Mike the Mad Biologist

Senator Kennedy Writes the Mad Biologist

So I wrote Senator Kennedy (and Senator Kerry) an email about the upcoming FISA/retroactive immunity legislation. Here’s his response:

Dear [Mad Biologist]:

Thank you for your recent letter on the President’s warrantless wiretapping program and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Protecting our national security is a vital concern, but one that must be balanced with protecting our civil liberties.

Like most Americans, I was disturbed to learn about President Bush’s secret authorization of warrantless wiretaps on American citizens. The Administration claimed the policy was needed to combat terrorism, but this secret program was of questionable legality — at best — and may have jeopardized our ability to convict terrorists apprehended using these methods. It was implemented without oversight from Congress, and once it became public, former Attorney General Gonzalez and President Bush consistently rejected Congressional input and oversight, demanding that we rubber-stamp their decisions and trust them. We have seen where blindly trusting this Administration can lead, and we owe the nation a better approach.

A better, and legal, approach already exists in the FISA courts, which were established in 1978 as a means to conduct wiretaps and electronic surveillance legally to gather foreign intelligence, so that our intelligence agencies could use necessary surveillance to protect national security and also protect civil liberties. FISA was created with strong bipartisan support, with consultation and compromise between a Democratic Congress and the Ford Administration. This process created a law and a program that have served the country well for nearly 30 years.

Our country now faces new and evolving threats to our national security, and our intelligence agencies and laws, including FISA, must be adapted to meet and combat these growing concerns effectively. The best way to update FISA to face the challenges of this new century is the same process that created it, a bipartisan one. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has consistently insisted on going it alone, demanding that Congress rubber-stamp its proposals. We have seen what happens when the Administration asks Congress to trust it – the Administration adopts programs with little or no oversight and little or no legality. The Administration must enter into responsible negotiations with Congress, to modernize FISA, without preconditions such as granting blanket immunity to corporations for past actions.

Only through a bipartisan process, with both Congress and the Administration playing an equal role, can we find an appropriate way to update FISA for the 21st century and protect our nation and our civil rights. I hope that the Administration will join us in this process, and I will continue to do all I can to see that FISA remains effective.

Sincerely,
Edward M. Kennedy

The form letter didn’t really address the parts about retroactive immunity that honk me off, but it’s still a pretty good letter. I particularly liked this part: “We have seen where blindly trusting this Administration can lead, and we owe the nation a better approach.”

Now, if only Senator Kerry would send me his form letter (his office is really slow)….

Comments

  1. #1 the chaplain
    January 26, 2008

    Not having seen your original letter, I can’t judge how closely this response aligned with your concerns. At least Senator Kennedy’s is related to the issue you addressed.

    I’ve had some weird experiences writing to my representatives. Sometimes I’ve gotten a standard form letter that devotes a paragraph each to six or seven issues. In other words, a one-size-fits-all, unresponsive letter. In subsequent elections, I have made sure not to vote for those candidates.

    In other cases, I’ve gotten form letters much like the one Senator Kennedy (well, his staff) sent to you. They were related to the issue but essentially just an opportunity for the representative to plug his or her own position.

    I’ll be interested in seeing what Senator Kerry sends to you.

  2. #2 Ktesibios
    January 28, 2008

    Well, that’s a damn sight better than what I got back when I wrote to Senator Feinstein about the same issue.

    She actually argued that retroactive immunity was A-OK because the telecomms had been assured that the program “had been approved by the President and was legal”.

    I’m old enough to remember “if the President does it, that means that it is not illegal”, so I was vastly amused at the spectacle of a Senator- and one who claims* to be a Democrat to boot- being so hard up for a self-serving rationalization that she had to swipe excuses from Tricky Dick Nixon. I laughed until I cried, I tells ya.

    I’ve given up on attempting to communicate with DiFi. Her responses all boil down to “I am a certified member of the ruling class and as such I will do just as I and my fellow certified members of the ruling class please, and there’s nothing you mere ordinary people can do about it.”

    These self-seeking, time-serving, crawling aging yuppie scumsters ain’t fit to fill the office of Municipal Dogcatcher.

    *falsely

  3. #3 Joshua
    January 29, 2008

    I got the same letter and had basically the same reaction. It’s good, but doesn’t really respond to the specific issue of telecom immunity.

    As for Kerry… I haven’t received anything from his office, not even one of these form letters, since 2004. That’s one of the big reasons I voted “None of the Above” that year.

  4. #4 şişme bebek
    June 8, 2009

    I’ve given up on attempting to communicate with DiFi. Her responses all boil down to “I am a certified member of the ruling class and as such I will do just as I and my fellow certified members of the ruling class please, and there’s nothing you mere ordinary people can do about it

  5. #5 erotik shop
    June 18, 2009

    I got the same letter and had basically the same reaction. It’s good, but doesn’t really respond to the specific issue of telecom immunity