The U.S. Senate today passed a bill amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 so that telecommunications companies which cooperated with the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping will receive retroactive immunity from lawsuits. The final vote came after several amendments seeking to strip out or curtail that immunity were defeated.
And how did the Senators whom Californians presumably find most important cast their votes? Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, R-Ariz., was absent for the vote, out on the campaign trail. And as for Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama:
S.Amdt.5064, introduced by U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., to strike the section of the bill granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program:
Final tally: 32-66 (defeated)
S.Amdt.5059, introduced by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to limit retroactive immunity for providing assistance to the United States to instances in which a federal court determines the assistance was provided in connection with an intelligence activity that was constitutional:
Final tally: 37-61 (defeated)
S.Amdt.5066, introduced by U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., to delay any claim of retroactive immunity until 90 days after the date the final report of the Inspectors General on the President’s Surveillance Program is submitted to Congress:
Final tally: 42-56 (defeated)
Motion to invoke cloture (ending debate and bringing the bill to a vote) on H.R. 6304, amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978:
Final tally: 72-26 (passed)
On passage of H.R.6304, amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978:
Final tally: 69-28 (passed)
American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero calls the bill “not only unconstitutional, but absolutely un-American;” the ACLU plans to sue to challenge it as soon as President Bush signs it into law.
UPDATE @ 5:10 P.M. WEDNESDAY: The liberal blogs are abuzz with dissatisfaction…
Glenn Greenwald at Salon: “With their vote today, the Democratic-led Congress has covered-up years of deliberate surveillance crimes by the Bush administration and the telecom industry, and has dramatically advanced a full-scale attack on the rule of law in this country.”
DownWithTyranny: “…enough Democrats were bribed by the telecom companies to hand Bush the victory he lusted for…”
Steve Soto at The Left Coaster: “…gutted the Constitution… trashed the Fourth Amendment…”
Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake: “We need to punish those who stood against us.”
So it would seem Dianne Feinstein might have some ‘splainin’ to do to many of her constituents… but apparently not to the California Democratic Party, even though Chairman Art Torres late last year said Feinstein wouldn’t vote this way:
I said I think it’s important that you hear this from me because there’s also concern about the telecom immunity issue which will come before the senate judiciary committee. Don’t believe me, ask my friend Senator Dodd, who will tell you that she led the effort along with him to make sure that that wasn’t in the FISA bill that emerged from the senate judiciary committee. That bill as you know does not include the telecom immunity issue, which was a very important issue for me, and I’m proud that she listened, because she does.
So I contacted the party today to see if Torres would comment on today’s votes. I got a callback from party political advisor Bob Mulholland, who noted Obama voted for immunity today too as a compromise. “Our attitude as a political party is, let’s win the election and we can start cleaning up the constitutional mess Bush gave us,” Mulholland said.
With retroactive immunity, that is.
Posted on Wednesday, July 9th, 2008
Under: Arlen Specter, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Chris Dodd, Civil liberties, Dianne Feinstein, General, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, U.S. Senate | No Comments »