Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic
howeird

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Congresscritter, mo betta

Dear Howard,

Because of your interest in the Foreign intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), I want you to know that I voted against H.R. 6304, the FISA Amendment Act on June 20, 2008. The bill unfortunately passed the House by a vote of 293 to 129.

Let me begin by saying that this legislation is a vast improvement over previous law. The bill very importantly establishes that FISA is the exclusive means for electronic surveillance by the U.S. and requires prior approval by the FISA Courts. In some respects the legislation goes even further than the existing FISA statute or the House-passed RESTORE Act in protecting the civil liberties of U.S. persons by requiring the Administration to seek a court order before conducting surveillance on U.S. persons abroad. Until now and under the Protect America Act, the executive branch could conduct electronic surveillance of U.S. persons without prior judicial approval. I voted against the bill because it allows the lawsuits against the telecommunications companies to go forward in a highly limited fashion.

Over the past year I have fought hard against and voted against granting retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies who participated in the President's secret surveillance program which monitored thousands of U.S. citizens without warrants and in violation of FISA and our Constitution. As a Member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I've personally read the certification letters that Attorney General Gonzales sent to several telecommunications companies and do not believe those letters complied with the existing FISA statute.

While the bill does not explicitly grant retroactive liability protection to telephone companies for information they provided under the warrantless surveillance program, the measure requires federal and state courts to promptly dismiss lawsuits against such communications service providers. The attorney general must certify that 1) the phone companies received written requests that certified that warrants were not required by law to collect such information, 2) the

-over-

information provided was intended to be used to prevent terrorism, and 3) the requests for information were authorized by the President. I believe this threshold is too low and is tantamount to retroactive immunity.

Throughout our nation's history, the judiciary has been the most important check on an overzealous executive, and it is often through the judicial process that we uncover and remedy some of the most egregious executive misconduct. This legislation undermines and effectively nullifies the courts' ability to hold the Administration accountable for its actions, which I believe violated the Constitution.

If you have any questions or comments, let me hear from you. I value what my constituents say to me because I need your thoughts and benefit from your ideas.

I've created an ongoing e-newsletter to keep constituents informed on a variety of congressional issues and legislation. Many constituents tell me how much they value reading it, and if you would like to as well, you can go to my website at http://eshoo.house.gov and click on "E-Mail Sign-Up." Your email address will never be used by anyone except my office to communicate with you, and your tax dollars will be conserved by using electronic communications rather than traditional mailings.


Sincerely,

Anna G. Eshoo
Member of Congress
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