Posts Tagged ‘League of Women Voters’

Donnelly responds to LWV on FISA, civil liberties

April 6, 2008

(The following was passed along to DW from a reader who is also a member of the local League of Women Voters. The original letter-to-the-editor follows Donnelly’s response.)

April 3, 2008

Dear Ms. Plencner,

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about revisions to the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). I value your views, and your input helps
me to better represent the people of Indiana’s Second District in Congress.

My top priority as your Congressman is to ensure that our country is
equipped to prevent and respond to threats against American interests, both at home and abroad. Nothing is more important to me than protecting our nation from those who would do us harm.

As you know, the 1978 FISA law governs the domestic collection of foreign intelligence. Last summer, our intelligence agencies disclosed that a large backlog of FISA court warrant requests had formed because the law had not adequately been updated to take into account technological advancements. In addition, the decision by a federal intelligence court judge that even some foreign-to-foreign communications require FISA review further underscored the need to modernize existing surveillance law.

On August 4, 2007, I joined the House of Representatives in passing S. 1927, The Protect America Act, which the president signed into law the next day on August 5. S. 1927 was designed to temporarily allow the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to collect electronic surveillance of individuals reasonably believed to be outside the United States without a FISA court warrant. If the subject of the requested surveillance was located inside the United States, the FISA court was required to review and authorize the request before any surveillance was conducted. This six-month law, temporary by design to allow in-depth debate and the careful crafting of a responsible and permanent update to FISA law, expired on February 16, 2008.

On February 14, I voted to extend the temporary law for another 21 days to allow Congress and the President more time to complete an update of FISA law. The extension failed to pass the House and following that vote, I voted against a motion to adjourn for the upcoming Presidents’ Day recess because I felt that Congress needed to stay in session until we could bring the FISA matter to resolution. Although the Protect America Act has expired, America has not been left in the dark. Existing surveillance warrants authorized under the expired law will remain valid through August, and law enforcement and intelligence officials still possess all the tools they did prior to last August as the permanent, 1978 FISA law is still in effect.

As you probably know, one contentious issue has been whether Congress should provide existing immunity protections retroactively to telecommunications companies that may have cooperated with President Bush‘s now defunct warrantless surveillance program. To date, the full House has not considered any legislation providing retroactive immunity.

I believe Congress and the president should put aside their partisan differences and get down to the business of crafting a new FISA law for the 21st Century that provides the necessary tools to the intelligence community to keep American secure, while also safeguarding our civil liberties.

Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue. Please do not hesitate to write, call or email me again if I can ever be of assistance. Also, if you would like to receive regular updates on my actions on your behalf in Congress, sign up for my e-newsletter, The Donnelly Dispatch, at http://donnelly. house.gov.

Sincerely,
Joe Donnelly
Member of Congress

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VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

As reported in The Tribune, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, voted to allow a vote on a resolution to extend the Protect America Act. Although the measure failed, the House will likely revisit this issue in the future.

We, the board of the League of Women Voters of South Bend, urge Donnelly to take a stand against the administration’ s pressure to pass S. 2248, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2007. We also urge Congress to support legislation that will ensure that government agencies obtain individual court warrants before wiretapping the communications of Americans and make sure telecommunications providers do not receive blanket retroactive immunity for violating the rights of innocent citizens.

For 88 years the League of Women Voters has been a strong advocate of the democratic principles that serve as a bedrock of our republic. Certain fundamental principles guard our freedoms and these must be preserved. These include independent judicial review of law enforcement actions and prohibition on indiscriminate searches.

While we recognize that our nation must guard against terrorism and other threats to national security, it cannot violate basic Constitutional principles while claiming to protect itself. As such, wholesale warrantless wiretapping of Americans is unacceptable.

Lisa A. Plencner

President, League of Women Voters, South Bend

Citizens voice opinions to Donnelly on surveillance bill, family planning services

March 7, 2008

[The following are two citizen-produced opinion pieces that appeared recently in the South Bend Tribune. – DW]

Donnelly Wrong on Surveillance Bill

As reported in The Tribune, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, voted to allow a vote on a resolution to extend the Protect America Act. Although the measure failed, the House will likely revisit this issue in the future.

We, the board of the League of Women Voters of South Bend, urge Donnelly to take a stand against the administration’s pressure to pass S. 2248, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2007. We also urge Congress to support legislation that will ensure that government agencies obtain individual court warrants before wiretapping the communications of Americans and make sure telecommunications providers do not receive blanket retroactive immunity for violating the rights of innocent citizens.

For 88 years the League of Women Voters has been a strong advocate of the democratic principles that serve as a bedrock of our republic. Certain fundamental principles guard our freedoms and these must be preserved. These include independent judicial review of law enforcement actions and prohibition on indiscriminate searches.

While we recognize that our nation must guard against terrorism and other threats to national security, it cannot violate basic Constitutional principles while claiming to protect itself. As such, wholesale warrantless wiretapping of Americans is unacceptable.

Lisa A. Plencner
President, League of Women Voters,
South Bend area

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Title X funds low-cost family planning services

I am writing in response to the Feb. 28 article in The Tribune by staff writer Margaret Fosmoe titled, “IUSB petitioners demand cost drop on birth control.” I applaud the students and employees who gathered signatures and delivered the petitions to U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger.

The article highlighted the need for individuals (including Donnelly) to be educated about the Federal Title X program and the Olive Street Health Center. The Olive Street Health Center is located on the west side of South Bend.

The Federal Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and preventive health services to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons. The U.S. government’s Title X program funds low-cost, confidential family planning services that would otherwise be out of reach for many women.

The Olive Street Health Center is funded by the federal Title X program through the Indiana Family Health Council Inc. Services are provided on a sliding scale based on income; people at or below the federal poverty level receive services at no cost. Most importantly, no one is refused family planning services because of inability to pay. Title X funds cannot be used to provide abortions. In fact, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, publicly funded family planning services help women avoid an estimated 1.3 million unintended pregnancies each year, half of which otherwise would be terminated by abortion. Each year, approximately 4.5 million people receive health-care services at Title X-funded clinics.Being a publicly funded health center allows the center to qualify for discounted public health pricing on medications and contraceptive supplies. We also experienced a price increase as a result of the 2005 deficit reduction bill, however, not to the extent that the IUSB Health Center and other non-publicly supported clinics have experienced. The clinic continues to be able to assure that affordable birth control is available to those who want and need it. For example, the clinic charges $4 a month for birth control pills, $17 a month for the NuvaRing, and $8 for each dose of emergency contraception (Plan B/morning-after pill). This is significantly less than what the IUSB Health Center must charge to cover their cost for these same contraceptive supplies. The Olive Street Health Center also distributes free condoms.

In addition to contraceptive services and related counseling, the Olive Street Health Center also provides a number of preventative health services such as: client education and counseling; breast and pelvic examinations; cervical cancer, STD and HIV screenings; and pregnancy diagnosis and counseling. For many clients, Olive Street Health Center is their only source of health care and health education.

Title X regulations require that all clients, including adolescents, receive confidential care. Therefore, the Olive Street Health Center encourages but does not mandate parental involvement in an adolescent’s decision to seek services at the clinic.

I applaud The Tribune for covering important women’s health issues such as the need for continued access to affordable birth control. I ask for The Tribune’s assistance in educating individuals about the services offered at the Olive Street Health Center in their effort to focus on important women’s health issues. The Olive Street Health Center is located at 244 S. Olive Street, South Bend. The phone number is (574) 282-3230.

Melinda Konrath is director of the Olive Street Health Center. She lives in Mishawaka.