Sunday, March 16, 2008

Opinion: Should the Senate and the President back changes in the surveillance laws in the U.S.?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House of Representatives voted Friday to back the Democratic-sponsored revisions to federal surveillance laws.

The vote was 213-197 in favor of a revision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill that was supported by the Democratic leadership.
One member voted present.

The vote came after a secret session Thursday night in the House. It was the first time the House has met in secret since 1983.

The Democratic plan would allow telecommunications companies to be sued for their role in the administration's much-disputed warrantless surveillance program.

The bill now goes to the Senate, but both the Senate and President Bush have made it clear that they will not support the bill without an immunity provision.

Bush has spent weeks pressuring the House to grant retroactive legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in the program, initiated after the September 11 attacks.

Bush argues that legal protection is needed for companies to continue cooperating with the government and has vowed to veto the House Democratic proposal, which would allow the lawsuits to move forward in federal courts.

The full article is much longer and has much more information. See it here:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/03/14/house.fisa.vote/index.html

43 comments:

Vlad said...

This is a very tough subject. The United States can either discard the people's rights with this bill or threaten the people's safety by requiring warrants which take a while to issue. The President will, of course, not back the changes made, and I'm a bit surprised at the Senate's plans to not back the changes. They should back it since it is a Democratic bill and the Senate is ruled by the Democrats. Many people disagree with the warrantless surveillance because they have a fear of gov. I can see the gov. abusing its powers by surveilling some people, but I don't think soccer moms in Duluth should be worried. But I personally don't agree with this bill because it goes against everything that the United States stands for. Here's a quote from a very old vocabulary quiz I had remembered:
Ben Franklin- "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. "

Tom B. said...

I believe that the Senate and Bush should not back changes on this bill. All the talk about our liberties being taking away is nonsense. The people who are under surveillance by the U.S. government aren’t just regular citizens like you and me; they're people who are in contact with terrorists. I mean come on, are you really worried about liberties being taking away from someone who is making calls to terrorists. It’s just my opinion that by having revisions on this law could in fact endanger American safety in the future. I wouldn’t want to look back at a terrorist attack that could have been prevented in time if it wasn’t for the revisions in this bill. I’m just saying, if taping someone’s phone can protect this country I don’t know why anyone would argue against that.

MorganJ said...

I agree with Vlad that this is a tough subject. I can see both sides of the story. On one hand, the "unwarrented" wire tapping and such goes against our liberties established in our Constitution. On the other hand, it shouldn't be a big deal if the only people the government is using this bill against are those who are under suspision of jepordizing the safety of our country.

With that being said, I feel that Senate should NOT pass this bill, and if they do, the president SHOULD veto it.

I want to be safe in my country and I feel that these steps... if they are helping... should continue.

ericag said...

No, I do not think the Senate nor the President should back the changes to the canges in the surveillance laws. I agree with Tom, the regular citizens of this country are not effected. The people who have contact with terriorist should not be just left do what ever they choose. Once you cross the line of creating danger to an intire country, you should not be given the rights of the common people.

Erica C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erica C said...

Vlad beat me to the Benjamin Franklin quote, but I think it needs repeating:

"They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Warrantless surveillance is anything but patriotic. I'm tired of the American people willingly giving up their rights to feel some sense of security; however, I'm not sure how many Americans have considered the amount of power they have given the government. What rights are we going to surrender next?

It's fairly clear that the bill will be vetoed as is, but I would be for an immunity provision if it means it would become a law. At least it would be one step in the right direction.

Adam L said...

I do not agree with warrantless surveillance. I feel that we as citizens have a right to hide all the illegal things we are doing. I know that sounds bad, but it is a question of morals, some feel smoking pot should be legal. So they do it against the law. The government can't have complete control of the people. I am surprised that the senate will not back the bill, but not surprised Bush won't. Although, people feel that the change of the bill will endanger our safety, I believe that the govt has many other ways of stopping attacks. They are even more alert after 9/11. I doo feel that the past law gave the right of a no warrant, so there should be immunities, yet It should need to prosecute for the future.

