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FISA Follies
Dianne Feinstein, Snoop

Diannecam

Dear Sen. Feinstein,

I sent you a constituent letter earlier today, in which I asked you the question, “What on earth were you thinking when you voted for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill?” Since then, I’ve been reading more about this bill and thinking about your vote, in an effort to answer my own question. Since I am the mother of a 12-year-old girl, I have become very skilled at preempting criticisms of my opinions.

Not only have I been unable to come up with any reasonable explanation for your vote, I have come up with additional information that supports my being so perplexed by your vote. Here is my understanding of some of the pertinent facts, as I have been following them. President Bush has been running a warrantless wiretapping program outside of our laws nonstop since 2001, in brazen violation of the FISA law. To the credit of the healthy functioning of our nation’s separation of powers and checks and balances, a FISA judge recently ruled that Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program is indeed illegal. What was your response to this president breaking our federal laws? You voted to change the law to give him authority to ignore the law he’s been breaking for almost six years! Instead of doing what we voters elected you to do, which is to hold him accountable, you voted to legalize his lawbreaking in retrospect.

Why did you do this? The only explanation I can come up with is that you mistakenly assume that contradicting this president on any matter having to do with national security will hurt the Democratic party’s chances in upcoming elections. Well, you’re wrong about that. By now, you must realize that the political tactic of terrorism fear-mongering employed by the Republican party now for seven long years is no longer effective.

For the record, Bush’s performance since taking office has earned him the lowest job approval rating of any president in our history. That seems to be his greatest presidential achievement, what we will one day refer to as his legacy. His policies and his performance are so overwhelmingly disapproved of by Americans all across the country, the numbers barely register. And here in your district, as you might guess, his approval is even lower than his dismally low national approval rating.

President Bush likes to say that his popularity should have no bearing on our national security. No one will argue with that! However, we’re not talking about his popularity here. We’re talking about the American
people’s judgment and confidence in his ability and competence to perform his duties as our President, including his responsibilities to protect U.S. national security, within the framework of the laws, as set
forth in the U.S. Constitution. Nobody I know is surprised at his admission that he can’t do his job, as set forth and constrained by our laws. Where some of us part company is at the junction at which he says
he must break our laws or change our laws in order to protect us. It is my opinion that you just enabled him to continue doing a bad job, but with a greater level of executive power.

After reading up on this FISA situation before and after your vote, here is what I have learned. Before this vote, it was easier for President Bush to get a warrant to listen into actual threats from abroad, than it is for me to get my 12-year old to pick up her stuff strewn around her bedroom floor. Then I thought, well, what if the process to get a warrant is too cumbersome for a president to respond effectively to immediate threats? Even in this extreme case, I came up empty-handed in my search to locate a reason for your yes vote. If there’s not enough time to get a warrant, then Bush has 72 hours to obtain a warrant and make it legal retroactively. No problema! The FISA law, before you voted to change it, gave Bush every tool he might possibly need to protect our country from 9/11-type events, while not overstepping the civil liberties and privacy of innocent Americans.

Now, let’s take a look at how this FISA situation sits after your vote. Well, for one thing, President Bush now has the power to warrantlessly monitor the phone calls and e-mails of American citizens, even in cases that are not linked to terrorism. And, he can do this with zero reporting to Congress and with next-to-zero judicial oversight. Judicial and congressional oversight has now been replaced by oversight by the attorney general, which today would be Alberto Gonzales. This particular scenario should raise more than just a few eyebrows, since our AG has demonstrated to the world that he is either horribly incompetent or a shameless liar. The FISA Bill that you voted to approve removed the legal restrictions put in place specifically to protect American citizens from an overreaching executive branch and its political appointees. Your vote gave this president and his team this authority.

Even former Attorney General John Ashcroft fought this illegal FISA program, while he was critically ill, hospitalized in intensive care, in extreme pain, and heavily sedated. Yet you, just prior to your August vacation, chose to ignore the courts, change the law, and give this president a blank check. That’s quite a feat for you to now be on the right of John Ashcroft.

So, as far as I am concerned, Sen. Feinstein, by voting as you did, you failed to safeguard the privacy of American citizens, and capitulated to this administration’s unreasonable excuses that they cannot protect our national security legally.

I am very concerned that you did this.

Linda Sexauer lives in northern California and has supported Dianne Feinstein since the 1980s. (She's beginning to think that maybe she should have taken a closer look at Michael Huffington in 1994). She can be contacted at linda@sexauerluthier.com

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