As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Crossed Wires

I think that Barack Obama is saying less here than meets the eye, and Hillary Clinton even less. Both are sying that if retroactive immunity for telecom companies remains in the FISA bill they would "support a filibuster." I get the sense that they're talking about the filibuster as we know it in the recent past, that they would join with 20 or so Senators to try and end cloture and lose. It's unclear that they are talking about the kind of filibuster Chris Dodd is planning, an actual filibuster designed to bring the Senate to a standstill by staying on the floor and reading the phone book.

The frontrunners are playing semantic games. My sense is that they would be happy to allow this awful bill, which shreds the Constitution and the rule of law, to pass, and then go back on the campaign trail and say "we tried but we didn't have the votes, but get us in the White House and things will change."

This is unacceptable. The language in the bill would not only give immunity for wiretapping, but for black-bag jobs.

Although most of the attention has focused on how the Senate bill might offer telecommunications service providers retroactive immunity (and derail the lawsuits against AT&T), the actual language appears to cover physical intrusions too [...]

A hotel manager who lets FBI agents into a guest's room to copy a laptop's hard drive in secret would not be liable. An apartment manager who gives Homeland Security the key to a tenant's unit to place a key logger in a PC would not be liable. A private security firm that divulges a customer's alarm code would not be liable. A university that agrees to forward a student's e-mail messages to the Defense Department would not be liable. An antivirus company that helps the NSA implant spyware in an unsuspecting customer's computer would not be liable.

No court order is required. And if an eventual lawsuit accuses the hotel manager or antivirus firm of unlawful activities, it'll be thrown out of court as long as the attorney general or the director of national intelligence can provide a "certification." The "certification" is, of course, secret--all a judge may say publicly is that the rules were followed, and then dismiss the case.

To quote Matt Stoller:

Obama and Clinton put out relatively weak and meaningless statements to avoid a controversy. Without a genuine attack on the two of them by progressives, the bill will quietly pass as we yelp in the blogs about the pathetic Congress, and the press won't care and most Democrats won't hear about it.

It happened with the Military Commissions Act, the supplemental, and Reid-Feingold. Obama and Clinton voted 'right' on those bills, but their behavior was meant to avoid controversy and they allowed those bills to pass with their passivity. The only way to break this cycle, this pattern, is to stop tolerating their obvious contempt for leadership.

Exactly. These statements aren't worth a thing. They are designed to win plaudits and relieve tension without doing a damn thing.

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