Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Open Letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Dear Senator Feinstein:

I write not only as a concerned constituent, but as the founder of Writers-at-Large, a first ever California writers advocacy group organized to speak up for free speech, a free press, and a federal shield law.

You may recall that in 2004 I invited you to attend "Engaged: Poets for Democracy and Core Freedoms," at the San Francisco Public Library, an event in which several poets assembled to vocalize their opposition to the USA Patriot Act, as well as the reelection of George W. Bush. Obviously, neither objective prevailed. George W. Bush got his second term in which he finalized several sections of that pernicious legislation named for patriots which will someday be remembered as the greatest single threat to constitutional protection ever faced by this nation.

As you are also aware, government surveillance of ordinary, law abiding Americans has increased exponentially since the events of September 11, 2001, and I urge you to support comprehensive and meaningful reform of the Patriot Act and other surveillance laws that have fundamentally diminished our rights.

Senator Russ Feingold, your colleague in the Senate Judiciary Committee, has introduced legislation designed to mitigate against runaway government powers inherent in the Patriot Act.

I urge you to support S. 1686, the Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act which includes measures:

*Protecting the privacy of records by reining in the government's use of National Security Letters to collect the records of innocent people far removed from an actual terrorism suspect.
*Protecting humanitarian activities by preventing prosecution of people who work with or for charities that give humanitarian aid in good faith to war torn countries.
*Protecting First Amendment rights by requiring that the government convinces a court that a National Security gag order is necessary.
*Protecting privacy of communications. Amend last year's sweeping FISA Amendments Act to better protect Americans' phone calls and emails

Comprehensive reform of the Patriot Act, like all legislation, involves a collaborate effort. I ask that you please support Senator Feingold's JUSTICE Act (S. 1686), and affirm the right to privacy, and due process, that have been in place since this great nation's inception. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people is not one that persistently violates the people's rights.