a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

A belated note on Obama and FISA: argh

Posted by Thomas Nephew on June 27th, 2008

I share Nell’s, Avedon’s, eRobin’s, Mick’s, Paul’s, Kevin’s, Glenn Greenwald’s and many others’ anger and/or disappointment re the express train to Nixonland FISA capitulation by the Democratic Party and Obama.

While it’s justifiably the headliner aspect of the bill for opponents, the telcom immunity provision is only part of the problem. When you get long-time Jucidiary Committee staffers and Department of Justice veterans like James Dempsey and Marty Lederman scratching their heads and saying they’re still not quite sure what all is being authorized here — and neither is Congress — then it’s time to pull the emergency brake for that reason alone, not stoke the engine.

Given that “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it”, it seems likely we’re about to approve giga-scale “vacuum cleaner” data mining of a great deal of innocent e-mail and telephone traffic on “general principles” of some unknown nature, with a resulting huge spike in ‘false positives’ like those that have affected so many air travelers since 9/11 changed everything. Those positives will result in additional “warranted” yet essentially unjustified spying — fruit of the poisonous tree, declared tasty and nutritious by congressional fiat, Fourth Amendment be damned.

Re Obama: in one way or another, many of the bloggers above “told you so” about Obama’s propensity to lean towards whatever the DC establishment consensus is — not that I think they take great pleasure in seeing their analyses confirmed. But some didn’t, and Greenwald’s scoldings notwithstanding, I have to say that I’ve seen a lot of fairly fervent primary season Obama supporters be forthright about being disappointed with Obama now: hilzoy, Paul, and Kevin among them.

For my part, while I thought I was braced for that kind of thing, I confess I’m “Charlie Brown in midair” all the same to see Obama flatly renege on this so soon after his campaign promise last fall to support no FISA bill with immunity provisions. While I’ve been quiet online, I did fire off an e-mail to some Obama delegates I know; both replied that they shared my disappointment, and would pass along my comments to the campaign. Given that I couldn’t get through to the campaign with a phone call, I suspect they’re getting the message in Chicago; whether that message bothers them or not I can’t say.

There must be some kind of way out of here; seems like we’ve been here before. Meanwhile, Nell reminds me to go down fighting — there at least needs to be an amendment offered to strip immunity from the bill. I’m off to call my Senators; don’t expect much from Mikulski, but Cardin might hold the line on this.

8 Responses to “A belated note on Obama and FISA: argh”

  1. eRobin Says:

    I can do all the Audacity of Hopers one better in the Hope department: I’m still hoping that the Senate stalls the bill to death. How’s that for crazy??

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    That’s crazy talk, eRobin. Good for you.

  3. Nell Says:

    Per Emptywheel, the vote will be on July 8. Dodd will offer an amendment to strip immunity provisions from the bill, and it will only need 51 votes to pass. It got 32 last time. Despite swearing that Webb is dead to me, I’m going to try to get a flurry of messages going his way to see if he won’t support the right position this once. (“Hey, VP wannabe: Obama’s going to vote for the amendment; you don’t want to be out of step, do you?)

    With Cardin, as someone points out in EW comments, it might be worth leaning on the approach that Rockefeller and Reid-Durbin stiffed the Judiciary Committee, on which he sits, by not making their perfectly fine bill the preferred vehicle. That’s why the no-immunity amendment is the Dodd-Feingold-Leahy amendment, and Leahy has time carved out of his own to speak.

    Agreed: the whole freaking bill stinks, and should die. Should the no-immunity amendment pass, it would have to go back to the House, and… Stranger things have happened. But I think the fix is in; all the poobahs, including Obama, have decided to play the same old losing hand by adopting the Republican frame on the issue.

    Good relevant rant here by a commenter at Obsidian Wings.

  4. janinsanfran Says:

    Don’t know if this does any good, but if you can stomach Facebook, I think we all have to join this burgeoning group:

  5. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Joined it in a heartbeat (“Senator Obama – Please, No Telecom Immunity and Get FISA Right”). Quite something to see all those “Obama” profile pictures under that heading!

  6. Thomas Nephew Says:

    There’s a parallel group at the “” site (the official Obama campaign login site for supporters) — Senator Obama – Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity – Get FISA Right. 5454 members as of this afternoon, growing by leaps and bounds. (You do have to register with the site, i.e., establish a username, password, etc.)

  7. » » Celebrate the Constitution this 4th of July! Says:

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