Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ)

Posted on / by Alex Berger

In the past month I’ve sent my house representative Harry Mitchell two e-mails. The first urging him to support George W. Bush’s impeachment and the second expressing my disgust at his decision to ignore the wishes of his constituency, cave in to fear, and to vote for the FISA bill and Telco immunity.  Though it took a week to receive a response to each of the messages here they are for public record:

On the FISA Bill and Retro-Active Immunity:

Dear Mr. Berger:

Thank you for contacting me in regard to your concerns about the recent update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.  I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this important issue.

I agree with you that we must work toward a better FISA law that protects our civil liberties and provides our intelligence community with the tools they need to protect our homeland from another terrorist attack.

While far from perfect, I believe that H.R. 6304, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments, is a reasonable compromise. As a result, I voted for H.R. 6304, which passed the House on June 20, 2008 by a vote of 293 – 129.

First and foremost it will keep us safe.  According to a National Intelligence Estimate, al Qaeda has reconstituted itself, and is continuing to plot against Americans.  In recent months, fighting in Afghanistan has intensified.  While I am frustrated that the Administration chose to divert troops from Afghanistan to Iraq, the threat is real and we must do what we can to protect Americans.

At the same time, the act requires that, in gathering intelligence, President Bush and future Presidents, will need to seek warrants to conduct surveillance on Americans.  The law allows an exception for certain emergency situations, provided the Attorney General notifies a specialized FISA court that surveillance is beginning, and the Attorney General applies for a warrant within 7 days.

In addition, the act will ensure that any past surveillance abuses by the Bush Administration will be fully investigated.  The bill requires the inspectors general of the Justice Department, and all agencies authorized to conduct foreign surveillance, to report to Congress on all federal government programs involving warrantless surveillance conducted since September 11, 2001.  The bill requires a preliminary report within 60 days of enactment, and specifically requires that the final report include a detailed description of what President Bush referred to as the “NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program,” as well as any program conducted by or at the direction of any part of the federal government that involved domestic electronic surveillance of Americans or did not, in any way, fully comply with federal law.

I was extremely disappointed earlier this year when, in the middle of negotiations about a new FISA bill, the President abruptly ended negotiations, and allowed temporary FISA amendments to lapse because of his insistence that Congress immediately grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies who may have violated their customers’ privacy rights. I believed then, as now, that courts, not Congress, should make such determinations, based upon evidence.

H.R. 6304 requires just that.  Instead of granting retroactive immunity, the bill requires courts to make individualized determinations and only dismiss suits against telecommunications companies upon proof, by substantial evidence, that the assistance they provided to the Administration was part of a program to detect or prevent a terrorist attack, was specifically authorized by the President, and that they had been told by a high level intelligence official that such cooperation had been determined to be lawful.

Finally, H.R. 6304 contains a “sunset” provision, requiring the next President, and a future Congress to review these FISA amendments in 2012, and make any necessary changes, before allowing them to continue.

I strongly believe that warrantless wiretapping abuses by the Bush Administration must be fully investigated, and I am pleased that nothing in H.R. 6304 prevents any current or former government official who may have broken the law from being investigated by Congress or the Department of Justice as appropriate.  Please be assured that I take violations of civil rights seriously, and will continue to support efforts in Congress to get answers.

Again, thank you for sharing your views with me on this issue. If you have any further questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.

If you would like to receive email updates about how I am working on behalf of Arizona’s 5th Congressional District, I invite you to sign up for my newsletter at


Harry E. Mitchell

Member of Congress

On the subject of Impeachment:

Dear Mr. Berger:

Thank you for contacting me regarding impeachment. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

I share your frustration with many of the policies the Bush Administration has implemented, and do not feel the previous Congress provided adequate oversight. I am pleased, however, that the new Congress is finally examining these policies. I believe this is very important.

Oversight, like impeachment, is one of the checks our constitution gives Congress over the Executive branch. Our founding fathers wisely gave these powers to Congress to protect against Executive excess, and abuse of power. I believe Congress has an obligation to use this power, forcefully when necessary, but always responsibly.

Oversight provides an opportunity for Congress to investigate actions undertaken by the executive branch, make factual findings, and make policy changes. Should congressional oversight uncover evidence of a high crime or misdemeanor, then I believe it would be appropriate to consider impeachment.

As Chairman of Oversight and Investigation for the Veterans Affairs Committee, I take congressional oversight very seriously. In that committee alone we have uncovered grave injustices toward many of our nation’s veterans.

As you may know, on June 10, 2008, Rep. Dennis Kucinich introduced H. Res. 1258, a resolution impeaching President George W. Bush, for high crimes and misdemeanors. This legislation is now pending before the House Judiciary Committee. Should the resolution pass out of committee and come to the floor of the House for a vote, I will keep your views in mind.

Please be assured that I will continue work for a balanced, transparent, and ethical government as this Congress progresses.

Again, thank you for contacting me about this issue. I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me again should you have any additional questions, comments, or concerns.

If you would like to receive email updates about how I am working on behalf of Arizona’s 5th Congressional District, I invite you to sign up for my newsletter at


Harry E. Mitchell

Member of Congress

While I am refraining from commenting in depth, both of these responses while thorough are hogwash. Add one more worthless congressional representative to the list. As if being saddled with Kyle and McCain’s corruption and moral failings was not enough. The sad part is I actually voted for, and had some level of faith in this one.

Several links to discourse currently occurring in the senate about the FISA bill and illustrating why Mitchell’s response is horseraddish:  [Boxer],[Feingold],[Dodd]

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

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