damn it!


Well, it's official. The Senate caved in yesterday afternoon and passed the FISA amendment bill with the telecom immunity fully intact, and Bush signed it earlier today. (I discussed the issue of retroactive immunity for their warrantless wiretapping several times, most recently here.)

I was glad last October when Obama's spokesperson Bill Burton declared:

"To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."

Obama himself wrote in January:

"I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill. No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people -- not the president of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program [... T]hat is why I am proud to stand with Sen. Dodd and a grassroots movement of Americans who are standing up for our civil liberties and the rule of law."

I got a bad feeling when Obama caved in last week, assuming that his figurehead status within the party would signal to the other Democratic senators that voting for the "compromise" immunity bill would be an acceptable decision.

They followed his lead and voted for it, and that's not acceptable. As Glenn Greenwald observed:

Those who support this bill, by definition, support both warrantless eavesdropping on Americans and the right of the President and private corporations to break our laws with impunity.


The political class has made as clear as can be that it is intent on supporting a limitless erosion of core constitutional liberties and the creation of a two-tiered justice system that exempts the political elite from the rule of law. Neither the "opposition party" nor the establishment media are the slightest bit interested in, or capable of, stopping any of that. Battling against that is the responsibility of citizens who find these political trends dangerous and intolerable.

Congress has let the American people down, and they didn't have to. Bush only threatened to veto any FISA bill without immunity because immunity is (to him, his cronies, and their co-conspirators) the bill's most important provision. Why each Democratic senator couldn't locate a pair of [gender-neutral] gonads to filibuster this travesty of justice is beyond me.

Why any of them deserves re-election is also beyond me, although few people outside the blogosphere seem bothered by this scandal's disappointingly quiet denouement. Here's
Greenwald again:

"Anticlimactic" is a mild description for a scandal that began with disclosure that the President of the United States and the telecom industry were committing felonies for years in how they spied on American citizens, only to end with a Congress controlled by the "opposition party" legalizing the surveillance, protecting the lawbreakers, terminating the only meaningful process for discovering what really happened, and embracing the premise that the President has the power to order private actors to break the law as long as, in his sole discretion, he decrees that doing so is legal.

As always, the ACLU is on top of the FISA scandal; they will challenge the law in order to protect the Fourth Amendment against the Bush administration, and the EFF will do likewise. Both organizations deserve our support for their tireless work in defense of freedom.



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