Letters to the Editor

Vital rights

June 22, 2008


To the editor:

Congress is now voting on a bill that will effectively gut the Constitution by giving blanket immunity to phone companies who have illegally spied on millions of American citizens.

The bill, as I understand it, has been drafted in secret. Groups following the developments of the proposal were denied access to the details until it was too late to rally a strong outcry from across the nation. And it is no wonder that the details have been developed in total secrecy.

Those promoting this unconstitutional provision do not want citizens like you and me to know what is going on. Big surprise!

This is a proposal that benefits a few of our largest corporations while taking away basic rights of the rest of us! As citizens, we hold the principle that "freedom and justice for all" means you and me, as well as large and influential corporations.

While there is still time, those of us who are concerned have an obligation to write or call our members of Congress.

Forrest Swall,


Steve Clark 9 years, 12 months ago

cato, before getting all "freedom-like" just imagine the number of people in all the countries we've attacked over the past years who could say the same thing you are saying...oh except they lost many more lives if any one's counting.

manbearpig 9 years, 12 months ago

I'm not entirely sure which provision of the Constitution this bill violates. I recommend that before Mr. Swall speak about the Constitution or laws 'being unconstitutional', he pick up and read the document. It's not that long. All the law does is shield companies from liability. What provision of the Constitution does this violate? Any person whose right of privacy was violated still has recourse against the Federal Government. It is called a section 1983 suit.The Constitution regulates the interaction between the Federal Government and the States and citizens. Other than the 13th Amendment (slavery), the Constitution has nothing to do with interactions between citizens (corporations included).You can argue the law is bad policy or is improperly motivated, but unconstitutional it is not. I wish people would stop talking about the Constitution as if they had any idea what it actually says.

cato_the_elder 9 years, 12 months ago

Normal, other than countries that first invaded other countries or committed acts of genocide against neighboring peoples to whom we thereafter offered assistance, to which countries do you refer?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 12 months ago

And don't forget Panama, normal, where BushCo I killed more poor Panamanian civilians than died in the US on 9/11, simply because they happened to live in the wrong neighborhood when they went on a Noriega turkey shoot.

BigPrune 9 years, 12 months ago

You're a strange guy, Forrest. How you ever got elected is beyond me.

JohnBrown 9 years, 12 months ago

I would like to know the politics behind this major Democratic reversal.

Steve Clark 9 years, 12 months ago

cato, I would be interested to hear your definition "assistance."I am reading by your assertion that the US has "assisted" Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, Haiti and Vietnam. And that you believe our assistance was justified and possibly even welcomed, as the word "assistance" implies.And, for some reason, the people of countries like Rwanda, Burundi, North Korea, Iran, Liberia, Somalia, and Cuba don't need (or deserve or want?) our assistance.Hmmmm, the justification for killing is a difficult and complex game for sure...I wish you luck with that.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 years, 12 months ago

Mr Swall, the U.S. Constitution is only of value to anyone who respects the rights granted. In Lawrence, we do not have those rights. The Lawrence City Commission does not respect the rights granted by the U.S. Constitution. Violations of constitutional rights have been reported to them and they have patently ignored these complaints, probably at the direction of the city manager and his "city staff" , an unelected group of employees who govern the City of Lawrence with the rubber stamp of the elected commissioners. Your concerns are most interesing, however, in an enviroment of head-in-the-sand elected officials such as exists in the City of Lawrence, it simply does not matter what the Federal U.S. Constitution says, the behavior of local officials then becomes similar to that of rural southern sherriffs of some rural southren state counties.

Bill Getz 9 years, 12 months ago

This is a timely letter . Protecting civil liberties is not a partisan issue either in its breach or its defense: the Democratic congress tends to reveal and denounce such illegal behavior by the Bush administration, and then pass enabling legislation to legalize it! Perhaps the administration elected in November, of either party, will be competent enough to disarm terrorism without abridging the constitution, one of the terrorists' fondest goals. Perhaps not. IVK

cato_the_elder 9 years, 12 months ago

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 12 months ago

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jafs 9 years, 12 months ago

I guess the Constitutional question would be an "unreasonable search", unfortunately that term is open to interpretation.

cato_the_elder 9 years, 12 months ago

Glad to learn that Bozo has apparently participated in a "sacrifice." Was it conducted in the woods at the stroke of midnight under a full moon? Or did he simply move the runner to second?

jafs 9 years, 12 months ago

I am also not sure whether there is a Constitutional issue here.If the federal government asks private companies in the name of national security to provide records, it seems to me that company (or companies) might feel a tremendous pressure to comply.The real culprits, in my mind, would be the government officials who initiated the requests without sufficient authorization from the courts.And, I thought that the government was immune from lawsuits - what recourse would there be in that case?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 12 months ago

So, if you can't make a reasoned argument against a post you don't like, complain and just get it removed.Doncha just love the first amendment?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 12 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

George Lippencott 9 years, 12 months ago

Does anybody on this list actually understand the specifics about what actually happens? A suspected terrorist calls to the US. We monitor. If it turns out to a birthday greeting we drop it. If it is of concern we get a warrant to continue to surveil the US phone. Note- a warrant from a court monitored by both the judiciary and intelligence committees of the Congress. What is the problem?

Scott Drummond 9 years, 12 months ago

"Does anybody on this list actually understand the specifics about what actually happens?"george bush, John McSame, or whoever monitor all phone conversations without any sort of meaningful or independent oversight, gather whatever information that they can against their political opponents and use it accordingly. Check out the US Attorney scandal for a good example of how it's done.

uncleandyt 9 years, 11 months ago

"Total Information Awareness" was the stated goal. When it wouldn't go under the law, they needed ways to send it around and over the law. How will they know who to spy on without listening to everybody? Are they not searching for suspects? Will they let History decide who was a suspect?

Scott Drummond 9 years, 11 months ago

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) succeeded in postponing the anticipated vote on FISA reauthorization. Instead, the bill will come up after the 4th of July recess, and the two are introducing an amendment which will strike the telecom immunity clause.Telecoms are already exempt from having to second-guess the legality of a government request. From Feingold's Wednesday floor speech: "If the proper documentation is submitted, the company must cooperate with the request and will be immune from liability." If the federal government follows the law, and provides telecoms with "a court order or a certification stating that certain basic requirements have been met," then the telecoms cannot be sued for doing as requested. This has been the law for 30 years!No wonder Verizon's lawyers advised the company not to participate! From Feingold's floor speech:"The telephone companies and the government have been operating under this simple framework for 30 years. The companies have experienced, highly trained, and highly compensated lawyers who know this law inside and out. In view of this history, it is inconceivable that any telephone companies that allegedly cooperated with the administration's warrantless wiretapping program did not know what their obligations were. And it is just as implausible that those companies believed they were entitled to simply assume the lawfulness of a government request for assistance. This whole effort to obtain retroactive immunity is based on an assumption that doesn't hold water... Granting companies that allegedly cooperated with an illegal program this new form of automatic, retroactive immunity undermines the law that has been on the books for decades a law that was designed to prevent exactly the type of actions that allegedly occurred here... So the only thing we'd be encouraging by granting immunity here is cooperation with requests that violate the law. Mr. President, that's exactly the kind of cooperation that FISA was supposed to prevent."If you care about your right to be free of illegal spying in violation of the Constitution, please contact your Senators today and ask them to reconsider passage of this unConstitutional abomination. Consider: the new bill lets the government "legally collect all communications every last one between Americans here at home and the rest of the world." Moreover, the bill does not "effectively prohibit the practice of reverse targeting namely, wiretapping a person overseas when what the government is really interested in is listening to an American here at home with whom the foreigner is communicating."

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