Do you care about FISA?

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The last few weeks political blogs have been dominated by the talk about FISA , Barack Obama's supporters being upset by his position on FISA/ Telecom Immunity, and the differences between the senate and house versions.

The Barack Obama campaign has a feature where you can sign up, volunteer, carry out tasks, and earn points. If you read Timm Herdt's recent article you will see that it is really innovative. Recently, supporters of Barack Obama's campaign have been using these tools to lobby the senator to support retroactive immunity in the senate version of the bill.

If you click on continue reading there is an email from Mary Pallant ( a Democrat that ran for the nomination of her party this year) discussing her views on the bill that was passed today which included retroactive immunity.

I was talking the other night to a local political operative who told me they were a policy wonk. They impressed me with their wonky talk. But this issue seems to be the wonkiest of all the issues going on.


So, do you care? Have you been following the arguments?

Leave a comment explaining the issue more of what you feel about it. You don't have to use your real name and you don't need to register to leave comments. I don't have any warrants asking for IP addresses, so your identity is safe. I don't share IP addresses with other Star blogs.

Thanks for reading and thanks for leaving comments.

( A comedy themed take o immunity for Telecoms.)

From Mary Pallant:


In Memoriam...



The passing of the new FISA bill today brings forth the passing of our 4th Amendment.....

In Memoriam to "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized ."

This new FISA bill reminds me of the saying, "death by a thousand cuts" ....slowly, our democracy bleeds to death going out not with a bang, but a whimper.

Mary

Published on Wednesday, July 9, 2008 by Salon.com

Congress Votes to Immunize Lawbreaking Telecoms, Legalize Warrantless Eavesdropping
by Glenn Greenwald

The Democratic-led Congress this afternoon voted to put an end to the NSA spying scandal by approving a bill to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, terminate all pending lawsuits against them, and vest whole new warrantless eavesdropping powers in the President. The vote in favor of the new FISA bill was 69-28. Barack Obama joined every Senate Republican (and every House Republican other than one) by voting in favor of it, while his now-vanquished primary rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, voted against it. The bill will now be sent to an extremely happy George Bush, who already announced that he enthusiastically supports it, and he will sign it into law very shortly.

Prior to final approval, the Senate, in the morning, rejected three separate amendments which would have improved the bill but which the White House had threatened would have prompted a presidential veto. With those amendments defeated, the Senate then passed the same bill passed last week by the House, which means it is that bill, in unchanged form, that will be sent to the White House - just as the White House demanded.

The first amendment, from Sens. Dodd, Feingold and Leahy, would have stripped from the bill the provision immunizing the telecoms. That amendment failed by a vote of 32-66, with all Republicans and 17 Democrats in. The next amendment was offered by Sen. Arlen Specter, which would have merely required a court to determine the constitutionality of the NSA spying program and grant telecom immunity only upon a finding of constitutionality. Specter's amendment failed, 37-61. The third amendment to fail was one sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, merely to require that the Senate waits until the Inspector General audits of the NSA program are complete before immunizing the telecoms. The Bingaman amendment failed by a vote of 42-56.

The Senators then voted for "cloture" on the underlying FISA bill - the procedure that allows the Senate to overcome any filibusters - and it passed by a vote of 72-26. Obama voted along with all Republicans for cloture. Hillary Clinton voted with 25 other Democrats against cloture. And with cloture approved, the bill itself then proceeded to pass by a vote of 69-28, thereby immunizing telecoms and legalizing warrantless eavesdropping. Again, while Obama voted with all Republicans to pass the bill, Sen. Clinton voted against it.

