Saturday, July 15, 2006

Letter to Senator Feinstein: The Specter Capitulation Bill

Dear Senator Feinstein,

As your records must show, we have been corresponding on the matter of the NSA's illegal wiretapping programs since February, and I have been following the scanadal since December of last year.

You most recently replied to me on July 12th, very soon after the momentous Hamdan decision, and told me that you are cosponsoring Senator Specter's bill. This bill was described in the Washington Post today as "not a compromise but a full-fledged capitulation on the part of the legislative branch to executive claims of power".

I have read the proposed legislation, I have listened to the opinions of legal scholars, and I agree that this bill does nothing to protect the rights of citizens and everything to erode them. I must tell you that this bill undermines the Bill of Rights, and that it must not pass. You have a duty as a Senator to defend and protect the Constitution, and with this bill you decline this responsibility.

You decline this responsibility when the bill retroactively permits the present Administration (and every Administration back to 1978) to have executed the warrantless searches you know - because you told me so - are illegal. This is in direct opposition to the intent of the FISA framers such as your colleague on the Judiciary Committee, Senator Biden.

You decline this responsibility when the bill yields to the Administration everything that the Hamdan decision struck down, and more power than even they have ever asked for.
Please withdraw your support for this misbegotten, ill-advised legislation which would do so much to damage the Bill of Rights and the checks and balances in our System of Government which have served so well. The bill is beneath you, it is unworthy of you, and your constituents and the Constitution deserve better.

We already have better. Chuck Schumer's S.2468. Please join Senator Schumer.

Senator Feinstein's reply: July 12, 2006

Thank you for writing to me about recent revelations that the United States Government has engaged in domestic electronic eavesdropping without going through the process required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). I welcome the opportunityto respond.

As a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, I have been briefed on the operational details of the electronic surveillance program and investigated its legality. It is my belief that the program could and should be conducted in accordance with the FISA law, which requires a court order for the collection of the contents of any electronic or telephone communication.

I believe that it is wholly possible for the program to be broughtunder FISA, especially if minor changes are made to revise the process by which applications to the FISA Court are prepared and reviewed.

For these reasons, I have introduced legislation, with SenatorSpecter, so that all content collection for foreign intelligence purposes isconducted within the FISA framework. The Foreign IntelligenceSurveillance Improvement and Enhancement Act of 2006, S. 3001, hasbeen endorsed by the American Bar Association. My bill would restate that FISA is the exclusive authority for content collection, mandate that no federal funds be spent on such activities that do not comply withFISA, and eliminate administrative roadblocks raised by the Attorney General that he says hinder his ability to bring cases directly to the FISA court.

Again, thank you for writing. I hope that you will continue towrite to me on issues of importance to you. Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

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