Monday, October 09, 2006

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.


Blogger babaloo said...

Okay, I'll start.

Apparently at the Tracy forum, McNerney attacked Pombo for his failure to address transportation woes in CA-11. Pombo responded by adamently declaring that only Bill Thomas, among the California delegation, had brought more money to his district. Not true. San Joaquin County ranked 32nd among counties on per capita transportation dollars, Alameda 33rd.

Bill Thomas, representing Kern County, was indeed number one. But just as clearly, Nancy Pelosi, with $314 million for San Francisco, came in second.

So when you've been too busy serving the interests of large corporations to actually do the business of the people you're supposed to represent, what do you do? LIE.

12:10 PM, October 09, 2006  
Blogger VMC said...

I would like to point out that the story does not really quote Pombo directly over the assertion of standing up for warrants. It simply makes the assertion that Pombo had spoken out against warrantless searches.

I thought that was a pretty funny way of putting it myself, so I sent an email to the editor of the Tracy Press, Cheri Matthews, asking what was up with printing that line of bull when Pombo had already voted FOR the Electronic Surveillance Bill. I urged that she print a correction or at the very least a clarification.

Her prompt reply led me to believe that she was not aware of the contradiction. She said she would look into it.

If any other readers of your blog have further info on this, or just a wish to get a patently false assertion corrected as soon as possible, write to Matthews at the Tracy Press. Her email is on the website.

2:14 PM, October 09, 2006  
Anonymous SFBrianCL said...

Well, can I put some lazy reporting in here too? I called CoCoTimes political editor for misrepresenting the facts. Namely, she said that only CQ was upgrading the CA-11 race. Um, well, not so much. Cook upgraded it last week. Here's the link

But as for my favorite Pombo lie? I like the kit fox lie. It's really an oldie, but a goodie. It's like a fine wine, you never tire of it and his audacity. He lies to Congress as he's running for his first term. Classy!

5:26 PM, October 09, 2006  

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