Senate: Get Out of Jail Free, Telcos and Administration!

get_out_of_jail_free_card_small.jpg Yes, I know, the FISA bill just passed by the Senate doesn’t preclude criminal liability. But Bush can, by pardoning for any and all crimes committed, just like Ford did for Nixon; the man who commuted Scooter Libby’s sentence won’t balk at that. And the bill does do away with civil liability, so the telcos never have to pay for illegal warrantless blanket wiretapping, and the criminal evidence against the politicians that hired it is hidden.
But, to be Chicago kind of candid, whatcha gonna do about it?

Today, the freshman senator from Illinois voted in favor of the FISA bill that provides retroactive legal protection to cooperating telecom companies that helped the feds eavesdrop on overseas calls. Up until a few weeks ago — let’s see, that would be shortly after the last primaries settled the Democratic nomination and terminated what’s-her-name’s once frontrunning campaign — Obama adamantly opposed the bill. “Unequivocally” was the word his people used.

Nomination in hand, Obama stiffs the Dem left on FISA vote, Andrew Malcolm, L.A. Times, 9 July 2008

When did the U.S. lurch so far to the right that jetissoning the Fourth Amendment is considered running to the center?

The “compromise” the bill was supposed to represent is nonexistent; for example, it supposedly makes the Executive stick to the FISA court as the only method to approve wiretaps, but as the courts reminded everyone only a few days ago, the original FISA bill already said that. And Bush just went and did it anyway. What’s to stop him, or an overzealous President Obama FBI or CIA or NSA agent, from doing the same? After all, Obama voted for it.

To be sure, 75% of voting Senate Democrats voted against it (including Hillary Clinton). 100% of voting Senate Republicans voted for it (except John McCain, who couldn’t be bothered to show up). So somebody cared. But not enough did. To paraphrase Robert Burns:

‘We are bought and sold for telecom gold’-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

The ACLU is suing.

“This fight is not over. We intend to challenge this bill as soon as President Bush signs it into law,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “The bill allows the warrantless and dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international telephone and email communications. It plainly violates the Fourth Amendment.”
We’ll see if they can get a court to grant them standing this time.

What this bill has to do with net neutrality is probably obvious, but more on that later.