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In response to my email to them about their position on FISA, I got the following email from the American Legion. Although well written and seemmingly well considered, the AL position on Illegal Wiretapping and Telcom Immunity is just a rehashing of the White House talking points.

Simply stated:

The American Legion believes S. 2248 would modernize FISA, ensure the future cooperation of the private sector, and safeguard the very civil liberties we all value.

So, it's imperative that to protect "civil liberties", the American Legion believes we should step on those "civil liberties"; the political version of "backburning" as used in forest fires where you burn a portion of forest to save the greater portion of it.

More below the fold...

Thank you for your honorable military service and for sharing your views and concerns with The American Legion.

The Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community are taking all the steps possible to try to keep the country safe during this current period of uncertainty. These measures are remedial at best however, do not provide the tools our intelligence professionals need to protect the Nation or the certainty needed by the intelligence professionals and their private partners. The American Legion believes the bipartisan passed Senate bill is a strong and balanced measure. The bill was sponsored by Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and was passed by a bipartisan majority in the Senate. The American Legion believes S. 2248 would modernize FISA, ensure the future cooperation of the private sector, and safeguard the very civil liberties we all value.

The American Legion believes it is imperative that the intelligence community retain the necessary tools to collect vital information. The fundamental authorities provided by the Protect America Act have helped the intelligence community to obtain exactly the type of information it needed to keep this Nation safe. Since enactment of the Protect America Act, the intelligence community has obtained information about efforts of an individual to become a suicide operative, efforts by terrorists to obtain guns and ammunition, and terrorists transferring money. Other information obtained, thanks in large part to these new authorities, has led to the disruption of planned terrorist attacks.  

The American Legion believes that surveillance conducted under Executive Order 12333 in a manner that does not implicate FISA or the Protect America Act is not always effective, efficient, or safe for the U.S. intelligence professional as information collected under the Protect America Act. Surveillance under the Protect America Act served as an essential adjunct to the other intelligence gathering tools. Clearly, in light of the dramatic changes in the world of communications since 1978, the Federal government often has been required to obtain a FISA Court order prior to surveillance of foreign terrorists and other national security threats located outside the United States. Without question, this hampers intelligence collection targeting these individuals overseas in a way that even Congress never intended. Due to the dangerous gaps in active intelligence collection last summer, Congress passed the Protect America Act, while addressing the much needed long-term FISA reforms critical to meaningful national security.

Currently, FISA's requirements impair the ability to collect information on foreign intelligence targets located overseas. Initially, FISA was designed to govern foreign intelligence surveillance of persons within the United States; therefore, requires a showing of "probable cause" before such surveillance can begin. Logically, this makes sense where the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment requires "probable cause" and where the civil liberties of Americans are implicated. However, this is illogical to require a showing of probable cause for surveillance of overseas foreign targets who are not entitled to the same Fourth Amendment protections. The American Legion believes imposing this requirement in the context of surveillance of foreign targets located overseas results in the loss of potentially vital intelligence forever. In addition, the laborious requirment to make such a showing would divert linguists and analysts covering al-Qa'ida and other foreign threats from their primary mission, to the task of providing detailed justification for FISA Court applications related to surveillance of foreign targets. It is far more productive for intelligence professions to remain focused on obtaining foreign intelligence from foreign targets with unfettered speed and agility.  

Does FISA need reform? Absolutely, but not at the cost of unnecessary gaps in national security. The American Legion believes S. 2248 will continue to provide the necessary intelligence gather tools while Congress deliberates on more permanent FISA reform.

Steve Robertson,
Director National Legislative Commission
The American Legion Washington, DC

There really isn't much I can say in reponse to this. It reaks of "scare tactics" and, although phrased to sound carefully considered, is really just a recitation of the White House position. I particularly like the reference to

the laborious requirment to make such a showing would divert linguists and analysts covering al-Qa'ida and other foreign threats from their primary mission,

It's as if collecting intelligence is "hard work", in the Bush-sense of the term! But I digress.

The missing element from this arguement is the question of Telcom Immunity. There is no reference to this extremely important issue. The AL is focused on "getting them furiners" and doing so without being constrained by that pesky Fourth Amendment. This must their idea of "collateral damage" in the wiretapping front of the GWOT.

However, I question the amount of "bankburning" necessary in this case. Do we have to remove the Fourth Amendment to save the other nine parts of the Bill of Rights? Why do we have to sacrifice any portion of the Bill of Rights at all? If FISA has operated since 1978 to safeguard the Bill of Rights while allowing law enforcement to operate, what about FISA is so broken that it need to be "fixed" in such as manner to remove those safeguards? Is there no other way to enhance FISA without destroying the Bill of Rights?  

The AL believes that to fill "the gaps in national security" we should just plug them with the Fourth Amendment and whatever shreds of the Bill of Rights are left when the Bush Regime has wiped its nose (or other body parts).

