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March 27, 2008

Gridlock is good

Change the political environment. Recruit more Downsizers. Share this message with others.

Quote of the Day:

“The Senate being tied is a start. Now, if only it could be gagged.”
— Bob Thaves, from his comic strip “Frank & Ernest”

Subject: Gridlock is good

The President wants unlimited spying powers, through the renewal or replacement of the Protect America Act (PAA). Fortunately, he isn’t getting what he wants. Congress seems to be gridlocked on this issue, and gridlock is our friend.

The gridlock involves two versions of a new spying bill, a Senate version, and a House bill – HR 3773. The Senate bill is basically the President’s wish-list for expanded surveillance powers. He’s threatened to veto anything short of this bill.

The House is resisting. It’s bill would permit the administration to do broad surveillance, but not in the unsupervised, un-Constitutional way the President has dictatorially demanded.

Republican leaders have responded with petulant whining, tantrums, and lies. They assert that “We are now vulnerable to terrorist attack,” because the PAA no longer exists. This claim ignores the fact that all the surveillance authorized by the PAA can be maintained for twelve months, and new surveillance can still be authorised under the old FISA law.

The Democrats and the media are well aware of these facts, so the GOP’s scare-tactics haven’t worked, yet.

But there’s still talk of a “compromise.” Frankly, we’d prefer to live under the old FISA law. Continued gridlock is the best way to achieve that goal. But if that fails, the House bill (HR 3773) isn’t terrible. It would . . .

  • Retain the FISA Court’s oversight
  • Removes “ambiguous” language the President has used to sidestep the law
  • Creates better Congressional oversight (something the President really hates)
  • Provide for the investigation of past violations
  • Deny immunity to the telecom companies that engaged in warrantless surveillance

  • Permit the telecoms to present evidence of their innocence in secure court proceedings without the Administration using the ‘state secrets’ prohibition to block them

    This last part is really clever. It removes the President’s argument that the telecom companies will be unwilling to cooperate with the government in the future if they don’t get retroactive immunity for their past illegal actions. It keeps current cases open in court, and (here’s the part the administration can’t swallow) it gives the telecoms the ability to share their government correspondence with the judge.

    We suspect that correspondence is going to prove quite damning to some government officials — maybe even the Attorney General and the President of the United States.

    So, in interest of preserving the gridlock, or getting the current House bill un-compromised with the Senate bill, we encourage you to send the following message to Congress . . .

    I’m suspicious about the need for a revised or restored Protect America Act, and I am completely opposed to telecom immunity.

    But it’s always best to personalize these messages. It makes Congressional staffers pay more attention. So please consider pasting-in something like this . . .

    HR 3773 represents an acceptable compromise, and here I draw a line in the sand. I oppose ANY further compromise or dilution of HR 3773, even if the President threatens a veto. Neither the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans nor due process of law (regarding the major telecoms) should be bargained away for political benefit. Send HR 3773, intact, to the President. I’m watching how you vote on this.

    You might also want to add . . .

    I’m tired of hearing how scared I should be. I am not afraid of terrorists. I’m much more afraid of giving up essential liberties for a promise of security that you probably couldn’t deliver in any case.

    Friends, we have a real chance to make our victory over the PAA permanent. But the battle isn’t over yet, so we need to maintain the pressure. Please, send a new message to your Representative and two Senators, today.

    Finally, we have good news to report. We made our monthly budget for the fifth month in a row. Thank you to all who have supported us. But we’d really like to get a head-start on next month and the best way to do that is with a monthly-pledge. Please consider joining us as a monthly pledger.

    New donors will receive a copy of our 16-page glossy report, “The Downsize DC Vision.”

    Thank you for being a part of the growing Downsize DC Army,

    Jim Babka
    President, Inc.

    If your comment is off-topic for this post, please email us at


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