As I write this, the House of Representatives
is poised to vote has voted--or may have already voted--on the bill to "reform" FISA--the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The Democratically controlled House
is on the edge of giving has given the White House and Congressional Republicans everything they wanted--most importantly, retroactive immunity against legal prosecution for telecommunication companies who assisted the Bush White House in spying illegally on American citizens' phone calls and emails. After that, it only remains for the Senate to follow suit--something they've pretty much already said they would do--and AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and other corporations will get away with openly having committed felonies and the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights will be effectively eviscerated.
Why is this important to LGBT folks?
Well, we don't have to look back far in history to find a time--the 1950's, I was alive then albeit, a kid--when being gay was enough to get you investigated for "Un-American" activities. For a much more recent example of government agencies equating LGBT identity as subversion, check out the video clip on Waymon's post today.
The fact is, being an outspoken LGB or T activist is possibly sufficient - maybe even likely, if you're vocal enough -- to put you at risk of having your electronic communications secretly monitored by the US government.
Another reason stopping this bill is vital is that, until now, telecoms and the White House have successfully fought all attempts to disclose exactly who was being spied on, by whom and when. Legal discovery was the last hope of forcing the recalcitrant parties to reveal their secrets. This FISA re-write granting telecoms retroactive legal immunity preempts this.
It is galling that the Democratic leadership shoving this bill through Congress has been presenting it as a "compromise" to be proud of. As one of the few courageous Democrats to oppose it, Russ Feingold, has so succinctly stated:
"The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President's illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration." [emphasis mine]
According to Glenn Greenwald at Salon, standing up to the Bush White House on telecom immunity was the single legislative issue on which the Congressional Democratic majority elected in 2006 had not yet folded under Republican pressure.
are in the process of folding have folded now.
If you care about the Bill of Rights, call and/or email your
congressional representative and senators now. Likewise, call Senator Barack Obama's campaign. Previously, Sen. Obama stated his opposition to telecom immunity, but as this bill has been proceeding to the floor for a vote, he has remained uncharacteristically silent.
Update:You can read the House roll call.
While I do not see Obama's vote ilisted, he Obama did issue a statement in favor of the capitulation. I am deeply disappointed by this and it rekindles my early fears that Obama's eloquent words do not match his legislative actions, especially when powerful business interests--such as telecommunications and the media--are involved.
Update II A I stated in comments below, Obama's vote is not listed on the roll-call, as--D'uh!-- it was the House that voted today, not the Senate. The Senate will probably consider the bill next week. For a great summary of the situation, see this clip from Countdown, featuring Constitutional law professor, Jonathan Turley.