Athenae: Democrats Need to Step Up on FISA

Allison Hantschel has a great column in the Southtown Star today on the FISA fight. Hantschel is better known to most in the blogosphere as Athenae of First Draft. The whole column’s worth a read for its retrospective analysis of what the Bush administration is asking for and how compliant the Senate has been in allowing legislation to proceed in a path that seems to ensure Bush and Cheney and their buddies in the telecom industry will get everything they want. Here’s a short excerpt:

There are many aspects of the Bush administration’s actions in the past eight years by which George Orwell would be impressed, but none perhaps so much so as the Protect America Act.

It’s called the Protect America Act so that anyone who votes against it is voting against the Protect America Act, and don’t think for one minute that’s not why it’s called that. Why else would you be so discourteous to your native tongue?

What it did, when initially passed in 2007, was revise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to give cover to the Bush administration’s illegal program of wiretapping the conversations of Americans without court order. That program was exposed by the New York Times in 2005; Congressional hearings quickly deteriorated into fights about the best way to make lawbreaking legal so nobody felt bad about it.

To listen to Senate Republicans tell it, the act needs to be renewed now so we can stop another Sept. 11, 2001, from happening, which is their rationale for why everything they want needs to be enacted immediately.

But the only bill Bush could stomach was one that protected telecommunications companies from lawsuits stemming from their compliance with illegal wiretapping by the administration. It wasn’t enough to immunize everyone in government from what had been done to Americans for the past six years; we had to make sure AT&T didn’t need to call a lawyer. Or, as Ted Kennedy put it on the Senate floor, if you believe what Bush is saying, then “the president is willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.”

It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad, and what makes it even sadder is that Democrats had to be prodded to fight illegal wiretapping at all. Only relentless citizen pressure convinced Sen. Chris Dodd, of Connecticut, to take up the issue of retroactive telecom immunity, though he has carried it admirably since, offering amendments and promising a filibuster when it looked like there was no other way to get the job done.

You can read the whole column at the Southtown Star.
Cross posted at the CREDO Blog.

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