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Vicky Leidner, 54, plays a sorrowful Lady Liberty in the street theater performed by the Raging Grannies at an anti wiretapping vigil in San Francisco Fed. 22.
SAN FRANCISCO - A woman clad in a shiny silver costume, complete with a Lady Liberty hat, fell to her knees and rolled onto the concrete floor of San Francisco's Justin Herman Plaza in front of about 80 people on Feb. 22 while the crowd cried “don't give up!

Then a man in a white doctor's coat came along with other women dressed in bright colored granny gear passionately reciting the Bill of Rights, gradually reviving Vicki Leidner, of San Francisco, with fake blood on her face, from her mock affliction. The crowd giggled and joined in reciting.

The street theater piece was a lighthearted segment of a vigil dubbed: Stop Illegal Wiretapping Now, part of a national campaign calling for an independent investigation into the Bush Administration's program of listening in on the telephone conversations of American citizens who speak to suspected members of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups abroad.

“In the 60's we spied on Dr. King illegally and in response we passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is binding on the president. His spying program is not legal,” said Jeff Mittman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

Congress passed FISA in 1978, describing the procedures the National Security Agency must take to collect foreign intelligence information using physical and electronic surveillance within the United States. FISA has a special court available at all hours designed for authorities to use for obtaining emergency warrants for domestic eavesdropping.

“Only four requests for FISA warrants have been denied. We assume that the administration does not have probable cause if they do not use this court,” according to Mittman, adding “and how can the attorney general investigate himself."

The vigil, sponsored by the ACLU, Code Pink, and the Raging Grannies of San Francisco, featured speakers from various organizations, private citizen testimonies, and the activist flock singing classic tunes with supplanted lyrics for their cause and waving flashlights and electric candles to “shed the light on secrecy."

“We want accountability, why did he (Bush) skirt the law,” asked Jessie Neufeld, 24, of San Francisco.

The crowd sang, “You better not doubt I'm telling you why, the NSA is spying on you,” instead of Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

There did not appear to be anyone at the demonstration who supported the Bush Administration's spying program. Although there has been criticism coming out of certain sectors, demonstrators lamented on what they considered a lack of intense public outcry. “Either people are fearful of the threat of terror, willing to give up our rights, or most people are tuned out to what's going on,” said Jean Johnson, 57, of San Francisco.

The speakers asked the group to send letters to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to pressure her and other congressional representatives for an independent investigation of the program.

“We cannot and must not allow our civil liberties to become a casualty of an administration with a disturbingly expansive view of the powers of the executive branch,” said Pelosi in a statement from her office addressed to the people at the vigil.

As part of a coordinated campaign, groups held smaller vigils in Pacifica, Mill Valley, Vallejo, San Leandro, Berkeley, and three in Oakland, including one at Splash Pad Park, according to the activist Web site MoveOn.org.

Several passersby stopped to listen to the speakers during their commute home. “I disagree with the way the (Bush) administration is eavesdropping, not so much as the fact they do it,” said John Haines, 42, of Treasure Island.