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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Barack, Lieberman, Republicans, and Red-Dog Dems Vs. the U.S. Constitution
James S. Henry

1_61_obama_wrightToday the U.S. Senate voted 69 to 28 in favor of the FISA Amendments Act (H.R. 6304). This monstrosity not only grants complete retroactive immunity to leading telecommunications companies for violating our civil rights since 2001, but also opens the door to mass surveillance of US citizens without warrants, in blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Unfortunately, for those of us who had taken Barack Obama at his word when he promised on numerous occasions to oppose -- or even filibuster -- against this completely unconstitutional bill, he decided to retreat rather than fight.

Greatpretender In doing so, Obama broke ranks with Senators Feingold, Clinton, Schumer, Dodd, Biden,  Kerry, Reid, Byrd, Senator Kennedy if he'd been well enough to vote, and a majority of other progressive Senate Democrats, all of whom courageously voted against this horrific bill.

Instead, Barack Obama chose to stand with belligerent warmongers and crypto-Republicans like Joe Lieberman, dim-witted carnival barkers like Diane Feinstein, Evan Bayh,  and Jay Rockefeller, plus nearly every single Republican in the Senate -- except for John McCain and Pete Sessions, who did not even bother to vote on this critical issue.


In explaining his FISA bill vote, Obama cited several arguments that turn out upon closer inspection  to be completely disingenuous arguments, evidently concocted on the fly to conceal his political motives. 

First, he claimed the bill was an "improvement" over the original one proposed by VPWiretapping Cheney and House Republicans. This sets the bar so low that it is buried in the sand.

Second, Obama  said he remained opposed to telecom immunity, and would vote to amend that provision in the bill -- as if this little bit of sugar excused the bitter pill left over after the amendment failed. 

Third, and most important, Obama says that he is now convinced that unfettered wiretapping and email surveillance are needed to prevent yet another terrorist attack in the US.

In fact, as many other commentators have argued at length elsewhere, this kind of unfettered surveillance is neither necessary nor sufficient to prevent such attacks.

Furthermore, the very best evidence on 9/ll shows quite clearly that the Bush Administration's inability to prevent the attack had little to do with a shortage of intelligence, let alone any limitations on wiretapping powers under already-generous FISA procedures. Rather, the Bush Administration's failure to prevent 9/ll was due mainly to its incredibly incompetent -- nay, criminally negligent -- handling of abundant intelligence.

By reviving the old false dilemma that there is an intrinsic conflict between national security and constitutional rights, Obama has, in effect, just provided the Bush Administration a get-of -out-of-jail free card, and set back the quality of discourse on this issue at least six years.

And all this from a "professor of constitutional law!"


This was only the latest in a series of sharp right turns and U turns that the Junior Senator from Illinois has made in the wake of his primary victory over Senator Clinton just six weeks ago.

On issues ranging from gun control and abortion to civil liberties, campaign finance, nuclear power,  the death penalty, and government support for faith-based initiatives, many of those who have worked hard for Obama  and contributed to his campaign from very early on are now having "morning after" regrets  -- you know, that awful feeling when you wake up next to someone you barely know, someone who looked a whole lot better the night before at 2 am on the dimly-lit dance floor,  under the influence of hope, desire, grog, and Is638084 near-sightedness.

Apparently now that Obama's the nominee-in-waiting, he pictures those of us on the Center/Left as the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, marooned on his mysterious tropical island with nowhere else to go.

He also probably thinks that his vote today makes it easier to convince "independents" and even some "Republicans"  that he's not "soft" on national security.

In my experience, however,  the vast majority of people who still consider themselves "Republicans" as of 2008 are beyond redemption, at least this side of the Inferno. On the other hand,  many "independents" actually do give a hoot about the Bill of Rights.

The one thing we thought Barack was able to do was to stand up and defend basic principles in the face of the inevitable right-wing onslaught. 

