Barack Obama sure gave a good talk so long as his audience was the kind of primary voter who cared about civil liberty in the United States of America:
You will have elected a president who has taught the Constitution and believes in the Constitution and will obey the Constitution of the United States of America.
Then the primaries were over, and Barack Obama stepped back from his promises. Barack Obama voted for the FISA Amendments Act. In case you didn’t know, that’s our new law passed over the summer that lets an American president spy without a warrant for periods of up to 67 days, then keep the information even if a judge later says the spying violated your rights. Nice talk on the Constitution, Senator Obama, but I’ve read the Constitution, and I know that the Fourth Amendment says you can’t do that to us. You keep talking your smooth, reassuring talk, but I’m watching your feet. You’re walking away from liberty.
Senator Obama, your campaign staffers keep telling me that John McCain’s worse than you, and I know that. While you vote for the FISA Amendments Act, John McCain goes beyond that and votes for bills that permit torture in the name of ending terror. John McCain loves bills like the Patriot Act and the REAL ID Act more than you. I get that.
But what I don’t get is why I should be giving you a penny of my money. You told me you’d obey the Constitution, you told me you’d defend the rule of law… and did you? No. As soon as you had my primary vote in the bag, you went ahead and did exactly the opposite.
So why should I trust you, Barack Obama? Why should I trust you with one red cent as the personal embodiment of the defense of American liberty? I shouldn’t and I won’t.
Instead, this season I’ll be giving to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They are walking the walk. The ACLU has filed suit against the federal government, challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act on behalf of human rights workers, reporters and other American professionals whose communications are is likely to be swept up in the FISA dragnets. Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project, laid this challenge down when filing the lawsuit last week:
The administration has argued that the law is necessary to address the threat of terrorism, but the truth is that the law sweeps much more broadly and implicates all kinds of communications that have nothing to do with terrorism or criminal activity of any kind. The Fourth Amendment was meant to prohibit exactly the kinds of dragnet surveillance that the new law permits.
Meanwhile, the EFF filed a lawsuit today, Jewel v. NSA, also challenging the constitutionality of the warrantless spying carried out by the Bush administration for so many long years. Although the FISA Amendments Act tried to make constitutional challenges illegal by granting automatic immunity to telecommunications corporations for breaking the law by participating, the EFF has countered this move by shifting the target of its constitutional challenge to the members of the Bush administration who approved and ran the whole operation: President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales among them. Says EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn:
Demanding personal accountability from President Bush, Vice President Cheney and others responsible for the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of ordinary Americans’ communications is the best way to guarantee that such blatantly illegal spying will not be authorized in the future. Our lawsuit today should sound a clear warning to future occupants of the White House: if you break the law and violate Americans’ privacy, there will be consequences.
Read the EFF’s full legal brief here.
Here are two organizations that are actually doing the work to dismantle this massive spying network, actually doing what it takes to defend our constitutional liberties. You have an itch to write a check during this political season? Fine. Give money to help the people who are actually doing something about this mess we’re in. Give to the EFF. Give to the ACLU. I just did, and let me tell you, it feels good.