Telecoms and FISA immunity

Well, let's see, our local paper ran a piece from the WaPo on Oct 18 (No coverage at all on the 19th) that suggested that Bush's warrantless surveillance of the private communications of American citizens began after 11 Sept 2001, despite the fact that a person from the telecom company Qwest testified that it began in late February 2001. Note that the WaPo reported both stories. The Next Hurrah explains why the rest of the story takes place in the Senate and not the House. The Democrats in the House got rolled by a Republican proposal that tied passage of the new FISA bill with the defeat of al Qaeda. Democrats love the Constitution, but are deathly afraid of being seen as "soft on terror."

Glenn Greenwald tells us how important this issue is:

It would be one thing if we were talking about some sort of radical new policy or measure that is widely considered "extremist." But the opposite is true. We are talking about the basic linchpins of our form of government -- oversight, warrants, the rule of law, core constitutional liberties, what Atrios described earlier as "everything most of us grew imagining this country stood for. . . .what we all thought were American values."

It was looking pretty bad by the mid-day of 18 October, like the Senate was going to pass a "fix" to FISA (Badly damaged by a vote in August that was also passed with the help of hysterical scare tactics) that would have given telecommunications companies amnesty and future immunity from numerous lawsuits that were alleging that the telecom companies violated everyone's privacy by giving too much information to the government.

Senator Chris Dodd stood up and declared he'd put a "hold" on the proposed bill. (Dodd's campaign has pulled in over $150,000 in just the last 24 hours since his announcement.) Gee, ya think Americans are hungry for leadership?

And yes, the White House complied with Senator Jay Rockefeller's longstanding demand for documents as to exactly how telecommunications companies were collaborating with them, but:

Did Rockefeller's crack staff get through the "millions of pages" in three days? Did the White House really produce what was requested or bury its non-compliance in a blizzard of useless documents and duplicates, as it did repeatedly with document dumps on the U.S. attorneys scandal?

Wired explains why Rockefeller supports telecom immunity. Money, essentially. Even though Rockefeller is worth over $100 million, Wired explains why he needs campaign cash. Eye-popping graphs. AmericaBlog explains that "The Democrats have no game plan."

Would Senator Barack Obama stand up and put a "hold" on the vote? Nah, Obama proved to be "all hat and no cattle," (Talks a real good game, but folds at crunch time) though he made a statement in favor of retaining the US Constitution, he was vague about where he'd draw the line. Senator Patrick Leahy in the meantime, makes it clear he's not happy about the proposed telecom immunity. Senator Russ Feingold made it clear that he'd take whatever action was necessary to see to it that a proposal including immunity didn't make it to the floor. Senator Joe Biden joined in and said he'd join Senator Dodd in filibustering a bill.

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