Thursday, October 26, 2006

FACT CHECK: McNerney, Pombo on Domestic Spying


Pombo was against it before he was for it

"The Jerry McNerney for Congress campaign today responded to a desperate incumbent's slanderous television advertisement. Attempting to avoid being held accountable for flip-flopping on warrantless wiretapping, Pombo is misrepresenting McNerney's position in a new television ad.

"In May, Pombo agreed with McNerney that current law provides law enforcement with the tools necessary to monitor terrorist communications and prevent future attacks," said McNerney communications director Yoni Cohen. "Pombo also agreed with McNerney that the government should not spy on American citizens without first obtaining a warrant. But in September, Pombo flip-flopped, embracing President Bush's unconstitutional attack on American liberties. California residents can't trust Pombo to keep his word. Why should they trust him with their vote?"

CLAIM: Pombo's vote for the Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act in September is consistent with his statement at a Republican forum in May. (Tracy Press, 10/12/06).

FACT: Pombo initially said law enforcement should monitor phone calls between suspected terrorists only after getting a warrant. In May, Pombo proclaimed: "I believe that when monitoring phone calls or amassing a list of where people call, even though it is specifically targeted at people that are believed to be associated with terrorist groups, that it does have to go through the normal process, that [intelligence officers] do have to get a warrant issued before they take advantage of having that opportunity." (Tracy Press, 10/12/06).

Four months later, Pombo voted to allow the government to spy on American citizens before obtaining a warrant. Pombo voted for the Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act, which in many circumstances would allow law enforcement to eavesdrop without a warrant for 90 days. In other circumstances, the legislation would enable the President to authorize electronic surveillance for up to one year without a court order.

CLAIM: "According to his own published answers to Vote Smart, McNerney would stop law enforcement from monitoring terrorist phone calls." (Pombo TV Ad, "Our Time")

FACT: McNerney would encourage law enforcement to monitor terrorist phone calls in a manner consistent with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Thirty years ago, Congress enacted FISA to allow the government to conduct necessary surveillance of terrorists while protecting the Fourth Amendment right of ordinary Americans to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The government has submitted thousands of requests to the FISA court, virtually all of which have been expeditiously approved.

McNerney's position is consistent with his response(s) to an online questionnaire. McNerney had expressed opposition to "granting law enforcement agencies greater discretion to tap phones." This is consistent with his support for surveillance through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which already allows law enforcement to monitor phone calls after obtaining a warrant. (The statute also provides a number of exceptions which permit the government to conduct surveillance without a warrant in emergency circumstances and to inform the court within several days of the fact).

Notably, Project Vote Smart prohibits the use of its name or survey in any negative partisan activity, including advertising. According to the organization's website, "Project Vote Smart does not permit the use of its name or programs in any negative campaign activity, including advertising, debates, and speeches" (Associated Press, 10/24/06).


Jerry McNerney is a nationally recognized expert in wind engineering and renewable energy, with a PhD in mathematics. During his career in wind energy, McNerney's work contributed to saving the equivalent of approximately 30 million barrels of oil, or 8.3 million tons of carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas – as well as other harmful pollutants. The Democratic nominee for California's 11th Congressional District, Jerry has been married for 29 years and has three grown children.
" (source)


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