Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yeah, they did it

So they did it. The no good, scum-sucking, motherfucking, snot-licking, shit-eating, stinking masses of fetid putrefaction did it. Not that it was a surprise, it was exactly as expected, but even so the actual fact of it still makes my soul ache.
Bowing to President Bush's demands, the Senate approved and sent the White House a bill Wednesday to overhaul bitterly disputed rules on secret government eavesdropping and shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits complaining they helped the U.S. spy on Americans.
The final vote was 69-28 with the current focus of lefty adoration, He Who Must Be Obeyed, voting in favor. Well, obey this, bozo.

Three amendments attempting to soften the blow all failed. The one that would have stripped telcom immunity from the bill lost 32-66; one that would have required a court finding that the spying program was constitutional before immunity could be granted went down 37-61; and one that merely would have had the Senate wait on immunity until after the Inspector General's audit of NSA's domestic spying was in failed by 42-56. Cloture was then invoked 72-26 and it went to the final vote. (Thanks for Glenn Greenwald for the numbers.)

Let it be noted clearly that Barack Obama, who previously pledged to join in a filibuster of any bill that contained telcom immunity, not only didn't join any filibuster attempt, not only voted for the damn bill, he voted in favor of cloture. It would be hard to imagine a clearer reversal of position; this is the kind of thing for which the phrase "flip-flop" was truly destined.

But what made it even worse than the bald, cruel fact of the bill's passage was the way the media treated the story. Both AP and Reuters covered the vote as simply another question of political games, of a "legislative victory" for Bush, just another version of the horse-race coverage, who's up, who's down, without any consideration of the meaning of the vote. Worse, where they did consider the bill, they got it maddeningly, grossly, infuriatingly wrong.

AP, with mind-boggling naiveté, incompetence, or deception, it has to be one of those, called the bill
very much a political compromise, brought about by a deadline: Wiretapping orders authorized last year will begin to expire in August. Without a new bill, the government would go back to old FISA rules, requiring multiple new orders and potential delays to continue those intercepts. [Emphasis added.]
This came after referring to
a lengthy and heated debate [in the Senate] that pitted privacy and civil liberties concerns against the desire to prevent terrorist attacks,
as if those are mutually exclusive considerations and those concerned about the former are not concerned about the latter. (I am, however, willing to concede that the reverse is true.)

Reuters, for its part, says this monstrosity
modernizes the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to keep pace with technology.

It will also bolster judicial and congressional oversight of U.S. surveillance of foreign targets and increase protection of civil liberties of law-abiding Americans swept up in such spy efforts - but not as much as critics wanted.
That is, Reuters is reporting with a straight face that this bill actually "bolsters oversight" and the only controversy is that the improvement isn't "as much as critics wanted." In other words, it's a routine political compromise.

Bilge. Just bilge. It does no such thing and it is no such thing. If it's such a damn compromise, why can't anyone in the media find a single goddam right-winger who is unhappy with it? (Other, that is, than people like Ron Paul, those who are so far to the right on individual liberty that they wind up on the left.) All you hear from that side is cheering and chuckling. If it's such a damn compromise, why is it only the civil libertarians and privacy advocates who are objecting?

As Russ Feingold said, "This bill is not a compromise. It is a capitulation." It vastly expands the power to engage in warrantless spying and it allows the obtaining of warrants without a need for any criminal activity or suspicion, or even that the target be of intelligence interest. Put more bluntly, it not only empowers the feds to do a lot more spying without the need for a warrant, it empowers them to get warrants to spy on pretty much anyone they damn please for any reason they damn please - or for no reason at all. That is, with the exception of American citizens who never arouse any suspicion whatsoever and never telephone, email, or otherwise electronically contact anyone outside the US. (Oh, yes, all right, there is a provision that brings American citizens overseas under the protection of FISA. Frankly, BFD.)

In fact, it's even worse than that, says the ACLU:
The FISA Amendments Act nearly eviscerates oversight of government surveillance by allowing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to review only general procedures for spying rather than individual warrants. The FISC will not be told any specifics about who will actually be wiretapped....

The bill further trivializes court review by authorizing the government to continue a surveillance program even after the government’s general spying procedures are found insufficient or unconstitutional by the FISC. The government has the authority to wiretap through the entire appeals process, and then keep and use whatever information was gathered in the meantime. [Emphasis added.]
The latter point meaning that there is no penalty to the government for engaging in unconstitional spying, not even to the extent of being unable to use what it unconstitutionally obtained.

The bill, in short, rips a gaping hole in the Fourth Amendment. And a lot of Congressional Democrats, including Barack Obama (and another recent target of Democrap drool, Jim Webb, who voted against removing immunity and for the final bill) think either that's just fine or that it's worth it to protect their own ambitions. I'll leave it to you to decide which of those is more contemptible. I don't have the stomach to think that one through; I'm still trying to keep from vomiting over the vacant-eyed, slack-jawed press coverage, so typical of the inside-the-Beltway, circle-jerk, "it's all a game" attitude with which most of the national press is afflicted.

Which means, I suppose, I should have expected no different from the press - but I expected FISA to pass and that doesn't make it hurt any less.

The only light in this coal mine is that the battle is not completely over. While the law looks to force the dismissal of the civil suits against the telcoms, there are four other suits against government officials and they won't be affected. And both the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have declared they will file suit against the law on constitutional grounds. The ACLU charges the law is a violation of Fourth Amendment protections, which it clearly is. The EFF, which is co-counsel on the combined telcom immunity suits, says it will challenge the immunity but doesn't specify on what grounds. In his latest column on the FISA disaster, Glenn Greenwald, himself a Constitutional lawyer, speculates it will be based on the argument that by essentially ordering the courts to find in favor of the telcoms, the immunity provision of the law is an unconstitutional Congressional intrusion into a judicial function.

I have my doubts as to the success of either, since the Supreme Court has over the years proved itself quite adept at carving out exceptions to the Fourth Amendment (see here for one example) and the challenge to immunity seems like a stretch. Still, even the Roberts court may hesitate to take a sledgehammer rather than scissors to the Fourth Amendment and courts have been known to be quite protective of their own Constitutional prerogatives, so who knows. Like the man said, "Keep hope alive."

And vote Green.

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