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

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Latest Twist on FISA: A New "Compromise" That's Anything But

Yeah yeah, I know, Joe Klein is an idiot and a dishonest hack, and Time Magazine did its best to shield him from criticism, even rejecting numerous counterpoints from Democratic legislators who took issue with Klein's smears. This is all well-documented. Unfortunately, it's also irrelevant to the new heart of the matter on FISA. Arlen Specter is pushing a bullshit "compromise" that actually does pretty much the same thing as telecom amnesty would do.

And voila! your wishy-washy compromise (Specter's statement; the bill):

"The legislation substitutes the U.S. in place of any electronic communication service company which provided communications in connection with an intelligence activity that was authorized by the President between September 11, 2001, and January 17, 2007, and designed to detect or prevent a terrorist attack against the U.S." [...]

But here's the killer:

"nothing in the bill is designed to increase or diminish the ability of the Government to assert the States Secret privilege"

Given that much of BushCo's motivation to give the telecoms immunity relates to BushCo's own exposure for illegally wiretapping Americans, and given that the telecom lawsuits were so important because they provided an angle around State Secrets, this pretty much sinks the lawsuits anyway.

In other words, the government becomes the substitute defendant in all the telecom lawsuits, the government can still invoke state secrets, meaning the lawsuits are very likely to be squashed, and ipso facto, the telecoms get away with lawbreaking. And more important, we never learn the extent of the spying on Americans.

There's a clause in there that leaves the telecoms on the hook for any spying prior to 9/11, but for the most part, this would be the end of any opportunity to reveal the breadth and scope of the President's warrantless wiretapping program. If Bush decided it was legal, then the telecoms get away scot-free.

And this will be voted on in the Senate Judiciary Committee TOMORROW.

So, as much as I agree that Joe Klein is a dick, I wish Glenn Greenwald would step away from that for a moment and back to the destruction of the rule of law that's about to occur under all of our noses. Substitution is just a kinder and gentler word for retroactive immunity. It's the kind of "bipartisan compromise" that the Broders of the world will love, but which is actually a far-right effort to indemnify participants in the surveillance of Americans. This has broad consequences for the surveillance state and the future of civil liberties. Mr. Greenwald, your country needs you. Refocus.

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