For millions of those who  supported him because we thought he was the real "change" candidate,  this was clearly not the kind of "change" we had in mind.


Chicken_xing_thumb_640 Perhaps the Junior Senator from Illinois needs to be reminded that he is not quite yet the official Democratic Party nominee.

There's more than a month to go before the August convention, when 800 super-delegates are entitled to vote freely for the candidate they consider to be the most worthy. 

We've also just waked up from the six-month primary binge to learn that it may indeed be Hillary who not only has the best  positions on many of these key issues,  but also has the courage to stick by her convictions. 

During the long primary season, I had many heated arguments with Hillary supporters about the value of her vaunted "experience."  Now I finally understand what they were talking about -- not just that she has a Graduate Degree in Government 101, but that there's a solid core of values that she's defended for decades.

For my money, Barack, by comparison, is looking more and more like the Manchurian Candidate -- another ad hoc Madison Avenue concoction that arises out of our seemingly inexhaustible supply of hope, desire, grog, and near-sightedness.

At the very least, all this should be enough to earn Hillary Clinton the VP slot on the Democratic Party ticket. Clearly we need her to provide a rudder for this campaign -- rather than, say, the irascible Senator Webb, the ex-Republican from Virginia who also voted today in favor of the shameless FISA betrayal.

Qphotowethepeopleamericanconstituti Of course to many of us,  Hillary's one glaring fault was her original position on the war. Now that Obama's positions on so many issues --  perhaps even his timetable for withdrawing from Iraq --  have been shown to be,  politically speaking, up for sale, that one error in judgment does not seem quite so fatal.

True, Barack and Michele still seem a little more personable and fresh than Hillary and Bill. But the bloom is definitely off the rose. We'll just have to see how well the charm holds up, once the Democrat Convention is over and Karl and the Rovettes open up their little bag of dirty tricks.

What's already clear is that on this matter of fundamental principle, the US Constitution, this Great Black Hope from Chicago has just turned out to have a very broad bright yellow streak right down the middle of his bowling shirt.

So, at least until Hillary Clinton joins him on the ticket, I for one am demanding my money back.

Meanwhile, for those of you who still care about the Bill of Rights, here's what the ACLU has to say about today's capitulation by the Democratic Party's latest addition to the ranks of "Beltway bandits:"



Today, elected officials in Washington sold out the Constitution -- again.

Cowed by the Bush administration’s pre-election scare tactics, the Senate passed privacy-stealing FISA legislation undermining your Fourth Amendment rights.

This is not a “compromise,” as some in Congress would have us believe. The only thing they compromised is your freedom. Donate to the ACLU, and stand up for your rights. (This link will open a page with your information already filled in.)

The FISA Amendments Act allows for mass, untargeted and warrantless surveillance of all communications coming into and out of the United States. And to top it off, it hands immunity to telecom companies for their role in domestic spying. This means your phone calls can be tapped and emails read with virtually no proof of threat, and there's no chance to learn how the telecoms invaded your privacy.

It’s outrageous, unconstitutional and un-American. That’s why the ACLU is prepared to challenge this unconstitutional law the moment President Bush signs it -- and you can rest assured they’ll be meeting our lawyers in court.

Help the ACLU protect your privacy. Donate now to the ACLU to defend your rights.

In one fell swoop, Congress has not only legalized the Bush administration’s secret NSA spying program, it has given the government even more power to listen to our phone calls and read our emails than even the Bush administration illegally claimed for itself under its secret program. And, by granting telecoms immunity, it greatly harmed the chances of ever learning the extent of the administration’s lawless actions.

Stand with the ACLU in defending your rights. Support the ACLU’s lawsuit and all of our other critical work defending the Constitution.

In defense of freedom,

Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director

(c)SubmergingMarkets, 2008

July 9, 2008 at 07:23 PM | Permalink


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Barack, Lieberman, Republicans, and Red-Dog Dems Vs. the U.S. Constitution
James S. Henry: