checks, requiring the Executive Branch to apply to a secret court asking for a search warrant BEFORE conducting the necessary wiretap. This sounds perfectly reasonable at first glance. However, under an “Emergency Authorization” detailed in the bill, the White House is allowed to conduct warrant-less wiretaps within a seven-day window before seeking the approval from the FISA court. In other words, if the President believes that an emergency exists, he then has the authority, under the new law, to conduct surveillance on literally anyone and he doesn’t need a search warrant or probable cause to legally issue the orders.
Are we sure about this? Let’s look at HR 3773 Section 703 d:
`(d) Emergency Authorization-
`(1) AUTHORITY FOR EMERGENCY AUTHORIZATION- Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, if the Attorney General reasonably determines that–
`(A) an emergency situation exists with respect to the acquisition of foreign intelligence information for which an order may be obtained under subsection (c) before an order authorizing such acquisition can with due diligence be obtained, and
`(B) the factual basis for issuance of an order under this subsection to approve such acquisition exists, the Attorney General may authorize such acquisition if a judge having jurisdiction under subsection (a)
(1) is informed by the Attorney General, or a designee of the Attorney General, at the time of such authorization that the decision has been made to conduct such acquisition and if an application in accordance with this section is made to a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as soon as practicable, but not more than 7 days after the Attorney General authorizes such acquisition.
`(2) MINIMIZATION PROCEDURES- If the Attorney General authorizes an acquisition under paragraph (1), the Attorney General shall require that the minimization procedures referred to in subsection (c)(1)(C) for the issuance of a judicial order be followed.
`(3) TERMINATION OF EMERGENCY AUTHORIZATION- In the absence of a judicial order approving an acquisition authorized under paragraph (1), such acquisition shall terminate when the information sought is obtained, when the application for the order is denied, or after the expiration of 7 days from the time of authorization by the Attorney General, whichever is earliest.
`(4) USE OF INFORMATION- If an application for approval submitted pursuant to paragraph
(1) is denied, or in any other case where the acquisition is terminated and no order is issued approving the acquisition, no information obtained or evidence derived from such acquisition, except under circumstances in which the target of the acquisition is determined not to be a United States person, shall be received in evidence or otherwise disclosed in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury, department, office, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee, or other authority of the United States, a State, or political subdivision thereof, and no information concerning any United States person acquired from such acquisition shall subsequently be used or disclosed in any other manner by Federal officers or employees without the consent of such person, except with the approval of the Attorney General if the information indicates a threat of death or serious bodily harm to any person.
The question becomes what can the government do in seven free days? Do we trust the Attorney General? We know we can’t with the current administration. Are we willing to do so under a Democratic administration? If we question the power being in the hands of a Republican Attorney General, why should we be willing to do so with a Democratic Attorney General? If it’s wrong for one, it’s wrong for the other.
Along with 196 other votes against the bill, Rep. Ron Paul weighed in on HR 3773 by saying, “This bill will allow the federal government to engage in the bulk collection of American citizens’ communications. In effect, it means that any American may have his electronic communications monitored without a search warrant. As such, the bill clearly violates the Fourth Amendment.” Rep. Paul went on to point out that of the 50,000 National Security Letters issued around 30,000 were issued, NOT for suspected terrorists, but for Americans. He later added, “When we come to accept that the government can spy on us without a court order, we have come to accept tyranny.” 
Say what you will about Rep. Paul, he’s been consistent in his opposition to the power grabs by the current administration. He points out that any American may be subject to this warrentless wiretapping for seven days. That means you!
We need to begin anew. The only way to do that is to completely remove laws from the books that violate our U.S. Constitution. Those laws being The Military Commissions Act, which ended Habeas Corpus; The John Warner Defense Act, which ended Posse Comitatus; The Detainee Treatment Act, which protects torture; The Real ID Act rider attached to HR 1268, which will give us a national ID card; and a half dozen others…
Perhaps we think that the next administration will willingly give up these power grabs. Are we sure that the Democrats aren’t thinking ‘We’ll handle them responsibly when we wield those powers once we have them’? Maybe we should keep this in the back of our minds as we continue our road toward the general election.
“If we permit our constitutional rights to be watered down out of fear, we have given up our democracy. Congress must stand firm and defend the Constitution.” — Dennis Kucinich
Note: There’s a link for this quote in the article. The diary didn’t like the link for some reason.
The writer than asks if they (Congress) will. More cogent is to ask if we will. We know what we’ve lost and we know what the Democratic Congress has been willing to do.
Originally posted here: http://rjones2818.blogspot.com/2008/…