Bucking his own party, Asheville City Council member and 11th District Republican Congressional candidate Carl Mumpower proclaimed “I am not for sale” in a Good Friday press release decrying his party’s and the Bush administration’s attempts to grant retroactive immunity to telecoms as part of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Mumpower said he opposes a controversial component of FISA that would grant additional retroactive immunity to large telecommunications companies (such as Verizon and AT&T). Many telecoms — without warrants or legal authority — have assisted the government in bugging phone calls, intercepting e-mails and monitoring the Internet traffic of untold numbers of American citizens as part of the war on terror, he noted. A recently passed House bill removed the immunity provisions, but President Bush is threatening to veto any legislation that does not contain such safeguards. A Senate bill passed in February contains the immunity provisions Mumpower opposes.
The two bills must either be reconciled in a conference committee, or else the Senate must pass the House version, which is an unlikely scenario.
“The Democrats — with the exception of Heath and a few others — are right on this one, plain and simple,” commented Mumpower, noting that Democratic incumbent Heath Shuler and Mumpower’s Republican primary opponents, John Armor and Spence Campbell, support the immunity provision.
Mumpower, who has sent out previous press releases on the subject, has stated that many of his own backers are upset with him over this stance.
“My own supporters are coming after me on this,” he said on March 19. “I must have received a half a dozen angry letters already today. But it would be wrong to back down on my principles just to say whatever it takes to get elected. When I say I’m independent, I mean it and I will not sidestep the right thing for the easy thing.”
Expanding on the legislation, Mumpower commented in his March 19 release: “Intelligence failures, the kind which resulted in the horrors of 9/11, are often used to stress the importance of nonsense like the warrantless wiretapping provisions found in FISA. They more accurately reflect a failure in analysis and interdepartmental cooperation than a lack of information. The various government agencies trying to protect us can’t process and act on the information they have — avoiding accountability and applying situational ethics to our system of checks and balances through FISA is reactive versus responsible leadership.
“Evidently my colleagues have not looked deep enough into existing FISA law (18 USC 2530-d and 50 USC 1806-f) to understand that telecoms already have immunity where they acted ‘pursuant to written government certification or where they prove they acted in good faith’ and that they are free to present any evidence of their defense in secret,” Mumpower added his March 19 salvo. “There is a difference in having reasonable immunity for doing the right thing and a blank check for taking short-cuts and ignoring the law.”
“Voters who want someone willing to abandon his principles to artificially support the Republican party need to look elsewhere,” he said. “I am an authentic conservative. I’m not a party hack willing to fall into the line when I’m told to, especially considering how often my party has betrayed its core values in recent years. The additional retroactive immunity provisions found in FISA are a con job. Yet, normally ‘right-thinking’ Republicans are sadly just falling ‘right-into-line’ and in the process, sacrificing their integrity, liberty, and the Constitution for fear-based arguments and the good graces of party leaders.”
— Hal L. Millard, staff writer