FISA Wasn't Broke, It Needs No Fix
I've been opposed to all of the proposed rewrites of FISA. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We don't need a new FISA law. We need to force the President and his Administration to obey the law, not rewrite it so they can do as they please. Here are 10 mytbs about it.
As for Sen. Obama's statement today that he supports the compromise but will work with the Senate to eliminate the telecom immunity provision, my question is, how will he vote if the immunity provision stays in? It seems like he will vote for it. [More...]
I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people."
I hope he doesn't justify voting for it by promising to work to repeal that provision after he is elected President. That never works.
Remember the Feeney Amendment, that raised already draconian sentences that got tacked onto the Amber Alert bill a few years ago? The Dems voted for that too. They were afraid not to pass the Amber Alert bill. Sen. Edward Kennedy promised to lead an effort to repeal the Feeney Amendment. He and Sen. Leahy and others did in fact introduce a bill to repeal the most offensive portions. In introducing the repeal measure, he said:
It was a serious mistake for Congress to enact the Feeney Amendment over the strong objections of the Chief Justice, the Judicial Conference, the American Bar Association, the Sentencing Commission, and the overwhelming majority of
prosecutors and defense attorneys who deal with the guidelines on a daily basis. The JUDGES Act will correct this mistake and set us on the right path to achieving any necessary reforms. I urge my colleagues to support it.
It didn't get repealed. Once we give the Government power, it rarely gives it back. I'm not surprised by today's House passage of another unnecessary bill intruding on our privacy, civil liberties and Fourth Amendment rights. The writing has been on the wall for more than a year.
But I'm sure not buying as an excuse that we should pass the law now because we can remove offensive provisions, like telecom immunity later. It's not going to happen.
If Sen. Obama votes for the bill, I hope he will spare us promises of how he'll change it once elected President. So far, he's not made that promise on telecom immunity, he's only said he'll work to have it removed from the Senate Bill. If he intends to vote for the bill when that effort fails, as it will, he must acknowledge what his vote represents: A compromise. Period. Not "it's a compromise but I'll work to change it when I have more power as President." Just, "It's a compromise."
That's the problem with Obama's "no red states, no blue states, just the United States" campaign platform. By removing the differences between us, we risk giving up, not just compromising, our core values.
I want a blue President and a blue Congress, not a blended one. Some issues, like the Fourth Amendment, and make no mistake, this FISA bill is nothing but an end-run around it, are too important to compromise on.
It is wrong to erode Fourth Amendment protections under the pretense of "updating" (FISA). FISA has been updated more than 50 times.
The central purpose of FISA was to guarantee that decisions as to whom to wiretap in the name of national security were not unilaterally made by the President. We don't need to gut FISA. All we need is a separate bill that prevents warrantless electronic surveillance upon a unilateral decision by the President that it's necessary in the war on terror. The end.
Instead, we're getting a bill we don't need, one in which Congress is rewarding President Bush's disregard for the rule of law by passing a new law granting amnesty to those who were complicit in his illegal actions.
If Sen. Obama thinks that's a fair compromise, he should say so and stand on it. He won't be alone. Lots of Democrats today (unfortunately) agreed with him.
But he can't have it both ways. He can't say, I'm voting for it now but will fix it later. That's just pie in the sky.
Update: Go read Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin who explains Obama's reasoning in plain English without legalese. This bill is about so much more than telecom immunity. It completely rewrites FISA and expands the ability to conduct electronic surveillance. It's codifying what Bush wanted all along. Focus on the privacy aspects and the Fourth Amendment and your civil liberties.
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