LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – In an interview with ThinkProgress yesterday, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) expressed his disappointment with the recent revisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Over the weekend, Congress capitulated to White House demands, and passed a FISA bill that unnecessarily expands the power of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Sestak, who was one of 183 representatives to vote against the bill, told us:
How could we have not have stood up for rights of civil liberties while ensuring the proper ability to go and listen, and just stayed during the recess if necessary. And I understand that our leadership in the caucus has to worry about how the public will perceive it, but I also know this, that ultimately, we have to, as Benjamin Franklin said, be concerned that those who give up…liberty in the name security, deserve neither liberty or security. This is a time that I strongly believe, we should have stood up and said no. Attorney General Gonzales, we’re not going to let you decide the guidelines upon which you’ll listen in on Americans.
Sestak noted that the administration had rejected a compromise bill worked out between Congressional leaders and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell. “We made the three major changes that [McConnell] wanted,” said Sestak. “The issue here is they just don’t want to come to the FISA court. That’s enough to tell me we need them to.”
“We had voted for a bill the evening before that had actually brought together a proper balance of the civil liberties of our citizens,” said Sestak. “We should have brought that bill up Saturday, instead of the Senate bill…we could have gotten it the next morning under majority votes. And that would have meant probably that we had to stay in session this week, and that would have forced the Senate to come back and deal with it.” Watch it:
Referencing his 31-year career in the military, Sestak said he witnessed the need for surveillance when he headed the Navy’s anti-terrorism unit after 9/11. “But you know,” he said, “I also learned that [intelligence officers will] press a little extra to get that information they need. And at times, constitutionally, they’ll go over the edge. That’s what Congress is to make sure, they don’t go over the edge.”