The Democratic-led Congress this afternoon voted to put an end to the NSA spying scandal, as the Senate approved a bill — approved last week by the House — to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, terminate all pending lawsuits against them, and vest whole new warrantless eavesdropping powers in the President. The vote in favor of the new FISA bill was 69-28. Barack Obama joined every Senate Republican (and every House Republican other than one) by voting in favor of it, while his now-vanquished primary rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, voted against it. John McCain wasn’t present for any of the votes, but shared Obama’s support for the bill. The bill will now be sent to an extremely happy George Bush, who already announced that he enthusiastically supports it, and he will sign it into law very shortly.
Prior to final approval, the Senate, in the morning, rejected three separate amendments which would have improved the bill but which, the White House threatened, would have prompted a veto. With those amendments defeated, the Senate then passed the same bill passed last week by the House, which means it is that bill, in unchanged form, that will be signed into law — just as the Bush administration demanded.
Unlike many on the left, I can’t get all exorcised about the bill’s provision regarding telecom immunity. Granted, I don’t think the telecoms should have legal immunity for assisting in illegal wiretapping, especially retroactively. But in the scheme of things, it is small potatoes. I’m less concerned about punishment for past wrongs, and more concerned about, well, the future and the Constitution.
The new FISA bill is a HUGE stab at the Fourth Amendment. It’s worse than the old one. And least the old one required some sort of judicial approval (not that the Bush Administration borke the law by avoiding it). This new one simply takes that protection away.
Sadder still is the fact that Obama voted for the new FISA bill. Oh, Barry….