Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What they're saying about the warrantless surveillance bill

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI):
Our constitutional rights should not be sacrificed to scare tactics. Congress must stand up to the president. The sooner that Democrats realize that standing tough on national security doesn't mean giving into the administration, the better off they - and the country - will be.

The Washington Post, which is not exactly an editorial board of liberals:
Instead of having the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court ensure that surveillance is being done properly, with monitoring of Americans minimized, that job would be up to the attorney general and the director of national intelligence. The court's role is reduced to that of rubber stamp.

This is as reckless as it was unnecessary. Democrats had presented a compromise plan that would have permitted surveillance to proceed, but with court review and an audit by the Justice Department's inspector general, to be provided to Congress, about how many Americans had been surveilled. Democrats could have stuck to their guns and insisted on their version. Instead, nervous about being blamed for any terrorist attack and eager to get out of town, they accepted the unacceptable.
There is one small saving grace here: These sweeping new powers expire after six months. Of course, having dropped the audit requirement, lawmakers won't have a good way of knowing how many Americans had their communications intercepted. The administration will no doubt again play the national security card. Democratic leaders say they want to move quickly to fix the damage. If only we could be more confident that they won't get rolled again.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, before the bill passed:
That this Democratic Congress is even considering Director McConnell's proposed changes is, for lack of a better word, a disgrace. Just this week we discovered that even the secret intelligence court has rebuffed the administration's request to scoop up unidentified foreign to U.S. calls through some still-secret dragnet. Congress, ostensibly a level-headed check on executive overreaching, got rolled on the Patriot Act and now is about to get rolled on a brave new world of warrantless wiretapping.

Even worse, it is about to get rolled by a White House and intelligence community that does not enjoy the trust of the American people.

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks on Monday:
Here we go again. I was going to write a nice, fun piece about Matt Damon on a lovely Sunday afternoon when the Democrats went and ruined everything, as usual. From time to time, I am told that I am too hard on the Democrats. It is not possible to be too hard on these vacillating, spineless, rudderless, clueless clowns.

Meteor Blades at Daily Kos, addressing the 57 iDiotcrats who voted for the bill, including PA's own Senator Casey:
Frankly, you epitomize weak. Your every pore exudes feebleness. You are surrender monkeys. And you've just casually tossed away a basic protection as if it were a banana peel.

Pressed, I suspect that over the next month some of you will defend this pitiful capitulation with the argument that it's only for six months, and that you'll have a chance to amend the amendment, to rewrite the law more properly. You'll pretend that you won’t kiss the President's ass half a year from now when he comes back and says exactly what he said this time: Give me what I want or I'll blame you the next time terrorists kill Americans. Weak is bad enough. Must you be simpletons as well? How many times has he marketed this crap? How many times have you bought it? Do you also fall for those late-night $19.95 television deals for a double-set of knives that never need sharpening?

Cenk Uygur later on Monday:
The Democratic capitulation on the FISA law is one of those things that make you grow even angrier as time passes by. As one of our listeners said this morning, "I am growing sick and tired of growing sick and tired."
If you say it's not possible to fight back, I have two words for you: Russ Feingold.

This is not some futile effort to get Feingold to run or anything. I'm just using him as an example because apparently he's the only one left in the Senate with a sack. The rest of them have the grand, brilliant strategy of waiting Bush out. How very brave!

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of these Democrats. Is anyone going to pay a price for voting the wrong way on this FISA bill? Are Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi going to hold them to account? I'll give you a moment to stop laughing.

These are the Pretendocrats (another listener suggestion) - they pretend to fight the Bush administration, while actually doing squat.

The New York Times:
But the problem with Congress last week was that Democrats were afraid to explain to Americans why the White House bill was so bad and so unnecessary — despite what the White House was claiming. There are good answers, if Democrats are willing to address voters as adults. To start, they should explain that — even if it were a good idea, and it's not — the government does not have the capability to sort through billions of bits of electronic communication. And the larger question: why, six years after 9/11, is this sort of fishing expedition the supposed first line of defense in the war on terrorism?

While serving little purpose, the new law has real dangers. It would allow the government to intercept, without a warrant, every communication into or out of any country, including the United States. Instead of explaining all this to American voters — the minimal benefits and the enormous risks — the Democrats have allowed Mr. Bush and his fear-mongering to dominate all discussions on terrorism and national security.

The Times did say something that I want to take issue with:
Many of the 16 Democrats in the Senate and 41 in the House who voted for the bill said that they had acted in the name of national security, but the only security at play was their job security.

Wrong. Stop buying this frame that members of Congress had to choose between standing up for the Constitution and getting re-elected. That is a false choice. As Glenn Greenwald reminded us yesterday morning and yesterday afternoon, the GOP failed miserably in 2006 while running on the "Dems are weak on terrorism" card. Jon Tester won a Senate seat last year in Montana advocating repeal of the PATRIOT Act. In 2004, when Feingold's opponent ran ads filleting him for his vote against the PATRIOT Act, Feingold's poll numbers went up, not down.

There are Democrats and Republicans, including Senators Casey and Specter, who have yet to receive the memo that the American people believe in the Constitution. Now, it would be nice if they actually upheld their oath of office and defended it, rather than shredding it.

Andy in Harrisburg

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