CarolineB said...

Democrats are taking huge risks and don't even CARE?!!! Actually, I think they're the only ones who DO care. Instead of trying to take away every ounce of privacy, the Democrats are attempting to SAVE us from becoming a nation of surveillance.
All I can think at this point is...Big Brother. Telescreens.

War is peace.
The unending war on terror has some scary parallels to 1984.
The 9/11 attacks really scared Americans, Bush (more like whoever writes his speeches) feeds on that fear and says things like "Americans want their children to be safe from terror".
WHO DOESN'T?! But if the terrorists are the government...where does that leave Americans and their children?
All of this fear is making me sick.
Bush referred to it as "a bill that would undermine America's security" well that sounds like something unpatriotic! Dangerous!
Bush also said in the speech he gave about vetoing the bill that Democrats are more concerned with "investigating our intelligence professionals" than "giving them the tools to protect us." It’s necessary to investigate these professionals if there is a doubt about their actions? Checks and balances are there for a reason; I think everyone on the Hill has forgotten that. I think that the democratic process needs to be preserved. There is something in more danger here than America’s safety from terrorists. The threat of liberties being stripped away one by one for whatever reasons the government wants. The threat of forgetting why and how this country is so great. We cannot allow fear to consume us. We cannot turn on the lights every time we think there is a ghost. It’s unrealistic fear that at some point, people grow out of. I believe that Barack Obama can be the father who tells us the truth – “there’s no such thing as ghosts, you have no reason to be afraid.”

By the way, Bush almost referred to the Protect America Act as the Patriot Act. So, can he differentiate between the two? Or are they just a blur of protection and patriotism- two words that sound better than the truth? I am still shaking my head and I watched the video at least 15 minutes ago.

DanielleT said...

Although I understand the present reasoning of warrantless surveillance and why it may seem like a good idea, I feel as though the minute they have the permission to use it for putting a stop to terrorism they will take advantage of it. More than likely, it will start with the explanation of terrorism and then will be used for more than its original cause. Personally, I feel as though warrantless surveillance is an extreme form of invadings one's privacy. Without being aware, the government may cross the line by using it for anyone thinking that they are still protecting the U.S. from terrorism. Overall, I hope that warrantless surveillance doesn't take action. I believe more bad will result than good.

Erica T said...

Surveillance is one of the biggest and long-lasting bones I've ever had to pick with our government. We were talking about this very thing in my Brit Lit class not too long ago as a 1984 discussion. Apparently they're bugging our OnStar systems and everything.
I basically agree with just about everything Vlad has to say. It certainly goes against everything the U.S. stands for. Liberty isn't being watched under an uncomfortably close eye when we're doing something as innocent as driving our minivans or chatting with a brother in another state. I don't feel like I'm in the land of the free when I hear statistics about the percentage of our day we spend in sight of surveillance cameras.
Something clearly needs to be done before this gets even more out of hand, and anybody who agrees can probably also agree in not having any faith in Bush to take care of it.

shannond said...

I understand and agree with the need for surveillence on terrorists. If a government official suspects that an American citizen is a terrorist, he/she can do everything in his/her power to issue a warrant. September 11th was a very different time for American than the present day. I think we all have a wider sense of security from terrorists, and in turn, the surveillence laws need to be in accordance with the United States Constitution. Though the President and the Senate will not back the changes, I hope to see some revisions to the bill when it gets sent back to the House. In times of war, President Bush has the authority to bend the Constitution to ensure public safety. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: should President Bush have the authority to disobey the United States Constitution at a time when we shouldn't be at war at all?

Christina S said...

I do not agree with Warrantless surveillance. I agree with Erica t, that I don't feel like I'm living in the land of the free when we're constantly being watched. The Senate and the President should not back the changes. I think giving the government this power would be a mistake. It would get out of hand, and the power would be abused and used for things other than what is was originally intended to be used for.

arletap said...

