DEMOCRACY NEEDS YOUR HELP: Tell Senator Arlen Specter NOT To Feed The Telecom Lobbyist Beast

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Dear Jonathan,

The House passed a version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) last week that included retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that conspired in Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. And now, as the bill heads to the Senate, it looks like we have one last chance to stop this massive erosion of the rule of law. Thankfully, we have a few champions, like Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd, who look poised to fight this to the very end, but they can’t do it alone. They need both strong support from progressive senators and the vote of those senators currently sitting on the fence. This is where you come in. Sen. Specter could be the decidingSpecterCheney_1_1.jpg voice and vote on stopping retroactive immunity. Please take a minute right now to give him a call and ask him to strip the retroactive immunity provision of FISA.

You can call either by dialing the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or by using our list of direct number for target senators. After you are done with the call, please take a moment to let us know how the call went.

Senator Feingold effectively summed up the insanity of retroactive immunity yesterday by saying, “It doesn’t simply have the impact of potentially allowing telephone companies to break the law. It may prevent us from ever getting to the core issue…which is the president ran an illegal program that could’ve been an impeachable offense.”

I hope that you’ll join me and do what you can to help prevent this from happening.

Thank you,

Jane Hamsher, Firedoglake

CharlieBlackMccain.jpgUPDATE: We just did this and it is SUPER-EASY. You just call the number above, ask for Senator Specter’s office, tell the guy who answers the phone that you are calling to urge the Senator to strip retroactive immunity for the telecoms out of the spying bill, that you believe the Constitution is the law of the land in good times and bad. And then they put you on the Terrorist Watch List. The guy will thank you for your time and promise to pass your message along to the Senator — and you are done. Believe it or not, these calls actually CAN make a difference. Do the right thing.

SLATE: The Smart Way Around Telecom Immunity 

RELATED: Who Is The Lobbyist That Pulled The Congressional Strings To Give Telecoms Immunity From Crimes Committed In The War On Terror? Charlie Black, Senior Advisor, John McCain ’08 [pictured, left]

NEWSWEEK: The nation’s biggest telecommunications companies, working closely with the White House, have mounted a secretive lobbying campaign to get Congress to quickly approve a measure wiping out all private lawsuits against them for assisting the U.S. intelligence community’s warrantless surveillance programs. …”Among the players, these sources said: powerhouse Republican lobbyists Charlie Black and Wayne Berman (who represent AT&T and Verizon, respectively) …

What makes that report of interest is the fact that, by the time of Newsweek’s reporting on the lobbying activities of Black and Berman, both men were already serving in official capacities in the presidential campaign of John McCain, who has since been fighting the perception that his campaign is unduly influenced by lobbyists. [via HUFFINGTON POST]

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SOURCE WATCH: In May 2008, MoveOn launched an advertisement calling on McCain to fire Charlie Black as his campaign adviser.[10]Charlie Black, McCain’s campaign chairman, ran a lobbying firm that represented brutal dictators like Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire — along with terrorist rebel Jonas Savimbi in Angola [pictured, above]. Together, these men have been responsible for massive human suffering,” the MoveOn e-mail states.[11]

Black told Washton Post reporter Matthew Mosk that he never worked for foreign clients “without first talking toMarcos2.jpg the State Department and the White House and clearing with them that the work would be in the interest of U.S. foreign policy.” Blacked defended working for Marcos on the grounds that he was a US ally at the time. “When the White House pulled the plug on Marcos, we resigned the account the same day,” he stated.[11] Mosk reported that Black “said his firm was hired to help show Mobutu how to form political parties and conduct elections, and when Mobutu canceled the results of the parliamentary election, ‘we quit’.”[11] Black dismissed the controversy over the number of lobbyists ties to McCain’s campaign — after five lobbyists turned campaign advisers had resigned — as “complete inside-the-beltway nonsense.”[13] MORE

WIKIPEDIA: During these years, [the Marcos] regime was marred by rampant corruption and political mismanagement by his relatives and cronies, which culminated with the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. Critics considered Marcos the quintessential kleptocrat, having looted billions of dollars from the Filipino treasury. The Philippine government today is still paying interest on more than US$28 billion in public debts incurred during his administration. It was reported that when Marcos fled, U.S. Customs agents discovered 24 suitcases of gold bricks and diamond jewelry hidden in diaper bags; in addition, certificates for gold bullion valued in the billions of dollars are allegedly among the personal properties he, his family, his cronies and business partners had surreptitiously taken with them when the Reagan administration provided them safe passage to Hawaii.[15][16] MORE

Mobutu.jpgWIKIPEDIA: Mobutu was overthrown in the First Congo War by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who was supported by the governments of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Tutsis had long opposed Mobutu, due to his open support for Rwandan Hutu extremists responsible for the Rwandan genocide in 1994. When his government issued an order in November 1996 forcing Tutsis to leave Zaire on penalty of death, they erupted in rebellion. From eastern Zaire, with the support of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Rwandan Minister of Defense Paul Kagame, they launched an offensive to overthrow Mobutu, joining forces with locals opposed to him as they marched west toward Kinshasa. Ailing with cancer, Mobutu was unable to coordinate the resistance, which crumbled in front of the march, the army being more used to suppressing civilians than defending the large country. On May 16, 1997, following failed peace talks, the Tutsi rebels and other anti-Mobutu groups as the Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL) captured Kinshasa. Zaire was renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mobutu went into temporary exile in Togo but lived mostly in Morocco. Laurent-Désiré Kabila became the new president in the same day. MORE

MOVE ON: Lobbying For Foreign Tyrants Is Un-American

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