More FISA

Here’s Glenn Greenwald on today’s events:

Rather, the insultingly false claims about this bill — it brings the FISA court back into eavesdropping! it actually improves civil liberties! Obama will now go after the telecoms criminally! Government spying and lawbreaking isn’t really that important anyway! — are being disseminated by the Democratic Congressional leadership and, most of all, by those desperate to glorify Barack Obama and justify anything and everything he does. Many of these are the same people who spent the last five years screaming that Bush was shredding the Constitution, that spying on Americans was profoundly dangerous, that the political establishment did nothing about Bush’s lawbreaking.

It’s been quite disturbing to watch them turn on a dime — completely reverse everything they claimed to believe — the minute Obama issued his statement saying that he would support this bill. They actually have the audacity to say that this bill — a bill which Bush, Cheney and the entire GOP eagerly support, while virtually every civil libertarian vehemently opposes — will increase the civil liberties that Americans enjoy, as though Dick Cheney, Mike McConnell and “Kit” Bond decided that it was urgently important to pass a new bill to restrict presidential spying and enhance our civil liberties. How completely do you have to relinquish your critical faculties at Barack Obama’s altar in order to get yourself to think that way?

Nuts

I really don’t know what to say here. My Representative (Shelly Berkley, D-NV) voted for it, while and both one of my Senators Harry Reid (D), voted against it and the other, John “Haircut McWedgeshot” Ensign (R), all voted for it. I personally sent over a dozen emails, six letters (typed and everything) and made over two dozen telephone calls to their offices.

Nuts.

Senate passes telecom immunity, eavesdropping regs [AP]

The Senate approved and sent to the White House a bill overhauling controversial rules on secret government eavesdropping Wednesday, bowing to President Bush’s demand to protect telecommunications companies from lawsuits complaining they helped the U.S. spy on Americans.

The relatively one-sided vote, 69-28, came only after a lengthy and bitter debate that pitted privacy and civil liberties concerns against the desire to prevent terrorist attacks. It ended almost a year of wrangling over surveillance rules and the president’s warrantless wiretapping program that was initiated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The House passed the same bill last month, and President Bush is expected to sign it soon. He scheduled a 4 p.m. EDT White House statement to praise the passage.

The long fight on Capitol Hill centered on one main question: whether to shield from civil lawsuits any telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on American phone and computer lines without the permission or knowledge of a secret court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The White House had threatened to veto the bill unless it immunized companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. from wiretapping lawsuits. About 40 such lawsuits have been filed, and all are pending before a single U.S. District court.

Numerous lawmakers had spoken out strongly against the no-warrants eavesdropping on Americans, but the Senate voted its approval after rejecting amendments that would have watered down, delayed or stripped away the immunity provision.

The lawsuits center on allegations that the White House circumvented U.S. law by going around the FISA court, which was created 30 years ago to prevent the government from abusing its surveillance powers for political purposes, as was done in the Vietnam War and Watergate eras. The court is meant to approve all wiretaps placed inside the U.S. for intelligence-gathering purposes. The law has been interpreted to include international e-mail records stored on servers inside the U.S.

“This president broke the law,” declared Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis.

The Bush administration brought the wiretapping back under the FISA court’s authority only after The New York Times revealed the existence of the secret program. A handful of members of Congress knew about the program from top secret briefings. Most members are still forbidden to know the details of the classified effort, and some objected that they were being asked to grant immunity to the telecoms without first knowing what they did.

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter compared the Senate vote to buying a “pig in a poke.” <…>

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is party to some of the lawsuits that will now be dismissed, said the bill was “a blatant assault upon civil liberties and the right to privacy.” [more]

[this post has been edited]

FISA — Fifth Time’s a Charm

One of the few things I care vehemently about in this stupor and fatigue-inducing election cycle is the reauthorizing FISA and the issue of retroactive immunity from prosecution for telecos that illegally cooperated with warrentless spying on the American citizenry.

This came in from DfA today, it is slightly edited:

Tuesday may be our last chance to stop senators from voting to pass the so-called FISA “compromise” bill.

There is still one person who can stop this bill: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Call Senator Reid right now and demand he pull the FISA “compromise” bill which will lead to retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies who spied on Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Washington DC: 202-224-3542

If the DC number is busy – Try reaching his district offices:
Reno Office: 775-686-5750
Vegas Office: 702-388-5020
Nevada residents can call toll free: 1-866-736-7343

May I suggest saying something like:
“I’m calling to ask Senator Reid to use his power as Senate Majority Leader to pull the FISA “compromise” bill from the floor which will ultimately grant retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies who spied on Americans.”

This is it. We have stopped President Bush from getting his way and letting AT&T and Verizon of the hook four times.

It is up to us to stop it again.

I’ve been real kind and not entered anyone’s names in those myriad “now let your friends know” boxes.

WaPo Joins NYT, Calls Telecom Amnesty “Victory” for WH; Nightly Newscasts Ignore Vote Altogether

That headline is from Media Bloodhound. I especially liked Glenn Greenwald’s comment on Salon about the status of the Senate’s support for civil liberties:

To conserve resources, newspapers should just create a macro of that phrase — “the Senate handed the White House a major victory today” — and then just program it to be automatically inserted into every article reporting on anything done by the Senate. That system would be foolproof. [Salon via Media Bloodhound]

My Senator, Harry Reid, did not help things a bit. [update:] To be fair to Mr. Reid, did help a bit with his vote, but as Majority Leader he could have done more (IMO). The final vote was 69-29-3 in the Senate.