Sen. Vincent J. Fumo

District Office

1208 Tasker Street
Phila, PA 19148

Harrisburg Office

545 Main Capitol
Hbg, PA 17120




Madam President,

Last month, United States Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, introduced a resolution to censure George W. Bush for breaking the law by engaging in domestic spying without a warrant. 

            The response from the administration was predictable and partisan.  Dick Cheyney said in a speech the next day: “Instead of acknowledging the urgent need to track enemy communications in wartime, some Democrats in Congress have decided that the president is the enemy.” 

            Shortly after that, Republican Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado chimed in with the same theme. He accused Senator Feingold of siding with terrorists. 

            These are reprehensible tactics of men who are afraid to have a legitimate debate about constitutional issues that are of grave importance to the freedoms we have historically enjoyed in this country. They try to win their arguments by instilling fear.  

Because they cannot refute ideas on merit, they attack their fellow Americans and accuse them of a lack of patriotism and of being soft on terrorism. 

            Contrary to the statement of Dick Cheyney, Democrats DO acknowledge the need to track enemy communications in wartime, but we simply believe the president should follow the fairly easy legal procedures for doing so. The issue is not whether the president should be allowed to snoop on terrorists – clearly he should be. The issue is whether he should be allowed to snoop on American citizens without a warrant – clearly, he should not be. 

            Those who speak out against the warrantless domestic spying program are being patriotic. They are standing up for the freedoms that the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights guarantee to all Americans. 

            As for siding with terrorists, many people, including many who are much more knowledge on the topic than I am, have pointed out that George Bush’s occupation of Iraq is hurting us in the war on terror because it has distracted us from the real enemy. But while I have been as critical of Bush’s policies as anyone, and while I believe he is doing great damage to our nation’s security in more ways than one, I have never claimed he was motivated by a lack of patriotism. The administration and its apologists, however, do not mind stooping that low. 

            If the Bush administration is going to argue that it can wiretap without warrant in the name of fighting terror, it is not a great leap of logic to think they might regard physical searches in the same way. Electronic eaves dropping was not an issue in colonial America, but warrantless physical searches were one of the chief grievances that led to the American Revolution. It is no surprise that they very issue was addressed in the Bill of Rights.           

Sure enough, in its March 27 issue, US News and World Report revealed that a group of lawyers at the White House and Justice Department had prepared a series of memos arguing that they have the same authority to conduct physical searches as they do to listen in on conversations.  

We have no conclusive evidence that they have actually conducted a physical search without a warrant, but the fact that the Bush administration is even making the argument that it would be legal is something that should frighten all patriotic Americans. 

Keep in mind that a warrantless search was exactly what the Watergate break-in was, as were other infamous crimes of Nixon era, such as the break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. 

Maybe that is why one former high-ranking official in the Nixon administration, ex-White House counsel John Dean, said last week that he supports Senator Feingold’s censure resolution.  Dean, who served four months in prison over Watergate, said that if the Congress had exercised greater oversight when the abuses of the Nixon Administration first surfaced, the nightmare of Watergate might have been avoided. 

Dean even went a step further. He said Bush’s domestic spying program exceeds the wrongdoing that brought down the Nixon presidency, and that perhaps Bush should not only be censured, but perhaps even impeached. 

Lest anyone think I am making a partisan attack on George Bush here, let me also say that my own political party has not distinguished itself on this issue. Only two other Senate Democrats have signed up to co-sponsor Senator Feingold’s censure resolution. Democrats on the national scene have been far too reluctant, in my opinion, to speak out against Bush’s unconstitutional domestic spying. They need to exhibit a little more courage, and not be frightened just because opinion polls show that a slight majority of Americans are not concerned about warrantless spying. 

            The reason we have a Constitution, the reason we have a Bill of Rights, is so that our basic principles of freedom cannot be violated on the temporary whim of a small majority. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are permanent protections against the fervor of the moment, and people in both parties in Washington have a solemn duty to defend them. 

            So, even though I can’t vote on it in Washington, I’m not afraid to stand here before this body today and say that I support the Feingold resolution. 

            George Bush should not be allowed to undermine democracy in the United States while he is supposedly trying to establish it in the Middle East. 

            American soldiers continue to fight and die for what George Bush says is an effort to make Iraq a democracy. Their sacrifice is truly in vein -- in fact, it is a tragic hoax -- if while they are overseas, George Bush is allowed to steal democracy in their American homeland. 

            To date, 2,336 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Another 17,381 have been wounded – 7,987 of them too seriously to return to action. 

            Now, I would like to honor the memory of two brave Pennsylvanians who died in Iraq last month. 

Sergeant 1st Class Randy D. McCaulley, age 44, of Indiana, Pa., died in Habbaniyah, Iraq on March 23, when his dismounted patrol came under enemy small arms fire during combat operations. McCaulley was assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division.

             Specialist Frederick A. Carlson, age 25, of Bethlehem, Pa., died in Taqqadum, Iraq on March 25 while not involved in combat.  Carlson was assigned to the Army National Guard's 228th Forward Support Battalion, 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Division. The circumstances of his death are under investigation.

            Thank you Madam President.


Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo