This is absolutely unbelievable. America wants to impeach Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney and possibly George W. Bush; their abuses of the FISA law and the constitution are illegal and some are still secret. The Dems control the congress. How is this passing? Balkanization tells how bad this is:
the key to understanding the FISA bill is that it will categorically exclude from FISA’s requirements any and all “surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States,” even if the surveillance occurs in the U.S.; even if the surveillance has nothing whatsoever to do with Al Qaeda, terrorism or crime; and, most importantly, even if the surveillance picks up communications of U.S. persons here in the States.
So, two questions:
1. Doesn’t this give the NSA all it had under the “TSP” between March 2004 and January 2007 — and much, much more, since there’s no requirement of any tie to an Al-Qaeda-related person? If so, and if they could get this sort of a deal from a Democratic-controlled Congress, what does that say about their unwillingness to go to a Republican-led Congress for those four years to seek a similar legislative fix, and to violate FISA unilaterally and in secret on the basis of a threadbare AUMF/Article II rationale? Is there any excuse now for their not having invoked the ordinary constitutional processes?
2. The amendment means, I think, that as far as statutory law is concerned, all of our international phone calls and e-mails can be surveilled, without exception, as long as the surveillance is in some sense “directed at” a person overseas.
It is staggering, and truly disgusting, that even in August, 2007 — almost six years removed from the 9/11 attacks and with the Bush presidency cemented as one of the weakest and most despised in American history — that George W. Bush can “demand” that the Congress jump and re-write legislation at his will, vesting in him still greater surveillance power, by warning them, based solely on his say-so, that if they fail to comply with his demands, the next Terrorist attack will be their fault. And they jump and scamper and comply (Meteor Blades has the list of the 16 Senate Democrats voting in favor; the House will soon follow).
I just finished a discussion panel with ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero which was originally planned to examine his new (superb) book about the work his organization has done for years in battling the endless expansion of executive power and presidential lawbreaking. But the only issue anyone in the room really wanted to discuss — including us — was the outrage unfolding on Capitol Hill. And the anger was almost universally directed where it belongs: on Congressional Democrats, who increasingly bear more and more responsibility for the assaults on our constitutional liberties and unparalleled abuses of government power — many (probably most) of which, it should always be emphasized, remain concealed rather than disclosed.
Examine virtually every Bush scandal and it increasingly bears the mark not merely of Democratic capitulation, but Democratic participation. In August of 2006, the Supreme Court finally asserted the first real limit on Bush’s radical executive power theories in Hamdan, only for Congress, months later, to completely eviscerate those minimal limits — and then go far beyond — by enacting the grotesque Military Commissions Act with the support of substantial numbers of Democrats. What began as a covert and illegal Bush interrogation and detention program became the officially sanctioned, bipartisan policy of the United States.
Grave dangers are posed to our basic constitutional safeguards by the replacement of Sandra Day O’Connor with Sam Alito, whose elevation to the Supreme Court Congressional Democrats chose to permit. Vast abuses and criminality in surveillance remain undisclosed, uninvestigated and unimpeded because Congressional Democrats have stood meekly by while the administration refuses to disclose what it has been doing in how it spies on us. And we remain in Iraq, in direct defiance of the will of the vast majority of the country, because the Democratic Beltway establishment lacks both the courage and the desire to compel an end to that war.
And now Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, with revealing symbolism, cancel their scheduled appearances this morning at Yearly Kos because George Bush ordered them to remain in Washington in order to re-write and expand FISA — a law which he has repeatedly refused to allow to be revised for years and which he has openly and proudly violated. Congressional Democrats know virtually nothing about how the Bush administration has been eavesdropping on our conversations because the administration refused to tell them and they passively accepted this state of affairs.
The intense rush to amend this legislation means that most of them have no idea what they are actually enacting — even less of an idea than they typically have. But what they know is that George Bush and Fox News and the Beltway establishment have told them that they would be irresponsible and weak and unserious if they failed to comply with George Bush’s instructions, and hence, they comply. In the American political landscape, there have been profound changes in public opinion since September of 2001. But in the Beltway, among our political and media establishment, virtually nothing has changed.