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Which Senators Sold You Out to the Spies, and What to Do About It

On January 24 2008, a roll call vote was held in the Senate. The vote’s purpose was to stop consideration of a bill from the Senate Intelligence Committee — — and in its place let the Senate consider a bill from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Differences between the Senate Judiciary Committee bill and the Senate Intelligence bill include the following:

  1. The Intelligence Committee bill would make it illegal to challenge the constitutionality of warrantless government surveillance in court. The Judiciary Committee bill would let Americans keep the right to challenge the constitutionality of warrantless government surveillance.
  2. The Intelligence Committee bill does not provide meaningful court oversight of “minimization procedures” to ensure that American citizens’ communications aren’t being snooped on without a warrant by spies of the executive branch. In place of court oversight, executive branch spies would simply be trusted to not spy on Americans without a warrant. The Judiciary Committee bill would place more stringent court oversight over “minimization procedures” to keep the spies of the executive branch more in line.
  3. If and when the executive branch does end up snooping on Americans’ conversations without a warrant, The Intelligence Committee bill lets the government use that information anyway. The Judiciary Committee bill does not let the government use that information.
  4. The Intelligence Committee bill permits the government to spy on a foreigner’s conversations without a warrant when really the significant target is the content of an American’s conversation with that foreigner. The Judiciary Committee bill does not permit such “reverse targeting,” insisting that if the government wants to spy on an American, it needs the warrant specified by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  5. The Intelligence Committee bill doesn’t actually restrict warrantless wiretapping provisions to those under the authority of the bill, raising the not-at-all remote possibility that the Bush administration or its successor might open up an additional warrantless surveillance program without pesky restrictions. The Judiciary Committee bill takes pains to say that executive branch surveillance programs must be under its review and authority.
  6. The Intelligence Committee bill permits “bulk collection” by executive branch spies of all the communication between Americans at home and foreigners abroad. Yes, all of it. The Judiciary Committee bill does not.

Both the Intelligence Committee version of the FISA Amendments Act and the Judiciary Committee version of the FISA Amendments Act would permit wiretapping American phone lines without a warrant (and remember, warrants are reasons). The best solution would be to not pass either of these bills. Before the “Protect America Act” was passed hastily in August, there was NO legal authority permitting ANY warrantless wiretapping in the USA… and did we get attacked by Al Qaeda last June?

Procedurally speaking, however, a politician who supports liberty would rather see the Judiciary Committee bill passed than see the Intelligence Committee bill passed. The roll call vote held in the Senate on January 24 2008 was a vote to decide which bill would head to the floor: the Intelligence Committee bill or the Judiciary Committee bill. There were three classes of Senators in the roll-call vote yesterday: Senators who voted to let executive branch spies snoop on Americans without warrants or oversight, Senators who voted for constitutional standards and the rule of law in surveillance, and Senators who couldn’t be bothered to show up and vote.

Senators who Voted To Let Government Spies Snoop on Americans Without Warrant or Oversight:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Wayne Allard (R-CO)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Sam Brownback (R-KS)
Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Thomas Carper (D-DE)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Norman Coleman (R-MN)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Larry Craig (R-ID)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)
Pete Domenici (R-NM)
John Ensign (R-NV)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Charles Hagel (R-NE)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
James Inhofe (R-OK)
Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Joseph Lieberman (Me, Myself and I-CT)
Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Mel Martinez (R-FL)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
John D. Rockefeller the Fourth, Esquire (D-WV)
Ken Salazar (D-CO)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)
John Sununu (R-NH)
John Thune (R-SD)
David Vitter (R-LA)
George Voinovich (R-OH)
John Warner (R-VA)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)

Senators who voted for constitutional standards and the rule of law in surveillance

Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Max Baucus (D-MT)
Joseph Biden (D-DE)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Robert Byrd (D-WV)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Robert Casey (D-PA)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
John Kerry (D-MA)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Herb Kohl (D-WI)
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
James Webb (D-VA)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Senators who couldn’t be bothered to show up and vote

Hillary Clinton (D-NY) (promised to oppose immunity provision, but didn’t)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
John McCain (R-AZ)
Barack Obama (D-IL) (promised to oppose immunity provision, but didn’t)

Here’s a weekend task:

1. Find the Senators from your state, and click through the link to find information on how to contact them.

2. Do it. Make that phone call.

3. Congratulate or berate your Senators (as appropriate) for their vote yesterday. Let them know that you’re aware of the constitutional issues involved.

4. Tell them you’re aware that there will be a vote on “cloture” (stopping debate and moving on to a vote) for the Intelligence Committee version of the FISA Amendments Act. Ask them to vote to continue debate on the bill. Ask them further to support Senator Christopher Dodd’s filibuster of the bill, if it should come to that.

5. Tell them you’re a registered voter and that you’ll be writing a letter to the editor about their conduct next week, either to congratulate or to berate depending on their conduct.

3 thoughts on “Which Senators Sold You Out to the Spies, and What to Do About It”

  1. Illinois says:

    Weekend, schmeekend.

    If you are at a phone now, call now. It will give all those Legislative Assistants something to gossip about tonight when they are unwinding. And let them anticipate the even greater of volume of messages that will be waiting for them Monday morning.

    Both Durbin’s and Obama’s offices asked for my zipcode, that means they’ve been asked to keep a tally.

    Obama’s office sounded harried, put me on hold, another voice picked up and confirmed the senator opposes any retroactive immunity–you could tell the aide was reading it quickly off of a script–and said they ‘did not know’–(backtracked and restated?)–‘did not yet have a statement from the senator’ about whether he would come back for this vote. He supports the filibuster.

    If you can, call now. Some of those offices turn off the phones at 4 PM eastern time.

  2. Jim says:

    Senator Sherrod Brown’s office asked me for a tally too. Republican Senator George Voinovich’s office, however, did not.

  3. Jody Biesche says:

    George W. Bush was reputed to have said once that the Constitution was “just a goddam piece of paper.” Why are so many senators apparently agreeing with him by allowing the Bush administration to so blatantly violate the 4th Amendment? I don’t buy the “national security” argument, which Bush and Cheney trot out every time they want to break the law. If we don’t adhere to the Constitution there is no “America” to keep secure, we’re just another third world country at the mercy of the whims of a petty dictator.

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