Monday, January 28, 2008

Congress Temporarily Grows a Pair as Democratic Majority Blocks GOP Rush to Pass FISA Amendments

'This vote will finally shows that the Democrats are capable of standing up against the Bush administration’s rush to legalize his warrantless wiretapping program.' --Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington D.C. field office.

Washington D.C.
--How will they decide? Will the Senate just let the bill die? Don't bet on it, they're just allowing debate over the bill so it doesn't appear they let this one through without-a-peep. How many Americans understand the threat to their liberties from these amendments? Imagine that the phone companies would be able to gather information on all us, handing it over to another corrupt presidential administration--whether Democratic or Republican, it wouldn't matter. What the White House and the Republicans in Congress are demanding is the right to spy on all of us, and nobody appears to be moving to restore Habeas corpus anytime soon. All of this is unacceptable. They broke-the-law, now it's time for real investigations into it.

With virtually no solid wins against the White House in an entire year of their majority, the Democrats appear to finally be getting it, but will they pass these amendments anyway after they think no one is watching? It's likely. Yes, Americans are primarily concerned with the economy, and yes, we DO get that it's connected to the fiscal irresponsibility surrounding the war in the Middle East and corruption in the White House, Congress, the Banks, and the private sector. Strangely, presidential candidate John McCain and...well, nearly all-of-the-rest, are still voting for funds for the war rather than winding-it-down. This is what the White House and the rest of the GOP wants, and the Democrats are still very happy to oblige, sir:
The proposed law is controversial because it essentially makes permanent President Bush’s program that secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on telephone calls and e-mails of suspected terrorists without a court warrant as required under the law. The bill also contains a provision, sought by the White House, that would give telephone companies legal protection from dozens of lawsuits now pending against the telcom industry for participating in the president’s terrorist surveillance program without a court warrant. (The Statesman, 01.28.2008)
In other words, they want to make an illegal act suddenly legal (voila!), never mind punishing the perpetrators and standing behind the enforcement of law and order. Why not legalize murder? To even voice the desire for this is to be a knowledgeable co-conspirator in a criminal enterprise that violates every precept of this nation, and this includes the Democratic author and sponsors of these amendments. It's criminal treason.

Senator Jay Rockefeller (R-Wv., chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee) has been walking a real tightrope, and it's well-known that he's into AT&T for all those campaign donations. We know why he votes the way he does, and he surely has many other reasons, like saving his family fortune from the rest of us bared-assed heathens. The GOP has other motives, namely the continued seizure-of-power, the enrichment of their backers at the taxpayer's expense, and escaping accountability for the hundreds of laws admittedly violated by the Bush administration and her allies in Congress.

To say that the GOP is in-trouble is to state the obvious, especially when one considers that there are too-many traditional democratic structures in the United States that are going to battle the PAA amendments to FISA whether they pass-or-not. Today, we were lucky: enough of us got off of our asses and let these bastards know how we felt and that we're watching them. We must continue to watch them. We must continue to browbeat them into doing what we want them to, not what a few corrupt businessmen want. A majority of Democratic senators have finally begun to feel the heat as well. That's because their cover truly is blown after a year of allowing the GOP to make fools of them...

The incredible irony is that a Democrat co-wrote the amendments to the current FISA update, and now even he doesn't want it to be passed yet. In his comments before the voting today, Senate majority leader Harry Reid noticed the most bizarre aspect of this whole story with the FISA amendments...the Republicans were filibustering their own bill! Every time an amendment came up that wasn't theirs, they cut-off any debate or voting on it. This is improper parliamentary procedure by any standard. He also noted:
Let's not forget: the question of retroactive immunity wouldn't even be before us if President Bush hadn't ignored Congress and established his own process outside the law. But far from taking responsibility for his actions, the President bullies and threatens the Congress he is supposed to work with. He is like the kid in the schoolyard taking his ball and going home when he doesn't get his way. (TPMmuckraker, 01.28.2008)
Yeah, that sounds like a Republican politician, they get fatter with age (especially between-the-ears). What the GOP and the White House feared was coming is here--they're losing time to keep the legitimate forces of law and order at bay. Yet, they all somehow still want this legislation to pass, it's just the details that are the problem. I don't think the Democrats are doing this out of any real patriotic or noble sense, it's just that the public has become very restless about everything. You could get away with more when the economy was stable, and when it is, people become complacent and lazy. They stop paying attention because they don't have to. Americans are realizing that this no-longer works.

The vote was 48-45, blocking cloture (an end to debate) over the newest version of the bill, and news is coming out that Senators Obama and Clinton both voted against cloture. That's great, but they're going to have to vote against the GOP/Rockefeller version of the amendments to be viable candidates. Some attention has become focused on Senator Diane Feinstein's amendment that would allow the FISA court to decide which telecommunications companies were granted immunity. It's not a good proposal at all. This is still the same mentality as that of the original law-breakers, and bars American citizens from any public hearings or trials, with no way to redress the grievance of having their right-to-privacy violated.

Robert Cruickshank's take at CaliforniaProgressReport.com is insightful, and he notes that this has all happened before. At that time, Congress did the right thing--it didn't grant immunity to the telecommunications companies.
In the 1970s, Congress refused to grant immunity to telecoms that had engaged in an earlier round of illegal spying - the FBI and NSA-led Project SHAMROCK. Out of these debates grew the 1978 FISA law that was supposed to provide the legal framework for foreign intelligence wiretapping. Telecom immunity as being debated today would represent a direct attack on the intent of the FISA law itself. (CaliforniaProgressReport.com, 01.28.2008)
Historically, the Republicans have spread their corruption, grabbed as much from the public-trough as they could, and tried to take as many of our rights away as possible when they held power. Unlike some Democratic politicians, they're excessive and go too far. As a result, the inevitable public groundswells come, and the Democrats have to manage the clean-up job. It's America, this is our political cycle.

Rob Cruickshank's take at CaliforniaProgressReport.com, 01.28.2008:
http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/2008/01/most_important.html


A full transcript of Senator Reid's statement:


The Statesman Today on the Blocking of Passage of the FISA Amendments: http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/washington/secrecy/entries/2008/01/28/democrats_kill_republican_atte.html