Richard Pombo Loves/Hates Warrantless Wiretapping
In the closing days of September, Congress passed H.R. 5825, legislation sponsored at the behest of the Bush Administration which updates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 and authorizes warrantless wiretapping against citizens and non-citizens alike. Prior to this new law, federal agents could launch wiretaps without a warrant, but they needed to obtain one within 72 hours of instituting the wiretap.
Now, a reasonable person might wonder why the authorities, when conducting a legitimate investigation requiring electronic eavesdropping, couldn’t just start the wiretap and then go ahead and get a warrant. After all, 72 hours is three days. FISA judges make themselves readily available. So what’s the problem? Good question. Well, the only possible problem that I can think of is a situation where the investigation in question might not be “legitimate” and might not meet the legal standards for instituting a wiretap.
So if the Bush Administration wanted to pursue illegitimate investigations, they would need a way around the old FISA Act. Enter H.R. 5825. The practical effect of this new law is that the federal government can institute unlimited wiretaps for 90 days without getting a warrant. Now, our beloved Constitution has a Fourth Amendment which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. Our forefathers fought and died to establish these rights for future generations. And by almost any measure, spying on someone without a legal warrant for 90 days would qualify as an unreasonable search.
Congresswoman Jane Harman (CA-36) addressed the issue in this way:
[T]here is no evidence in the record of our Committee that FISA must be rewritten in favor of a new regime permitting broad warrantless surveillance of Americans. Yet, the bill we are marking up today, HR 5825, does just that. Let me be clear: I take a backseat to nobody in supporting strong, modern tools for our intelligence professionals to track terrorists. But I also believe that the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment, and liberties guaranteed to the people of this nation are too precious to be cancelled in the absence of a compelling argument that the nation’s survival depends on it.But now we have a new law that throws the Fourth Amendment under the wheels. And here’s what I find fairly amazing. Early last week, when George W. Bush visited Stockton to raise money for Richard Pombo, there was a lot of media coverage on the issue of Bush’s low popularity and how that would play out among the constituents of the Congressmen for whom he was campaigning. In a report in the Tracy Press, Richard Pombo tried to simultaneously suck up to and distance himself from the President whose current approval rating in California stands at 29%:
Pombo, who touched down in Stockton on Monday night with Bush aboard Air Force One, voted along party lines to send Americans to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he has spoken out against Bush’s wiretapping program, saying the government should obtain warrants before spying on its citizens.So, okay. Here’s the problem I have. On Monday evening, Pombo is telling the reporter from the Tracy Press that he has “spoken out” against warrantless wiretapping. Yet just three days earlier, on Friday, Richard Pombo voted YES on wireless wiretapping. Now, I suppose if you parse his words Bill-Clinton-style, a person could “speak out against” while simultaneously “voting for” — but come on. I think by almost anyone’s standards this qualifies as just a straight-up lie on the part of Richard Pombo.
So I’m going to invite you to use the comment section to share your favorite Pombo lies. I know they’re out there.