One of the things that was most frustrating working for and with Chris Dodd during the course of the FISA fight is that while the blogosphere and a few rare liberal pundits (Keith Olbermann comes to mind) gave Dodd credit for standing up to the Bush administration and defending the rule of law, the mainstream press basically ignored his role in delaying retroactive immunity for telecom companies that illegally spied on Americans. Most big outlets focused their coverage of the Democratic Senate’s actions on FISA focused on Harry Reid, Patrick Leahy (as Judiciary chair), Jay Rockefeller, and Intelligence and Judiciary committee members like Ron Wyden, Russ Feingold, and Sheldon Whitehouse. While these were all key players in the legislative process, none of them did what Dodd did (while some actively fought against Dodd’s principled and lawful stand). I attribute the refusal of organizations like the New York Times and Washington Post to give Dodd his due were based on the fact that he wasn’t on either of the relevant committees and was running a presidential campaign. They just didn’t want to give him coverage, so instead of practicing good journalism, they largely ignored Chris Dodd’s role in trying to single-handedly stop bad FISA legislation.
I write all of this as preface to a piece by Ryan Singel of Wired’s Threat Level blog that came out yesterday. In writing about the current legal fight going on over the validity of the legislation passed last summer over Dodd’s objections, Singel ends up giving Dodd the greatest degree of credit for his work I have seen coming from any mainstream media outlet. Here is the first portion of Singel’s post:
The constitutionality of retroactive immunity for telecoms that helped Bush spy on Americans got its day in court Tuesday, a little less than a year after senator Christopher Dodd all but shuttered Congress with an ultimately futile one-man stand against the idea.
Tuesday’s courtroom showdown in San Francisco lacked the fireworks of Dodd’s fiery oration, but the judge handling the case gave some indication that he may take over as the one-man anti-immunity crusader.
“In essence that gives the attorney general carte blanche to immunize anyone.” Walker said, wondering what odd creature Congress had fashioned. “What other statute is like this statute?”
Lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Walker that Congress had no right to give the attorney general a magic wand to make cases against the telecoms go away just by telling the judge a little bit about what happened. The group is suing AT&T for helping the government spy on Americans’ internet and phone usage.
“We have a right to an injunction against the telecoms,” EFF’s legal director Cindy Cohn said. “They are the gatekeepers … They have an independent duty to protect Americans’ privacy.”
A Democratically-controlled Congress bowed to election-year political pressures in the summer, legalizing much of the formerly lawless spying and creating a get-out-jail-card for the telecoms being sued for helping with the spying. [Emphasis added]
Dodd never got the credit he deserved outside the liberal blogosphere. It’s great to see that some journalists haven’t forgotten Chris Dodd’s role in the FISA fight. I’m glad Ryan Singel took the time to write Dodd into this post; he didn’t have to, but it was the right thing to do. Credit where credit is due to both Dodd and Singel.