Should they back the surveillance laws? For the good of the country, yes. For the good of themselves, certainly not.

The bill passed by the House does not include retroactive immunity – therefore, closed-door court cases would determine whether surveillance was done correctly and justly by companies post-9-11. Honestly, does anyone believe that every single company followed every single guideline when tapping phone lines? Of course not. These companies would then be thrown into the public's limelight, and the blame is then tossed upon the already-burdened shoulders of President Bush and/or the Republicans. By denying the Democratic House bill, the Senate and the President are covering their own reputations.

You say this doesn't affect "regular citizens," only terrorists or their affiliates? Open your eyes people and see past your suburban safety net. Tell me what makes a terrorist. Sure there's the obvious: radical views on politics with violent means to reach violent ends. But the chance of tapping a terrorist’s phone line is like picking at random out of a ridiculously large hat. Who's to say your name won't be pulled out next? And even if you argue that if you're doing nothing wrong, why worry – do you really want to always hear that faint click on your phone line where far away, someone in a dark cubicle is listening to you tell your grandmother happy birthday? Now, that’s what I call liberty.

aly mac said...

This is really a difficult subject for me. On the one hand, I feel that if we do allow surveillance laws to continue as they are, we are defeating the purpose of living in a free nation. In blocking our personal freedoms, we are in a way giving into terrorists who want to see the core freedoms of our country destroyed. However, I believe more strongly that if we don't take safety precautions, we might not have a free country at all. Although the surveillance laws may be considered a temporary safety issue, they could help determine the future of our nation. If we don't protect our country, what freedoms will we have to offer in the future? The surveillance laws really don't affect the normal citizen and aren't meant to control our lives, rather ensure that we have the opportunity to exercise our freedoms in a safe environment. I don't think that the Senate and President should back the changes in the surveillance laws. The safety of our country should be put first so that we may have life, liberty and happiness.
I was confused about why the telecommunications companies would be sued for their role the surveillance program. I wasn’t sure if they were allowed to have taken part in the surveillance or if they did so against the orders they were given. The whole situation didn’t seem very clear to me and I wasn’t sure what the reasoning was behind it.

Johnny B said...

I believe that security in the United States isn't a big enough issue for me to give my rights up.

I believe the government should not be able to search unless they have a warrant. The Fourth Amendment is essential when it comes to keeping our rights.

I do not believe that the surveillance laws should be passed.

It may be 2008, but it sure feels like it's becoming 1984.

Alex D said...

What good is keeping your "rights" if that is having the government tapping leads in terror prevention if you are in pieces after a bombing anyways?

There is no reason why the government of the United States would be looking into you or taping your phone lines. Period.

Islamic nationalists have proven that they are willing to blow up our country and when the people charged with defending us from that (CIA, FBI, Secrete Service, ext.) asks to be able to look into leads on very good terror suspects instead of waiting to get a permit or risk going anyways and the suspect getting away on a technicality.

This law is to prevent our country from being bombed to shreds. It will NEVER be used to see some kid "smoking pot". The entire thing is blown out of proportion.

Seriously now...

And Benjamin Franklin is now 217 years old, I doubt he ever saw England as our biggest ally....

Besides if my memory serves me correctly the patriot act was supported heavily by both democrats and republicans at the time of its signing, I think democrats just forget things to quickly...

Alex

JamieW said...

I'm pre-blogging. I don't know if I'll have access to a computer in Spain, so I guess I'll just post something new?

What do you guys think about this?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23725259

Vlad said...

Bill Richardson is now endorsing Barack Obama. http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gIWF-cWWTIzLwKoOVfi50PnqNM0wD8VHLSSO0

Mr. Bretzmann said...

I appreciate you letting everyone know. On one level this is big news, but on the other it's too late.

Good job Bill. Get involved after Texas when it could have mattered. Are you trying to influence all those Latinos in Indiana? (finger on nose). Oh, I know, you are going to influence all those people who care about your experience. Blah, blah, blah.

