But now, Congress is intending to pass a bill that effectively declares Nixon's statement true (while pretending disingenuously to do otherwise).
Nixon said it to justify his spying & wiretapping without warrants. FISA was the law Congress passed in response to the Nixon / Watergate scandal. It established a secret court that could issue warrants for for surveillance related to "foreign intelligence" in the USA, and made clear that any domestic surveillance without a warrant was illegal - something that should've been obvious to begin with. It made it illegal not only for the government to do it, but also explicitly made it illegal for phone companies to cooperate with illegal surveillance requests from the government.
The Bush administration broke the law. Major telecom companies in the US cooperated with this illegal surveillance. AT&T built a special secret room to collect all the data passing through their data centers and siphon it to the National Security Agency. Because the White House asked them to.
When the president asks companies to do something and the law says it is illegal for them to do so, and they do it anyway...
... it's time for Congress to pass a law declaring that the companies who colluded in the illegal spying conspiracy should be excused, that the cases against them in court should be cancelled. Even after some cases have gone far enough that we know the courts have ruled that this stuff was in fact illegal.
If this law passes, it is a declaration from Congress that if you break the law at the request of the president, you have legal immunity; you will be excused. In other words, "If the President asks you to do it, that means that it is not illegal."
"FISA" sounds like some obscure thing you don't need to care about, but this bill is a precedent set by Congress favoring a government by king, instead of rule of law. It also attacks the concept of checks and balances by allowing surveillance without court warrants, but that's a minor problem in comparison. If we don't have rule of law, checks and balances can't hold anyway.
It CAN be stopped. This winter, a similar law passed the Senate and was considered nearly sure to pass the House, but the House declined to pass it because of the volume of phone calls they received against it. Now, we have a supposed "compromise" that still gives everything away, and the House passed it. The Senate plans to vote today (though they may delay it). It has enough votes to pass. Can we generate enough phone calls to block it? Call your Senators (if that tool doesn't work, numbers are here).
- Barack Obama is in a good position to help block it. He opposes telecom amnesty but recently said he'd vote for this bill even if they don't remove the amnesty portion. Join the "Get FISA Right" group on his web site, and/or the Facebook group, and call his campaign office: 866-675-2008.
- Get someone else you know to call both of their Senators. Repost this information this morning.
- Skim through this page and follow some of the other suggestions.
Glenn Greenwald: The political establishment and telecom immunity -- why it matters [Salon]
Whistleblowers Speak Out on FISA
Unintended consequences: computer security experts explain why Bush's wholesale surveillance program is itself a threat to national security.
MoveOn's Nixon/Bush ad (video)
Update: Senator Dodd's amendment to strip retroactive immunity for telecoms from the bill, failed 37-61. A list of the 37 Senators who voted for it here.
We only need 40 Senators to successfully filibuster the bill. There are 37 who think retroactive immunity is a bad idea. Can we get them all to support a filibuster, plus turn 3 more Senators? Call!
Update 2: It passed. ACLU and EFF go back to court over it. What to do next?