So, I'm not particularly impressed or swayed by the American Legion's response about FISA, illegal wiretapping, and Telcom Immunity. I wonder if they wrote it or if the White House dictated it and they are "just following orders".

Originally posted to DevonTexas on Thu Mar 06, 2008 at 08:54 AM PST.


The AL response is:

11%4 votes
2%1 votes
77%27 votes
8%3 votes

| 35 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  The American Legion has become pathetic n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    homogenius, gooderservice
  •  Tip Jar and Salute (11+ / 0-)


    "What a peaceful world it would be if Barbara had aborted!"

    by DevonTexas on Thu Mar 06, 2008 at 08:58:00 AM PST

  •  Some other tasty highlights of the Legion: (7+ / 0-)

    From Wikipedia:

    The American Legion asked for a congressional investigation into the ACLU for their petitioning to end loyalty-oath laws for public workers such as school teachers during the red scare...

    After a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the American Legion launched and funded an unsuccessful campaign to win a constitutional amendment against harming the flag of the United States.

    In a letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton in May 1999, the American Legion urged the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Operation Allied Force in Yugoslavia.

    On August 30, 2005, Thomas P. Cadmus, National Commander, stated in an address to the Legion's National Convention that support for American troops in the War on Terror should be ensured by "any means necessary", in a statement which made oblique reference to anti-war protesters and direct reference to Jane Fonda's activities during the Vietnam War.

    If class war is being waged in America, my class is clearly winning... - Warren Buffett

    by dj angst on Thu Mar 06, 2008 at 09:12:03 AM PST

  •  I have no doubt that (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    homogenius, LNK, skrekk, DevonTexas

    their response was written by a White House crony, and just signed off on by Robertson.

    Somebody ought to ask him who wrote it.

    A reporter, in public and on video, should ask him exactly what provisions in S. 2248 does he support.

    I bet he doesn't even understand it.

  •  Yep. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    homogenius, DevonTexas

    They just told you to talk to the hand.

    All response letters are like that. Isn't that the most frustrating thing?

    You know what would do just fine in guaranteeing private sector cooperation in the future? Winning in court.

    Gee, I wonder why they don't want to try that way?

  •  American Legion is Largest Fascist Organization (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    homogenius, LNK

    in the U.S.

    Their contempt for civil liberties goes at least all the way back to opposing the right to protest against the war in Vietnam.

    •  "Proto-Fascist" is the more precise term n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Best Diary of the Year?

      by LNK on Thu Mar 06, 2008 at 09:34:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  They even liked Mussolini (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If you check the history of the Legion, you will find out that the leadership of the Legion in the 1920's and 30's, actually praised Il Duce, made him an honorary member and invited him to address the National Convention. So this comes as no surprise.

      One more note. In my unsuccessful 2004 run for the 9th Congressional District in NC, I approached the leaders of several Legion posts in the district to sit down with their members to discuss veterans issues (I spent 20 years in the Navy and was making veterans issues one of the key issues that I was running on. The response floored me. i was told that i was the wrong kind of veteran. Thinking at the time that they were resorting to the Navy vs Army vs Air Force kind of kidding all vets take part in, I asked what they meant. Their answer floored me, because the type of veteran they were referring to was that I was a Democrat. I had always thought that a vet was a vet. I guess not in their eyes. And to top it off, I was, at the time, a member of the Legion. Needless to say, my membership ceased that day and I found out the details of the Legion.

      "One man with courage is a majority." Andrew Jackson

      by Jack Flynn on Thu Mar 06, 2008 at 09:55:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  good timing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I had a pledge form sitting on my desk from a few weeks ago.  After I read their press release, I had the pleasure to return the pledge form to them with a letter explaining that I would continue to support our troops and veterans, but why I couldn't do it through their organization.  If they had issued the press release much later, I might have made the mistake of giving them money.

    Government can't restrict free speech, but corporations can? WTF

    by kyoders on Thu Mar 06, 2008 at 09:44:00 AM PST

    •  How many others get duped into that? (0+ / 0-)

      It's a shame because people don't know that much about the real operations behind the swaggering, flag-waving group that appears in public. Scratch the AL leadership and the John Birchers' come out like roaches in the dark.

      "What a peaceful world it would be if Barbara had aborted!"

      by DevonTexas on Thu Mar 06, 2008 at 11:23:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  How many members are they down to? (0+ / 0-)

    My father belonged to the Legion, mainly so he could go out with the guys and drink cheap beer. That was 40 years ago.

    John McCain's Straight Talk Express runs on fossil fuels.

    by Dump Terry McAuliffe on Thu Mar 06, 2008 at 10:04:23 AM PST

    •  It still applies. (0+ / 0-)

      Like Papa said, they are just a drinking club. And he was not a tea-totaler. He enjoyed drinking with friends but he didn't need a "club" to belong to and he had no appreciation for the AL.

      I followed him into the service and never joined the organization either.

      "What a peaceful world it would be if Barbara had aborted!"

      by DevonTexas on Thu Mar 06, 2008 at 11:22:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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