Thursday, February 14, 2008

FISA Reauthorization and Partisanship

The U.S. Senate on February 12, 2008 voted 67 to 31 to defeat the Dodd Amendment, which aimed to "strike the provisions providing immunity from civil liability to electronic communication service providers for certain assistance provided to the Government." Later, the upper chamber approved by a vote of 68 to 29 this update of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The House of Representatives had late last year passed a version of reauthorization which did not include immunity for the telecommunications industry and representatives of the two chambers will negotiate in conference.

There are approximately 40 lawsuits pending against companies for engaging in illegal wiretapping and internet eavesdropping against American citizens. Information about the program will not be revealed to the American people except by lawsuits, so it is not surprising that the Bush Administration is indulging its penchant for secrecy and contempt for the American people by vigorously supporting telecom immunity. And it's routine for Bush to frighten the American people, as by declaring "at this moment, somewhere in the world, terrorists are planning new attacks on our country. Their goal is to bring destruction to our shores that will make September the 11th pale by comparison."

But as we approach a general election campaign for President in which the media, reporting the attacks by Repubs against the Democratic Party, waxes indignant at "hyperpartisanship" and longs for "bipartisanship," let's remember: S 2248, the bill which passed the Senate, was sponsored by the Intelligence Committee chairman- Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. And the crucial Dodd amendment was opposed by 19* (out of 51) Democrats, who thereby voted with the Republican President and all 48 Repubs (one not present) in denying the rule of law and declaring that, in America, some (corporations) are in fact above the law. This is what the GOP and the mainstream media consider bipartisanship.

*Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jim Webb (D-VA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Joseph Lieberman (officially an "Independent Democrat").

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