Kia Franklin

Politicians Say the Darndest Things… (the FISA debate)

I'm sorry, guys. I've been holdling back. I've been biting my tongue. But can you blame me? We already know that Big Brother is in cahoots with the telecoms, and is fighting obstinately to give them the "above the law" immunity that our present administration has enjoyed for itself in so many respects. I think on this issue, since I last wrote on it, I've been a mix between disillusioned and paranoid. (But, then again, you're not paranoid if you're really being watched.)

So, now I think it's due time to share my pithy (or maybe not so pithy) two cents. The short of it is: politicians say the darndest things. Today and last night, as our Senators have been debating the FISA bill, and specifically provisions to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that illegally spied on people at the behest (albeit unauthorized) of the federal government, here's a taste of some of the darndest things our "representatives" have been saying:

1) (From "Dean Boyd, spokesman for the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said that any measure that fails to provide retroactive immunity would 'risk losing the cooperation of private partners in the future... Finally, the lawsuits could result in the expenditure of taxpayer resources.' ”)

Translation: Let's protect taxpayers from having their hard earned money spent on prosecuting companies for violating their constitutional right to privacy. Instead, let's let those companies off the hook so that they'll keep working with us to violate people's privacy rights. But we should do this for the sake of the taxpayers. Because this is what's best for them. We're so thoughtful. Pats on the back for us.

2) On her proposed amendment to the retroactive immunity provision, Senator Feinstein says: “It does not grant immunity. It says that this is a decision that should be made by the FISA Court, not Congress. If the court finds that the companies were acting in good faith or based on legal government certification, then they would receive immunity. But if they were not, then they would not receive immunity, and the cases would move forward. This strikes the right balance and puts the decision where it belongs – in the FISA court.”

Sounds good, right?
Well over at the Courage Campaign, Robert Cruickshank offers a great critique wherein he calls this a "back door" immunity provision. He points out that "the public has no ability to access" this secret FISA court and that the amendment just encourages telecoms to prepare to make their "good faith" pleas. Read his complete analysis here.

3) On the (what Glenn Greenwald aptly describes as false) urgency surrounding getting this bill passed by its Feb 1st expiration date, Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee says: "Congress will have only eight days to pass a fix before our foreign intelligence surveillance law (FISA) expires," Bond says. "To continue to stall legislation needed to help our intelligence community prevent attacks and protect American lives is irresponsible."

Translation a la Glenn Greenwald: "unless Democrats [the majority of those in opposition to the immunity] do this, and quick, we're going to be Slaughtered by The Terrorists."

To which a normal human being might respond, well if it's really "do or die" then why is the Bush administration being so darned stubborn? Especially when absent retroactive immunity, FISA law still requires telecoms to comply with these requests as long as a warrant has been obtained? So it's so do or die that we have to obliterate the legitimate process for spying, you know, the process that prevents telecoms from being bullied into compliance regardless of the legality of the spying. And, (last leg of rant) why, if these companies are so innocent and good and pure, wouldn't they fare well in a public court of law? If I'm arrested, I can't say, "I didn't do it, so I shouldn't have to go through the legal system to prove the legality of my actions." And I can't say, "but the President told me to do it." This option shouldn't be available for the telecoms either.

And finally, this just in: The vote on whether to consider the Senate Judiciary Committee bill--the one which does not offer retroactive immunity--just lost. More on this later. In the mean time, go to OpenLeft to read some of the candidates' statements on retroactive immunity. And then ask yourself, well, where are these guys today? I know they have to campaign but while they're at it, could the kind Senators drop by the Hill and do a little representation of their constituents? Mmm, thanks.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 2:43 PM, Jan 24, 2008 in Civil Rights | Consumer Rights | Corporate Abuse | Legislation | Liability Immunity
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