Senate passes Amnesty for Telecos

At this point, my outrage meter is so long gone, I have a hard time mustering the energy to protest the most egregious violations of law and justice, since they are so common these days. But today's activity in the Senate regarding FISA simply must be noted — and resisted with all one's remaining power.

For today, February 12, 2008, may well be another day that “lives in infamy” only this time the perpetrators of the travesty are sitting officeholders in what is supposedly the world's greatest democracy.

The best explanation of what went down comes from those netroots bloggers who were at the forefront of the campaign to prevent telecom amnesty from being included in the bill: Glenn Greenwald and the Firedoglake gang.

Glenn summarizes:

The Senate today — led by Jay Rockefeller, enabled by Harry Reid, and with the active support of at least 12 (and probably more) Democrats, in conjunction with an as-always lockstep GOP caucus — will vote to legalize warrantless spying on the telephone calls and emails of Americans, and will also provide full retroactive amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, thus forever putting an end to any efforts to investigate and obtain a judicial ruling regarding the Bush administration's years-long illegal spying programs aimed at Americans.

As always, when it comes to the most radical Bush policies, the GOP lines up lock-step behind them, and the Democrats split, always with more than enough to join the Republicans to ensure passage. That's the process that is called “bipartisanship” in the Beltway.

Now, he explains why this kind of thing keeps happening and it's worth reading the whole thing, but let's get to the action item first, hosted by Firedoglake: a petition directed to the House, where the FISA bill did NOT include amnesty. Keeping that element out of the joint resolution is our final hope and stand.

So please, if you care about privacy, about this being a nation of laws, about balance of powers, and any of a long list of other principles which used to have some sway in our nation's capital, sign this petition, and also write and call your Congressman/woman directly.

Tell House Members to Stand Firm Behind the RESTORE Act!
The FISA bill passed by the Senate is a disgrace. By legalizing warrantless spying on Americans and granting retroactive amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, the Senate seeks to ensure that the Bush administration's illegal spying programs are never investigated or subjected to the rule of law. The Senate bill is a profound betrayal of the votes of millions of Americans who voted in 2006 to put Democrats in control of Congress in order to increase, not eliminate, checks and oversight on this administration, and to restore the rule of law to our country.

The House's RESTORE Act is an infinitely superior bill. It provides real safeguards on the President's spying powers while providing him with the surveillance powers he needs to protect the country. It enables the issue of the legality of the President's spying programs to be decided where it belongs — in a court of law. And it preserves the crucial balance that has existed for decades between enabling necessary surveillance on Americans and ensuring that our political leaders do not abuse that power.

In the wake of the discovery of the Watergate crimes and decades of surveillance abuses, the Congress of the mid-1970s acted on a bipartisan basis to put into place safeguards to ensure that even our highest political officials must adhere to the law and can only exercise eavesdropping powers with real safeguards. The RESTORE Act continues that tradition, while the Senate bill eviscerates it. We urge Democratic House members to stand firm behind the bill they passed and not capitulate once again to the bullying, manipulative demands of the Bush administration for ever-greater unchecked power, as embodied by the warrantless eavesdropping and telecom immunity provisions of the Senate bill.

So have energy left for more disaster; because the Senate did much much more today in their total disregard for the structure and process which used to personify this government. They basically put themselves out of business by rejecting the exclusivity amendment, thereby letting the president make the law be whatever he wants it to be.

The original FISA, of course, had exactly such an exclusivity provision in it. That the new revision of the law will have had that provision explicitly “rejected” can mean only one thing: that nobody will know the actual state of “the law” on surveillance, because the “law” as written might not really be “the law” at all. In fact, it could be something entirely different, and maybe even something you've never heard of — or indeed will never be allowed to hear it, because it's top secret. Or hell, you may not ever hear it because the President will make it up as he goes along. It won't matter what the reason is, in fact. All that will matter is that “the law” supposedly governing surveillance says that there may or may not be some other authority that really controls. Maybe. Maybe not! Tee hee! Isn't “law” funny?

I don't know why these people come to work at all.

Outrage meter overload or not, I am deeply saddened and horrified that, should telcom amnesty come to pass, along with all the other abridgments of our (supposedly inalienable) rights, we are officially a police state, a fascist nation, in which the corporate power elite and the government are indistinguishable. At this point we may not be able to stop it happening, but we must do whatever available action at our disposal to try, to protest, to resist.

Other reactions:

House Judiciary Chair John Conyers
Senator Chris Dodd (who made a noble effort to prevent this)

Russ Feingold
Down With Tyranny