Maybe Edwards will jump in right before the all-important Puerto Rico primary.

Where are the leaders? Somebody needs to put on their big-boy/big-girl pants and step out and lead.

Edwards on Leno is a joke. Endorse somebody now or be relegated to undersecretary in charge of hair product research. There are two America's: one that has the guts to do what is right and one that is willing to let his party flounder in the hopes that he can personally get a government position in whatever side wins (guess what: President McCain aint gonna' hire you!).

The views expressed here are not necessarily my own. (except for these: Congrats to UW-Madison and MARQUETTE).

joannaz said...

Pass the bill with the changes. I am not saying there should never be any wiretapping—at one point or another someone is going to have to listen in on someone for national security reasons—BUT with a warrant. Warrantless wire tapping goes against the freedoms the country was started on. The government messed up and now they are trying to protect themselves. I don’t think they should be able to. Pass the changes. Get a warrant. Laws should not be conditional. Or maybe laws should be able to be bent and broken, because I know how proud our country is of denying the right of habeas corpus and internment.

joannaz said...

http://i29.tinypic.com/1zx6ttt.jpg

aly mac said...

Bill Richardson's endorsement was really late and I think he did this on purpose. I believe it was a difficult decision for him to either support Hillary or Barrack. In waiting until after the major Hispanic states like Texas to vote before giving his endorsement, he avoided any real detrimental effects to the candidate he didn't support. I believe his endorsement will have a positive effect on Barrack's support of Hispanic voters, but it was really too late to have a huge effect. Despite this, Richardson's endorsement allowed Barrack to end his rough week on a good note and turn off some of the negative attention he was getting over his pastor. This might have actually helped him more than appealing to the small Hispanic population in Pennsylvania.

MorganJ said...

HAPPY EASTER TO ALL THAT CELEBRATE IT!!! (my aunt and two cousins are Jewish :->)

Anyways... Last Friday or sometime last week (I can't remember) Obama gave his speech about race. I watched the first 15 minutes, but then had to be somewhere. What I watched was very intriguing. I would like to retract some of the statements I made about Obama and his speaking abilities... I must have seen him on a bad night, because this speech was very impressive. I give him props for the way he handled himself and the whole pastor thing.

On another note, I saw that Hilary is in the lead in the polls. PLEASE CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG, like I've said, I've been very busy and haven't had time to explore the facts of what I've briefly seen or heard.

Finally, I was at the gym the other day and saw Hilary on MTV. Unfortunately, I did not have my headphones so I could not plug in and listen, but I think she's taking a step in the right direction by trying to appeal to the younger demographic.

arletap said...

My uncle's brother-in-law's niece's next-door neighbor's mailman is Jewish.

KellyH said...

Arleta, wouldn't they have the same mailman if they're neighbors?

cmorgan said...

Ahh so much randomness in these comments. Umm to stay on topic, i believe that the Senate and the President should not back changes in the surveillance laws in the U.S. There are many who think that passing this bill will protect our rights of privacy. Personally I think that passing this bill will take away from our right of freedom. If these surveillance laws are helping keep us safe, then also they are protecting our freedom. So no I do not believe these changes should be backed by the Senate and President.

arletap said...

See, I thought that too. My uncle's brother-in-law's niece is, in fact, a CIA agent. To hide her identity, a P.O. Box is much safer than a mailbox. So technically he's her mailman too. But not.

Elementary my dear Watson.

Jbyko10 said...

I agree with what Adam said. The government should not have complete control over our lives. They do not need this bill to stop terrorist attacks. There is so much Intel out there that they do not need this bill. With our world as it is today, we are more aware then we have ever been.

katiekso said...

I think that the surveillance in the first place is an invasion of privacy and completely unconstituional. So I think the president and Enate should back changes to the surveillance laws because the original ones give the government way too much power and infringe on citizens privacy rights.

CoreyA said...

