Bought-and-paid-for Dems cave to Mr. 24%, destroy rule of law, grant telcos retroactive immunity for warrantless surveillance
Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government's domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources.
Disclosure of the deal followed a decision by House Democratic leaders to pull a competing version of the measure from the floor because they lacked the votes to prevail over Republican opponents and GOP parliamentary maneuvers. [Shystee's Process Dodge]
Unbelievable? All too believable.
And please don't talk to me about the Bush Dogs and leadership in the same breath. I believed from the beginning that no legislation was better than bad legislation, and what the Dems should have done was reinforce their oversight powers with hearings. But n-o-o-o.
What a fucking travesty.
UPDATE Glenn writes:
Let's just describe very factually and dispassionately what has happened here. Congress -- led by Senators, such as Jay Rockefeller, who have received huge payments from the telecom industry, and by privatized intelligence pioneer Mike McConnell, former Chairman of the secretive intelligence industry association that has been demanding telecom amnesty -- is going to intervene directly in the pending lawsuits against AT&T and other telecoms and declare them the winners on the ground that they did nothing wrong. Because of their vast ties to the telecoms, neither Rockefeller nor McConnell could ever appropriately serve as an actual judge in those lawsuits.
Yet here they are, meeting and reviewing secret documents and deciding amongst themselves to end all pending lawsuits in favor of their benefactors -- AT&T, Verizon and others. Let me quote again from that 1998 Foreign Affairs essay by Thomas Carothers helpfully outlining the steps required to install the "rule of law" in third-world, pre-democracy countries:
Type three reforms aim at the deeper goal of increasing government's compliance with law. A key step is achieving genuine judicial independence. . . . But the most crucial changes lie elsewhere. Above all, government officials must refrain from interfering with judicial decision-making and accept the judiciary as an independent authority.
The question of whether the telecoms acted in "good faith" in allowing warrantless government spying on their customers is already pending before a court of law. In fact, that is one of the central issues in the current lawsuits -- one that AT&T has already lost in a federal court.
Yet that is the issue that Jay Rockefeller and Mike McConnell -- operating in secret -- are taking away from the courts by passing a law declaring the telecoms to have won.
I suppose net neutrality goes next, since the telcos want that, too.
UPDATE I called Dodd, who answered. Hillary and Barack, no surprise, threw me off into voice mail hell. Assholes.
UPDATE Here's Dodd's statement on Bush's vomit-inducing presser annoucement that he's reached "common ground" with the Democrat Party in gutting the Fourth Amendment:
While the President may think that it's right to offer immunity to those who break the law and violate the right to privacy of thousands of law-abiding Americans, I want to assure him it is not a value we have in common and I hope the same can be said of my fellow Democrats in the Senate.
"For too long we have failed to respect the rule of law and failed to protect our fundamental civil liberties. I will do what I can to see to it that no telecommunications giant that was complicit in this Administration's assault on the Constitution is given a get-out-of-jail-free card."
"What I can" would be what, however?
UPDATE That pussy, Rockefeller, seems to think he's made some kind of deal with McConnell. Lucy and the football time!
Second: McConnell has indicated his support to Congressional surveillance moves before, only to have Bush reverse him. Since the Senate bill apparently goes further than the Protect America Act in terms of telecom immunity, it's an open question whether the president thinks he can ultimately run the table on a full PAA-plus measure. McConnell's support may not be so ironclad if Bush thinks an even more administration-friendly measure can be introduced or added to the bill in a subsequent amendment.
Oh, pshaw. An "even more administration-friendly" amendment? That would never happen. Why, Harry and Nancy would prevent that, using their extremely magical powers of leadership!
Gut check time for Dodd.
UPDATE Dodd delivers. Good for him. Of course, it's one step. But a good one.