Obama's vote in favor of cloture, in particular, cemented the complete betrayal of the commitment he made back in October when seeking the Democratic nomination. Back then, Obama's spokesman - in response to demands for a clear statement of Obama's views on the spying controversy after he had issued a vague and noncommittal statement - issued this emphatic vow:

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

But the bill today does include retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies. Nonetheless, Obama voted for cloture on the bill - the exact opposition of supporting a filibuster - and then voted for the bill itself. A more complete abandonment of a clear campaign promise is difficult of imagine. I wrote extensively about Obama's support for the FISA bill, and what it means, earlier today. With their vote today, the Democratic-led Congress has covered-up years of deliberate surveillance crimes by the Bush administration and the telecom industry, and has dramatically advanced a full-scale attack on the rule of law in this country. As I noted earlier today, Law Professor and Fourth Amendment expert Jonathan Turley was on MSNBC's Countdown with Rachel Maddow last night and gave as succinct an explanation for what Democrats - not the Bush administration, but Democrats - have done today. Anyone with any lingering doubts about what is taking place today in our country should watch this:
What is most striking is that when the Congress was controlled by the GOP - when the Senate was run by Bill Frist and the House by Denny Hastert - the Bush administration attempted to have a bill passed very similar to the one that just passed today. But they were unable to do so. The administration had to wait until Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats took over Congress before being able to put a corrupt end to the scandal that began when, in December of 2005, the New York Times revealed that the President had been breaking the law for years by spying on Americans without the warrants required by law.Yet again, the Democratic Congress ignored the views of their own supporters in order to comply with the orders and wishes of the Bush administration. It is therefore hardly a surprise that, yesterday, Rasmussen Reports revealed this rather humiliating finding:
Congressional Approval Falls to Single Digits for First Time Ever The percentage of voters who give Congress good or excellent ratings has fallen to single digits for the first time in Rasmussen Reports tracking history. This month, just 9% say Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Most voters (52%) say Congress is doing a poor job, which ties the record high in that dubious category.

The Congress, with a powerful cast of bipartisan lobbyists and the establishment media class lined up behind telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping, looked poised to pass this bill back last December, but a large-scale protest was organized - largely online - by huge numbers of American who were opposed to warrantless eavesdropping and telecom immunity, and that protest disrupted that plan. Today, Sen. Chris Dodd, the leader of the opposition effort along with Russ Feingold, said on the Senate floor:
Lastly, I want to thank the thousands who joined with us in this fight around the country - those who took to the blogs, gathered signatures for online petitions and created a movement behind this issue. Men and women, young and old, who stood up, spoke out and gave us the strength to carry on this fight. Not one of them had to be involved, but each choose to become involved for one reason and one reason alone: Because they love their country. They remind us that the "silent encroachments of those in power" Madison spoke of can, in fact, be heard, if only we listen.

Today, the Democratic-led Senate ignored those protests, acted to protect the single most flagrant act of Bush lawbreaking of the last seven years, eviscerated the core Fourth Amendment prohibition of surveillance without warrants, and cemented the proposition that the rule of law does not apply to the Washington Establishment.
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13 Comments

I, for one, care about the FISA bill, and I'm deeply disappointed that it passed.

I'm equally disappointed in Sen. Obama's final vote. Whatever happened to the campaign promise he made last year to fillibuster against any bill that did not strip immunity?

That he voted for each of the 3 amendments proposed is meaningless, if he was willing in the end to vote in favor of the bill as written. That's not compromise, it's capitulation.

McCain didn't even show up. How convenient, though it mattered little, since he's on record saying he supported the bill.

I am grateful for Senators Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Feingold, Leahy and others that tried to hold the line on this issue.

Laura,

Was it his votes or that he didn't filibuster the bill that bothered you?

If the telecoms were obeying a request from the White House why should they be held legally liable if the Bush Administration isn't being held to legal account?

Just curious what the explanation for that question can be. I understand the importance of the rule of law and all but it would seem to start with the government leaders that issued the orders, not those that followed them.

Brian,

I'm disappointed in both.

The telecoms have an obligation to obey the law, not the whims of the current inhabitant of the White House, regardless of the fact that he may think he IS is the law, or is somehow above it. Despite his best efforts, we still have a constitution, bill of rights and rule of law - pesky as they may be to him.

