Friday, July 11, 2008

I Get Letters

I sent a letter to the Obama campaign voicing my opposition to his capitulation to Bush over the FISA bill and asked if he would pledge now to investigate and criminally prosecute those found to have broken the law. In short, I asked for a fig leaf, giving him an opportunity to repair the damage his vote has done to America. He failed to answer my call, but instead sent this tepid response instead:
Dear Friend,

Thank you for contacting us and sharing your strong feelings about this important issue. Please find a statement from Senator Obama below.

We appreciate hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Obama for America,

---
Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

After months of negotiation, the House passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act. Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.

It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I voted in the Senate three times to remove this provision so that we could seek full accountability for past offenses. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So 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.


----------------------
Paid for by Obama for America

This is virtually a cut and paste of his statement he posted the other day on his website where he said:
[...]
Now, I understand why some of you feel differently about the current bill, and I'm happy to take my lumps on this side and elsewhere.
[...]

Prepare thyself, Sir, for one bonafide cheater pipe shampoo.

In an effort to secure the Democratic primary, you issued this unequivocal statement:
To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.

This statement, coupled with your relentless assaults on Senator Clinton for voting in favor of the Iraq war, was in part, the reason you secured the Democratic nomination. With this accomplished, you completely reversed yourself and voted to kill a filibuster of the FISA legislation that contained retroactive immunity for the telecommunication companies and then voted for such immunity.

How can this be interpreted as anything other than rank political triangulation driven from fear?

Fear you would lose the primary and fear the Republicans will say mean things about you in the general election.

One needn't worry about the latter, the Republicans shall say mean things about you in the general, that is a given, but this vote is a serious error, doubly so as you are a constitutional scholar and think you have the ability to redact the Fourth Amendment.

Let's unpack your email to me, piece by piece.
Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike,...
Please, do not sully my email in box with canards of National Security. According to the report for the 9/11 commission, our Government received 52 separate warnings of impending attack prior to 9/11, so to claim our abilities prior to your capitulation to George Bush were lacking lays blame of lack of intelligence at the wrong feet.

[...]
while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.
[...]
The FISA bill you just voted on does not respect "the privacy and civil liberties of the American people", it does the opposite of that. All phone calls and emails into and out of America, whether an American is on the phone or not, is now subject to warrantless wiretapping. This FISA bill that you approve of not only legalizes past abuses but expands the authority of the President in warrantless eavesdropping.
[...]
That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.
[...]


The FISA bill that you just voted on, and Bush so admires, expands the surveillance powers of the government and reduces the role of the FISA court. Since its inception over thirty years ago, the FISA court has approved over 19,000 warrants and denied only five. This law only allows the FISA court to approve of methods and does not require individual warrants for international calls, whether an American is on the line or not, or even a suspect. All calls into or out of America is now subject to a government dragnet.

I know you were opposed to granting retroactive amnesty in the past, not so much anymore though.
[...]
After months of negotiation, the House passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act. Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over.
[...]

When every Republican in the House, except for one, and every Republican in the Senate (including Lieberman) votes for this issue, and enough Democrats (such as yourself) are peeled off to join them, how can this be a compromise? Joining with George Bush and the widely dejected Republican party to give them everything they want by making the "President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance " legal, is not a compromise, but a most corrupt capitulation and complete disregard for constitutional protections.
[...]
It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.
[...]
The Bush administration seized the power to break the law under the Unitary Executive theory, during War (on terror which shall never end) and used every dodge in the book to keep the judicial branch from ruling on this position. They failed. Three judges out of three judges all agree, the FISA law, as it stood before the FISA amendment, is the "exclusive means to conduct surveillance". FISA did not need to be "restored" as you claim. Going outside the FISA law is a felony, punishable by 5 years in Federal prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense.
[...]
It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I voted in the Senate three times to remove this provision so that we could seek full accountability for past offenses. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.
[...]

You also voted against a filibuster, Senator, after you explicity vowed to "support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies." Pointing meekly to a provision that "guarantees" a part of the Executive branch to investigate another part of the Executive branch for "accountability going forward" while simultaneously granting immunity for past illegal acts and making such illegal acts legal going forward does not seem to meet my criteria for good legislation. As part of the "grass roots of Americans" I am not proud of this law and do not think it will pass constitutional muster.

In the final analysis Senator Obama, on this bill, the legislative branch has joined with the executive branch and gleefully took a saw to the third branch of government, the judicial branch. Our last hope of finding out what the Bush administration did, how heinous was his program, that caused the leadership of the Department of Justice threaten to resign as a result of his illegal spying activities, is now closed. For those who do not remember that episode, just watch this video:

That happened before Senator Obama's vote. This is what the result is of his current vote:





1 comment:

Emmanuel said...

to all obamabots there are more flip floping to come. we all knew this guy had spine made of jelly,thank God i supported Sen Clinton.