No. I'm not particularly concerned with my rights being infringed at the moment. I'm also not particularly concerned with my safety depending on a phone call being tapped. Quite frankly this has absolutely nothing to do with me at all. But I'd rather have some in this world alive with a small reduction in rights, then dead with the right to privacy. A right that was never given by the founding fathers any way. That was the Surpreme Court.

Angelina said...

I definitely agree with Corey. I think the whole phone tapping thing is ridiculous. From my understanding a few laws are being passed to help improve and further the use of phone tapping.

Vlad said...

Has anybody seen the film The Lives of Others? Are the government's actions in that film justifiable? I think not.

Alex D said...

Has anyone seen the film World Trade Center...

Tapping terrorist phone conversations without waiting for a warrant can help prevent things like this from happening

Do you really think the CIA says they need this to keep america safe for fun?

Vlad said...

Alex, the video that explains it all...
link.

MorganJ said...

I just wanted to comment something really quick--it has nothing to do with this issue.

I just got back from Puerto Rico and while I was there the govener was forcibly taking from his position because he was found guilty of conspriacy and embezzlement. I have news papers!

I would have mentioned this sooner but I had no internet access.

Oh and a met a lady and she worked for the mayor. She was telling me how this up coming week she has to be in court in Florida on charges that this govener accused her of. I think he might have accused her of the embezzlement charges because she was talking about how she in not worried because she has check stubs and God on her side.

JamieW said...

I was stuck in Spain.
Sorry I haven't posted.
Once the floor stops spinning, I'll post something intelligent.

JamieW said...

Okay, now that I'm feeling a little bit better...

1st. Alex, I've seen World Trade Center.

2nd. I agree with the majority of people posting. I think the bill goes against the foundation of our country.

3rd. I was in Morocco when the King was there. I must say, the people of Tangiers were much more excited to see their King than anyone in the U.S would be if they saw President Bush.

RyanO said...

I think it is erroneous whether or not the bill would directly apply to us specifically. To say, "I don't my rights will be infringed" is ridiculous. It shouldn't matter if it affects us specifically. The government shouldn't be allowed to conduct wire tapping without a warrant. Think of how many other times countries have given in to questionable practices to feel a little safer, or because it seems like the right thing to do at the time. Interment of Japanese-Americans is a good example. Whooops on that one...

Vlad said...

Does the essay have to be typed? Ryan makes a great point and also, would terrorists really use a telephone or any other form of communication to plan an attack?

Mr. Bretzmann said...

The free response answer due Monday does not have to be typed. However, if I can't read your writing, it's a problem. Write with large letters and make it legible.

A question about MLK will be up later today.

MorganJ said...

On Thursday when I got to La Crosse for our FBLA conference. We had a speaker, whose story involves terrorism so I thought I would share it. Although this event did not happen in the States, it just strengthens my stance on the surveillance issues.

It happened in the 1980's and an American woman was leaving Greece to return to Egypt. 30 minutes into the flight, the plane was hijacked by 5 people. Although there were 3 air marshals on flight, 2 of the 3 had their weapons stored in the over-head compartment... Anyways, these hijackers decided to kill a person every 15 minutes until their demands were met.

They started with the Islamic passengers, then the Americans. When it became our speakers turn, she was shot point blank, thrown down 30 stairs, and landed on the runway ALIVE. After 5 hours of slipping in and out of consciousness, a group of medics found her and saved her life.

As far as this story goes, it makes me think of all the bad that can be done in the world and how quickly a life can end. I feel, in the current state of our country, if I must be subject to some wire tapping, so be it. I do not want something like this to happen again. To me, it seems like a small price to pay for the ultimate gift--your life.

Mr. Bretzmann said...

"...give me liberty, or give me death." Patrick Henry

CassieH said...

Angelina? . . . You agreed with Corey?

Whhaaa.

I think Phone tapping is a little ridiculous wihtout a warrant.

Do I think it will personally affect me . . . No. But that's not the point.