Let's replace wiretapping with rape. If a President, commanding officer, policeman or some other authority figure ordered your neighbor to rape someone, is he obligated to do it? Does the fact that the President ordered it absolve your neighbor of committing a crime? Doesn't your neighbor have an obligation to uphold the law first? Doesn't he have a moral and legal obligation to refuse the order? Doesn't he have an obligation to report the fact that he was ordered to commit a crime?

Telecoms are not hapless little foot soldiers, without responsibility, easily cowed by power, unaware of the law or without resources. Please.

As far as the telecoms obeying a request from the White House goes didn't Qwest refuse to participate it the program?

As far as the telecoms obeying a request from the White House goes didn't Qwest refuse to participate it the program?

This is the Big boys sandbox...

Laura,

Boy, you're sure stretching it there with your analogy on rape and wiretapping. The fact is, wiretapping is a legitimate means of tracking and preventing terrorist acts by focusing on known terrorist associates and Al Quaeda sympathizers and listening in on their communications.

It's effective intelligence-gathering that could actually result in the saving of innocent lives. Don't quite understand why you have a problem with that.

I think the thing you really have a problem with is anything the Republicans do that you politicize and use for your own propaganda spreading purposes. Your transparency is stunning, my dear. The political hack in you comes through loud and clear.

Thanks again for your partisan contributions...

Flamo,

Should the executive branch have any limit on their power to wiretap people? Should they need probable cause or a warrant?

Also, calling Laura a hack while defending almost everything local Republicans do doesn't compute. Go back to the drawing board of random insults.

Has anyone seen Marta or heard her commentary on this matter. This is quite a HUGE matter. I'm being to think of "Where's Waldo".

As far as the amendment to the original FISA measure, to bring telecom immunity and cover his personal fanny (let's truly call it what it is), this is more blatant dishonest Bush dictatorship in action.

Bush as well as the whole lot of traitorous Congressional members should be impeached.

Brian,

The courts have already ruled that the wiretapping that's being done by the feds is OK, since it is for the purpose of national security. You seem perfectly OK with the court's ruling on gay marriage in California, yet you have a problem with this ruling. A tad inconsistent, are we?

You may recall a little incident that occurred on September 11, 2001 because we weren't keeping our eye on the ball, according to the 911 Commission and Congress's own independent investigation. This is a totally legitimate means of keeping an eye on people that exist within our borders who are intent on doing us harm. If someone is communicating with Al Quaeda by telephone, I damn well hope the FBI is monitoring them.

Trust me, they're not listening in on your 88-year-old grandma who's trading recipes with her friend on the Women's Auxiliary by phone.

But since the wiretapping started in Feb of 2001, it neither appears related to terrorists nor helped to stop the attack on 9/11.

This, along with other Bush nonsense of no-bid cost-plus contracts, lying to send us to war that wasn't necessary, etc. appears more criminal than anything else.

Flamo,

I didn't say I was against wiretaps in general. They are a legitimate tool of law enforcement. They just need to use an established process like the FISA courts. Bush supports the new legislation and said he would sign it which means he and you disagree.

Brian,

Now you're trying to get me in a dispute with President Bush? Where does it end, Dennert? (jk)

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  • Mongo Flamo: Brian, Now you're trying to get me in a dispute read more
  • Brian: Flamo, I didn't say I was against wiretaps in general. read more
  • jurnei: But since the wiretapping started in Feb of 2001, it read more
  • Mongo Flamo: Brian, The courts have already ruled that the wiretapping that's read more
  • jurnei: Has anyone seen Marta or heard her commentary on this read more
  • Brian: Flamo, Should the executive branch have any limit on their read more
  • Mongo Flamo: Laura, Boy, you're sure stretching it there with your analogy read more
  • andy levinson: This is the Big boys sandbox... read more
  • Wojo: As far as the telecoms obeying a request from the read more
  • Wojo: As far as the telecoms obeying a request from the read more