From the June 2008 Idaho Observer:


Terror war-obsessed Congress votes to suspend 4th Amendment for four years

Still going forward on the premise that al-Qaeda terrorists led by Osama bin Laden planned and executed the "unexpected and unprovoked" September 11 attacks, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 293-128 to pass 4th-Amendment compromising amendments to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The bill to amend FISA, HR 6304, was introduced by Rep. Sylvestre Reyes (D-TX) June 19, 2008, was hotly debated June 20 and passed overwhelmingly later the same day. The bill has been sent to the Senate where it is expected to be approved quickly and sent to the president for signing into law.

Bill proponents claim that America needs the amendments so it can listen in on al-Qaeda and other terrorists who may be plotting another attack on America.

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). said, "The American people have been waiting for this since 12:01 AM on February 6th when the Protect America Act expired. During the intervening time weíve actually been unnecessarily vulnerable to those who would do us harm in this era of worldwide terrorism...First and foremost, the proposal before us ensures that we will continue to have the ability to monitor the conversations of Al Qaeda."

The other position taken by bill supporters is that, by taking away constitutional protections we are somehow affirming them.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) said, "Because what this bill does today is reaffirm what we have been saying for the last several years: That the due process of the Constitution, the 4th Amendment, is alive and well and protected in this bill. And any rhetoric to the contrary is simply not true,"

So, support for amending FISA to include Americans, is based on the false assumption that al-Qaeda perpetrated 9/11 and that violating the plain language of the 4th Amendment is supporting it.

Bill opponents are less confused about the fundamental issues involved.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) said, "Today I rise in enormous opposition to HR 6304 because, frankly Madame Speaker, it is very difficult to put lipstick on a pig. And what we have here is an opportunity for the government to conduct mass, untargeted surveillance of all communications coming into and out of the United States without any individual review and without any finding of wrong doing. What Americans donít know is that this government can now surveil you for seven days without any approval and then if the court denies the application, while the application is being appealed from the denial, you can be surveilled for 60 days. This is not constitutional protection."

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said, "This bill undermines the ability of federal courts to review the legality of domestic surveillance programs. It provides defacto retroactive immunity to telecom companies.... Others, including myself, have had their privacy invaded even though they posed absolutely no threat to national security."

Rep. Rush Holt, (D-NJ) said, "Unfortunately, the negotiators who brought this bill to the floor, bought into the flawed assumptions of the Bush administration that because we live in a dangerous world we must now redefine the 4th Amendment. And thus the fundamental relationship between the government and its people...It permits massive warrantless surveillance in the absence of any standard for defining how communications of innocent Americans will be protected."

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA)., said, "This bill says if the telecommunications companies violated Americaís privacy willfully, knowingly, knowing it was illegal, we are giving them immunity. Where is the excuse for that? Where is the excuse for turning a nation of laws into a nation that will be lead by a president who knows how to manipulate our fears? ...and those on this side have accused us of having a pre-9/11 mentality. Let me remind them that July 4th, 1776 was pre-9/11. And heaven help the day that those values are shucked aside at the service of fearóreject this bill."

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said, "Under this bill, large corporations and big government can work together to violate the U.S. Constitution, use massive databases to spy, to wiretap, to invade the privacy of the American people. Thereís no requirement for the government to seek a warrant for any intercepted communication that includes a U.S. citizen as long as the program, in general, is directed towards foreign targets. This Congress must not allow the names of innocent, U.S. citizens to be placed on secret intelligence lists. Under this bill, violations of 4th Amendment rights and blanket wiretaps will be permissible for the next four years. Massive and untargeted collection of communications will continue." "Furthermore, it allows the type of surveillance to be applied to all communications entering and exiting the United States. These blanket wire taps make it impossible to know whose calls are being intercepted by the National Security Agency. Letís stand up for the 4th Amendment."

It should also be noted that FISA comes with a secret "star chamber" court to which Americans can now be "tried."

It would appear that there is growing division among members of Congress that supersede party loyalty. Though most dissenting members of Congress do not come right out and say it, their resistance to the war on terror and the war on American civil liberties is likely underscored by their belief that al-Qaeda was not responsible for 9/11.