Privacy Matters

Calling on Congressman Mike Thompson to protect our civil liberties

Congressman Thompson’s oath of office requires that he uphold and protect the Constitution, including the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments for a free press, privacy and due process. This sworn oath does not allow for exceptions in the case of Democratic Party leadership or due to presidential wishes that he do otherwise.

In July, Thompson voted against Rep. Justin Amash’s amendment to an appropriations bill which would have barred mass surveillance programs like PRISM. Thompson’s vote was one of only 12 votes that prevented its passage. Along with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Thompson was one of only two Bay Area representatives voting against the amendment.

Even after the recent revelations by the Washington Post of NSA violating privacy rules thousands of times each year, Thompson continues to support the NSA programs, saying in a statement on Aug. 16, “I do not believe protecting our citizens’ lives and civil liberties are mutually exclusive pursuits. Through aggressive oversight we can ensure our intelligence community can continue working to keep our country safe while respecting our citizens’ constitutional rights.”

This telling statement came from Thompson after reports of thousands of rule violations by the NSA—”abuses” within the program, Thompson called them, adding that “we must act to make sure the abuses are not repeated.” But the NSA surveillance program itself is the problem.

No amount of tinkering around the edges of a program in which the government targets the telephone records of journalists, vacuums up the phone-call records of hundreds of millions of Americans, captures and stores citizens’ emails and jettisons centuries-long principles of due process and habeas corpus can make this Big-Brother-on-steroids program fit within the protections afforded by our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties of a free press, privacy and due process.

If Thompson continues to disregard the provisions of the Bill of Rights meant to protect the precious civil liberties of his constituents, he will continue to be challenged.

Anna Givens is a founding member of Progressive Democrats Sonoma County and a co-chair of the Coalition for Grassroots Progress.

Open Mic is a weekly op/ed in the Bohemian. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].