Saturday, June 21, 2008

Not A Profile In Courage

The hills, or at least the liberal blogs, are alive with criticism of Senator Barack Obama for his position on the "compromise" bill updating the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, which would extend the government's power to eavesdrop without a warrant and pave the way for retroactive immunity for telecom giants. Obama's statement read (courtesy of tpmelectioncentral) in full:

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 will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. 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.

So Senator Obama, after going through the motions of trying to remove retroactive immunity, will be voting for the bill. Perhaps, expecting to be the next President of the United States, he wants to accrue as much power to himself as possible. Perhaps he wants to curry favor with the telecommunication industry. More likely, however, it's a calculated, cynical, characteristic move on the part of a politician who has found in avoidance of casting a vote his own immunity against attack. Whether as an Illinois State Senator voting "present" on 136 bills, or ducking a vote in the U.S. Senate to condemn's "General Betray Us" ad, or dodging the vote in the upper chamber on designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, it's all pretty much the same.

Change? Probably. Leadership? Hardly.

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