Friday, June 20, 2008

Profiles in Cowardice

Ladies and Gentleman, your Democratic congressional leadership, let by Maryland's own, Steny Hoyer: (via Glenn Greenwald)

George Bush's latest powers, courtesy of the Democratic Congress

CQ reports (sub. req.) that "a final deal has been reached" on FISA and telecom amnesty and "the House is likely to take up the legislation Friday." I've now just read a copy of the final "compromise" bill. It's even worse than expected. When you read it, it's actually hard to believe that the Congress is about to make this into our law. Then again, this is the same Congress that abolished habeas corpus with the Military Commissions Act, and legalized George Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program with the "Protect America Act," so it shouldn't be hard to believe at all.
So all the Attorney General has to do is recite those magic words -- the President requested this eavesdropping and did it in order to save us from the Terrorists -- and the minute he utters those words, the courts are required to dismiss the lawsuits against the telecoms, no matter how illegal their behavior was.

That's the "compromise" Steny Hoyer negotiated and which he is now -- according to very credible reports -- pressuring every member of the Democratic caucus to support. It's full-scale, unconditional amnesty with no inquiry into whether anyone broke the law. In the U.S. now, thanks to the Democratic Congress, we'll have a new law based on the premise that the President has the power to order private actors to break the law, and when he issues such an order, the private actors will be protected from liability of any kind on the ground that the Leader told them to do it -- the very theory that the Nuremberg Trial rejected.

Warrentless wiretapping and immunity for the telecom companies that spied on american citizens! That's what we voted for in 2006! Oh wait, there's more!:
So a deal has been reached on no-strings-attached war funding well into the next President's first year, and all the Democrats get out of it is a GI Bill that isn't paid for (they had to drop the tax on millionaires), some appropriations for flooding in the Midwest and Gulf Coast and modified unemployment insurance for an additional 13 weeks. That's not nothing, but given that it's a signing of a death warrant for tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, it's perverse to even talk in terms of what you "get" out of the deal.
Wow, a blank check for war too! I guess if you're going to bend over for a president with an approval rating in the 20s, you might get it all done all at once right? And granted, it's not all the Democrats, but it's times like these when you find out who the real heroes are. Here's one of them, and one of my heroes, Russ Feingold on the bill:
“The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President’s illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration.”
What a fucking beast.

It seems like all that's left is the voting, but there is a chance to turn this one around. There's that guy, who won all those votes, and is the new leader of the party... what will he do? If Obama came out against this, there is a very good chance this bill gets stopped dead in it's tracks. He is the new leader of the democratic party and all, wouldn't it be nice for once to have someone - you know- LEAD?

I was going to also write a post about Obama's working group on national security, but this has been too much enraging news for one day. And besides, if he comes out against this bill, I'll pull out the Will Smith Neuralizer and forget about this. (Banging head against wall)

And on a unrelated history nerd and one day late note... Happy Juneteenth! Now an official holiday in 29 states... most recently in California thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger believe it or not!

UPDATE: John Cole at Balloon Juice add humor to the situation:
The Democratic Leadership as portrayed in a picture:

1 comment:

  1. By the way, do you think there's any way FISA's precedent could be used to attack abortion? The arguments surrounding both are based in the right to privacy, after all... and if the government is allowed to spy on innocent citizens without warning and in large numbers, why is patient/doctor confidentiality different?


    While driving up to NYC, I was listening to the food czar's testimony on the tomato scare before the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. One of his side-comments was really interesting, and has a bearing on FISA: apparently the FDA's tracking of contaminated food back to its source is done entirely through anti-terrorism measures enacted after 9/11. There's no non-national-security way to keep track of where our food comes from, and so they almost universally use that legislation to get the job done. (Presumably without warrants either, though I don't have a problem with the FDA looking at food manifests without the approval of a judge).

    It's not really the abuse of the system that bothers me (if it even is abuse), though the fact that even mundane aspects of law in this administration seem to be conducted through the "war on terror" is a little disgusting.

    What struck me was how difficult it must be to roll back law enforcement legislation once agencies become dependent on it. We can't just repeal offending laws and be done with it, because agencies use them for necessary purposes in acceptable ways; we have to to through with a fine-toothed comb, pull out the good parts and put forward something new that's both more effective and more efficient; and we have to make legitimate law-enforcement agencies go through the bureaucratic bullshit of learning a new system. Attacks on personal freedom of that scale need to be prevented in the first place, because it's practically fucking impossible to clean up the mess later.