Thursday, July 10, 2008

WTF - Obama Votes to Approve FISA

The Senate gave final approval on Wednesday to a major expansion of the government’s surveillance powers. The bill, approved by a vote of 69 to 28, is the biggest revamping of federal surveillance law in 30 years. It includes a divisive element that President Bush had deemed essential: legal immunity for the phone companies that cooperated in the National Security Agency wiretapping program he approved after the Sept. 11 attacks. The vote came two and a half years after public disclosure of the wiretapping program set off a fierce national debate over the balance between protecting the country from another terrorist strike and ensuring civil liberties.

The contentious part of the bill provides immunity against lawsuits for telecommunications (phone, internet, etc.) companies for divulging information to federal authorities. Supporters claim that the final plan, which overhauls the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Act passed by Congress in 1978 in the wake of Watergate, reflected both political reality and legal practicality. Wiretapping orders approved by secret orders under the previous version of the surveillance law were set to begin expiring in August unless Congress acted. The Democrats did not want the Republicans to go to their convention in August with an apparent hole in our national security.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who leads the intelligence committee and helped broker the deal, said modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was essential to give intelligence officials the technology tools they need to deter another attack. But he said the plan “was made even more complicated by the president’s decision, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, to go outside of FISA rather than work with Congress to fix it.”

He was referring to the secret program approved by Mr. Bush weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks that allowed the N.S.A, in a sharp legal and operational shift, to wiretap the international communications of Americans suspected of links to Al Qaeda without first getting court orders. The program was disclosed in December 2005 by The New York Times. Congress repeatedly tried to find a legislative solution, but the main stumbling block was Mr. Bush’s insistence on legal immunity for the phone companies. The program itself ended in January 2007, when the White House agreed to bring it under the auspices of the FISA court, but more than 40 lawsuits continued churning through federal courts, charging AT&T, Verizon and other major carriers with violating customers’ privacy by conducting wiretaps at the White House’s direction without court orders. The passage of the bill by the House essentially ended the lawsuits.

The FISA issue put Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in a particularly precarious spot. He had long opposed giving legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in the N.S.A.’s wiretapping program, even threatening a filibuster during his run for the nomination. But on Wednesday, he ended up voting for what he called “an improved but imperfect bill” after backing a failed attempt earlier in the day to strip the immunity provision from the bill through an amendment. Senator Hillary Clinton voted against the bill.

Read the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as approved by the House and Senate here.

Read the entire New York Times article about passage of the FISA bill here.

plez sez: WTF?!?

how does the lamest of lame duck presidents continue to wield such power when the opposition party is in power? and was Barack Obama's vote to support the bill an indication that he intends to use these powers - which many claim is a direct violation of the 4th amendment - when he takes over next january?

it is clear that he initially opposed the measure and failed at trying to negotiate a compromise, but questions of his integrity must be asked if he bowed to political pressure from the bush administration to support their objectionable areas of the bill. his vote was not necessary for the bill to pass, so i wonder why he chose to vote for the "improved but imperfect" bill?

i agree with other Obama supporters who are pissed off with Obama's FISA vote. by permitting the president to continue to trample the rights of americans for political reasons shows a lack of conviction and betrays the basic tenet under which the Obama for President campaign was waged: change the way of doing things in washington. this vote was simply politics as usual!

It makes plezWorld wanna holler: WTF?!?

1 comment:

Hathor said...

What didn't you think would be next after he left his church?