Friday, January 25, 2008

The Onus is on Hillary and Barack: Telecom Immunity and our rights in-peril

Washington D.C.--The truth comes on Monday: 12 Democratic senators sided-with the Republican minority in the Senate and allowed unwarranted obstructionism by the GOP and the tabling (killing) of the Senate Judiciary version of the reauthorization of the FISA Act (S.2248), with Protect America Act amendments (S.1927). One has to ask: 'What does the GOP have on Democratic incumbents? Dirty photos? No, that would be the Republicans...'. The irony is that--there is no irony. The Republican Party is itself embroiled in several scandals that could have an impact on their influence for years-to-come. For reasons unknown, the Democrats are acting as if they're the ones in the GOP's current position. The might explain how this works some time.

The PAA amendments to FISA were hastily passed in August of 2007. The aim of White House allies--seemingly everywhere in Washington and the mainstream media--is to make the recent provisions permanent, granting the executive branch the ability to circumvent the courts in obtaining surveillance warrants. This is not what the public wants, and it's partly reflected in the historic-lows they're experiencing in the polls. Habeas corpus also has yet to be restored.

The Senate Judiciary version supported by SJC chair Patrick Leahy would not have granted retroactive ('after-the-fact') immunity for such telecom carriers as AT&T for cooperating with the illegal requests of the White House in a warrantless NSA surveillance program. The law is very clear on this--you have to have a warrant. However, the Leahy amendments would still grant certain kinds of warrantless surveillance within the continental United States and practically render the FISA court impotent. This bill was killed by a 60-36 vote to table it, a motion that the 12 Democrats voted for. They are:

Evan Bayh (D-In.) (202) 224-5623 (and: )
Thomas R. Carper (D-De.) (202) 224-2441 (and:
Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) (202) 224-3934
Tim Johnson (D-Sd.) (202) 224-5842
Mary Landrieu (D-La.) (202)224-5824
Clare McCaskill (D-Mo.) (202) 224-6154
Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) (202) 224-4654
Bill Nelson (D-Fl.) (202) 224-5274
Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) (202) 224-6551
Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) (202) 224-2353
Ken Salazar (D-Co.) (202) 224-5852
Jay Rockefeller (D-Wv./AT&T) (e-mail the pig @

I'm faxing Senator Bayh in a few moments and asking him if he's lost his mind. It would be wise for all Americans who value their basic liberties and their right to privacy to do the same. And what of Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in all of this? They skipped the vote, presumably to campaign and to avoid the surveillance bill during a key-part of their party's nomination process for the presidential race. So much for Senator Obama's credentials as a constitutional law professor, but at least he understands the loopholes.

Where do both presidential candidates actually stand? The bets are on that Obama and Clinton are going to disappoint all of us as they usually have (and will continue to), but there is a possibility that Barack Obama could seize-the-moment with an unpredictable move against passage of the Republican/White House-approved version of the bill on Monday evening (4:30 PM ET). He would gain the trust of most of the American public by doing so. Additionally, if Senator Clinton receives prior-knowledge of how he's going to vote, it's a virtual certainty that she will vote the same way to remain competative.
It's understandable that the White House would want the immediate passage of their version of the bill with the early nomination process almost at a close. Interestingly, back in October, Clinton stated to Talking Points that she would support a filibuster of the Senate FISA bill that the GOP was pushing at the time:
Q: Can you discuss your position on the reauthorization of the FISA bill?

HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton]: I am troubled by the concerns that have been raised by the recent legislation reported out of the Intelligence Committee. I haven't seen it [Ed.--Like the war authorization bill in 2002?] so I can't express an opinion about it. But I don't trust the Bush Administration with our civil rights and liberties. So I'm going to study it very hard. As matters stand now, I could not support it and I would support a filibuster absent additional information coming forward that would convince me differently. (, 10.23.2007)

Is she convinced? One has to wonder where Senator Obama's and Clinton's heads are at on the current versions of the bill, which aren't substantially different from the versions at the time of the questions and their responses in October. Will they waffle? Do some birds migrate? Considering the political pressures, it's hard to tell what side either presidential hopeful will come down on at this writing. Talking Points also queried Senator Obama back around October 23rd of last year and he stated this through a spokesperson:

"Senator Obama has serious concerns about many provisions in this bill, especially the provision on giving retroactive immunity to the telephone companies. He is hopeful that this bill can be improved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But if the bill comes to the Senate floor in its current form, he would support a filibuster of it."(, 10.23.2007)
This is not a 'left' or a 'right' issue, but one of what defines us as Americans: the Consitution and the Bill of Rights are our identity, they are sacrosanct. Without their protections, we're no longer Americans, and no longer unique in the world for guarding basic liberties. Without the protections of the courts and the Bill of Rights, America ceases to exist.

Even the Libertarian Party is angry over this, and they have sent letters to all 'pro-FISA senators' urging that they vote against making the warrantless wiretapping provisions permanent. The ACLU's Caroline Fredrickson has also gone as far as to remark that:
“Under Democratic leadership, the Senate will now continue its debate on surveillance with a bill that resembles something from the administration’s playbook. Six months after being hoodwinked into passing the Protect America Act, Americans are still waiting for Congress to grow a spine. (, 01.24.2008)
Still rooting-for Harry Reid and the Senate Judiciary Committee's version? I'm not, it still allows for warrantless surveillance. If nothing gets passed, that's fine, and the PAA amendments to FISA can sunset as they should. There is hope--not every Democrat in the Senate or the House voted for these questionable bills, and minds can be changed if the right pressure is applied by we, the people.

There is a presidential candidate who supports the ending of warrantless surveillance of all of us: John Edwards (, a candidate who is staunchly opposed to the PAA provisions. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Ct.) appears poised to have his filibuster, yet it could all be avoided if Senate majority leader Harry Reid simply told the body that S.2248 was dead and not up for further discussion--but he won't do it. What does he fear? A second civil war?

Time to remove Harry Reid as Senate majority leader:

Barack and Hillary on warrantless surveillance and extending the PAA

Give em' holy hell

Yes, even the Libertarians get it: