Why does Congress continuously bend to whatever Bush says? Why are they so incredibly weak? When the Democrats gained control of Congress, I thought that they were going to reign the Bush Administration in a bit, especially in terms of the civil liberties of our own citizens. Instead, the Senate has passed a FISA bill that grants immunity to the telecommunications companies who complied with illegal wiretaps on this country's citizens.
How in the world can this possibly make sense to anyone in Congress? The only thing I can think of is that the people who are voting for this have something to lose, like campaign dollars. Although the amounts donated to campaigns have significantly decreased since 2000, both the Democrats and the Republicans have received similar amounts in campaign donations from the telecom industry for the last 20 years.
You can see who in the Senate voted to keep telecom immunity in the bill by going here. A couple of notes: YEA means they voted to REMOVE immunity and NAY means they voted to KEEP immunity. For those of you keeping score at home, Obama doesn't want to let the telecoms off the hook, McCain thinks they are entitled to a Get Out of Jail Free card, and Clinton is conspicuously absent from this vote (???).
If that wasn't bad enough, the Republicans stormed out of the House yesterday when the Democrats wouldn't immediately schedule a vote on this disgraceful piece of legislation. The Democrats instead wanted to vote on whether or not Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten should be held in contempt for refusing to respond to a subpoena to testify regarding the attorney firings. Seriously, what are you people, like five years old? You are the lawmakers of the United States of America. This is your job. Grow up. If you were at any other job, you would be fired for just walking out of work. If it were up to me, you would be fired. You don't get to take your ball and go home just because you don't agree with the way things are being scheduled. You accuse the Democrats of grandstanding and then turn around and do the exact thing that you are decrying. Instead of making some kind of point, you just end up looking like immature children.
On the plus side, it looks like the FISA bill in it's current state will die, and I'm all for that. As much as the Bush Administration may whine about this endangering the US, that is simply not true. In fact, this bill is not even necessary. Paraphrased from the House Intelligence Chair:
- The NSA can invoke Executive Order 12333 to conduct surveillance of any known (or suspected) terrorist overseas. They don't need a warrant, and they don't even have to have probable cause. This is how they get most of their data anyway.
- The NSA can use powers granted under the Protect America Act to conduct surveillance here in the U.S of any foreign target. This will not "expire" on February 16th, as Bush would have you believe. Any orders authorizing surveillance under this act are valid for a year until at least August of 2008. These orders cover any terrorist group, and if a new member of such a group is discovered, the NSA may add that person's email, phone, etc to the existing orders and continue with surveillance. These orders will not suddenly and magically cease to exist.
- In the remote situation where a completely new terrorist organization is discovered that hasn't been previously identified by the government, the NSA could still use existing authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor them. Yes, this does require getting a warrant through the FISA court, but in an emergency, the NSA or FBI can start surveillance immediately as long as they get the warrant within three days. These warrants can be issued in a matter of minutes.
Basically, the bill as it stands is NOT about National Security and/or Protecting The Children. It is about consolidating power. It is about the Bush administration trying to cover its ass. And it is about further deceiving the American public with more scare tactics. (You're not safe if this bill doesn't pass!) I can't for the life of me understand how this bill passed a Senate controlled by Democrats. This is just further proof that, for the most part, there is no difference between these two parties when it comes to things that really matter. If you think we actually have a two party system, you are incredibly naive. The way things are turning out this election season, it looks like Obama may be this country's only hope for real change. I just hope he's not all talk. I fear that if he turns out to be just another politician that this country may never recover.
Of course, I don't think the majority of the American public is even aware that this is going on. Get this boring political stuff off my TV! Britney's in the hospital!
Random Parting Thought:
I will be visiting my family in South Carolina until Wednesday of next week. I will try and post on Monday and Wednesday, but if I don't, now you know why.