Whose Side is Silvestre Reyes On?

Released: March 12, 2008

DFA runs full-page ad targeting Rep. Reyes on telecom immunity

BURLINGTON, VT -- Democracy for America, our nations largest progressive political action organization, is running a full-page ad in the Thursday edition of the El Paso Times. The ad is directed at Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Rep. Reyes has made numerous comments indicating he is open to granting what he calls blanket immunity to the telecommunications companies who participated in President Bushs program of warrantless wiretapping. DFA has been leading the effort to block the Bush administrations attempt to provide retroactive immunity.

Last week, Democracy for America Political Director Charles Chamberlain sent a message to DFAs 675,000 members asking them to take action and call Rep. Reyes:

He needs to know we are counting on him. He needs to know that if he wont stand up to

President Bush, then DFA members will find someone to replace him who will.

The message to DFA members resulted in thousands of phone calls to Rep. Reyes offices in El Paso and Washington.

By the end of the day, Jeremy Bash, the Chief Counsel to the House Intelligence Committee, called Democracy for America to discuss Rep. Reyes position on retroactive immunity. On behalf of Rep. Reyes, Mr. Bash provided a statement to DFA indicating that the Chairman was not changing his position and was still open to immunity.

A majority of Democrats in the House and Senate are opposed to retroactive telecom immunity. From Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Sen. Chris Dodd, Democrats have been unified against giving AT&T, Verizon, and President Bush a get out of jail free card. Even Bill Foster, a self-described Blue Dog who just won a special election to fill the remainder of Dennis Hasterts term, is not in favor of granting immunity.

Richard Clarke (former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council), Rand Beers (former Senior Director for Combating Terrorism at the National Security Council), Lt. Gen. Don Kerrick (former Deputy National Security Advisor), and Suzanne Spaulding (former assistant general counsel at the CIA) recently sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell expressing their opposition to telecom immunity:

Telecommunications companies will continue to cooperate with lawful government requests, particularly since FISA orders legally compel cooperation with the government. Again, it is unclear to us that the immunity debate will affect our surveillance capabilities.

The intelligence community currently has the tools it needs to acquire surveillance of new targets and methods of communication.

Rep. Reyes has a clear choice to make. Is he with the American people, the US Constitution, and experienced intelligence officials or is he with President Bush and his cronies?, said Jim Dean, Chair of Democracy for America. Telecom immunity is a sham that the President is using to hide his illegal activities and scare people for political gain."

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