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Congress Heard Us Loud and Clear

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March 13, 2008

To everyone who called their Congressperson or signed the email petition: Thank you! You know from reading Tuesday’s news that the House has proposed compromise legislation that refuses to give the lawbreaking telecoms a free pass through our judicial system, and prohibits the wiretapping of Americans on U.S. soil.

On Monday, we delivered our “Keep Standing Up to Fear Mongering” petition with more than 50,000 signatures to House Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer and representatives who stood up to President Bush. And last week’s “Calling for Freedom” campaign generated tens of thousands of phone calls to Congress. The House heard your calls for justice for those whose Fourth Amendment rights have been so flagrantly violated by the phone companies, and listened to your demands!

This morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood up to Bush administration fear-mongering, noting that this administration has misled Congress before.

But the fight is nowhere near over yet. The House is expected to vote on their compromise bill today or tomorrow. Now’s not the time to get complacent: we need to keep the pressure on Congress to continue standing up to Bush’s incessant demands for telecom immunity and his veto threats.

Just yesterday, after reviewing the previously classified documents related to the NSA’s unlawful wiretapping program (the same docs the House requested repeatedly over the past year, but which the Bush administration only deigned to release to them in the past few weeks) House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) issued a statement on behalf of 18 committee members in which they concluded:

As a result of our review of classified as well as unclassified materials concerning the Administration’s Terrorist Surveillance Program, we have concluded that blanket retroactive immunity for phone companies is not justified.”

…We have concluded that the Administration has not established a valid and credible case justifying the extraordinary action of Congress enacting blanket retroactive immunity as set forth in the Senate bill.

…One of the cornerstone principles of our system of government is that it is the proper role of the courts to resolve factual and legal disputes between parties. The granting of blanket retroactive legal immunity is inconsistent with that principle.

…In our view, the arguments for blanket retroactive immunity – that a decision not to enact it will irreparably harm the relevant carriers and that it will endanger our national security – have not been substantiated, either in a public or a classified setting.

The statement goes on to say that the committee did not find that these lawsuits against the telecoms would damage the companies’ reputation or bottom line (as Bush and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell have repeatedly insisted) and that these companies might fare best if they fight these cases in the courts with a good faith effort to clear their names. Blanket immunity would only do damage. The committee also didn’t find any evidence that lack of immunity for the phone companies would jeopardize national security in any way, another scare tactic Bush likes to use. Over, and over again.

In addition, Conyers and Co. call for a bipartisan commission (like the 9/11 Commission) to investigate the NSA’s wiretapping program. Somehow we think that one’s a longshot, but we can always hope for a little sun to shine on these shadowy programs.

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