Friday, June 20, 2008

That didn't take long

Mr. Obama supports the "compromise" bill granting amnesty to telecoms for helping the government spy on US citizens illegally for profit. He says he will work in the Senate to remove the amnesty provision, but given that it is unlikely the provision will be removed it seems a given that he has effectively announced his endorsement of "legalizing" lawlessness when it profits politicians and large corporations.

Which means taxpayers paid telecoms via their government to spy on them.

What happened to all the campaign rhetoric about protecting civil liberties, eh?

Update: I found this at Think Progress

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has consistently spoken out and voted against granting retroactive immunity for telecoms that participated with the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. This stance was part of the reason he won the support of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), a leader on civil liberties issues.

One of Obama’s advisers on intelligence and foreign policy advisers, however, is someone who “strongly” supports telecomm immunity. John Brennan is a former CIA official and the current chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. In a new National Journal interview, Brennan makes it clear that he agrees with the Bush administration on the issue of immunity.
And the ACLU on this "compromise"

"No matter how often the opposition calls this bill a ‘compromise,’ it is not a meaningful compromise, except of our constitutional rights. The bill allows for mass, untargeted and unwarranted surveillance of all communications coming in to and out of the United States. The courts’ role is superficial at best, as the government can continue spying on our communications even after the FISA court has objected. Democratic leaders turned what should have been an easy FISA fix into the wholesale giveaway of our Fourth Amendment rights.

"More than two years after the president’s domestic spying was revealed in the pages of the New York Times, Congress’ fury and shock has dissipated to an obedient whimper. After scrambling for years to cover their tracks, the phone companies and the administration are almost there. This immunity provision will effectively destroy Americans’ chance to have their deserved day in court and will kill any possibility of learning the extent of the administration’s lawless actions. The House should be ashamed of itself. The fate of the Fourth Amendment is now in the Senate’s hands. We can only hope senators will show more courage than their colleagues in the House.
Update II: I would suggest that if you're bothered by this, you contact Senator Obama's campaign and express your (if you feel like me) utter dissapointment at his running away from the premise of his own promised campaign. Hopefully, a deluge of complaints about him betraying his own campaign rhetoric might change his mind over the course of the next week.

As I hinted at above, it seems like Obama is trying to have his cake and eat it too with his "I'll try to remove telecom but..." passive voice response. Glenn Greenwald explains this further in one of his updates

Nobody should be fooled by Obama's vow to work to remove telecom amnesty from this bill. Harry Reid is already acknowledging that this "effort" is likely to fail and is just pure political theater: Reid said: "Probably we can't take that out of the bill, but I'm going to try." The article continued: "Reid said the vote would allow those opposed to the liability protection to 'express their views.'"

We should continue to demand that amnesty is removed from the bill -- and fight it to the bitter end -- but this whole separate vote they'll have in the Senate on whether to remove amnesty is principally designed to enable Obama, once he votes to enact this bill, to say: "Well, I tried to get immunity out, and when I couldn't, I decided to support the compromise." It's almost certainly the case that Hoyer secured Obama's support for the bill before unveiling it.

Either way, Obama -- if amnesty isn't removed -- is going to vote for warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, and his statement today all but sealed the fate of this bill. There is no point in sugarcoating that, though we ought to continue to fight its enactment with a focus on removing amnesty in the Senate. Greg Sargent makes several good points about Obama's statement.
And let's take a look at the response of Obama again

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives -– and the liberty –- of the American people.
In other words: trust me with these powers, I'll use them responsibly. No. No, I will not trust you, Senator Obama. I trust no one with such powers. I trust the law. The (D) after your name is not some kind of magic charm that means you or your administration is to be trusted with the Ring of Gyges.

As Thomas Jefferson put it:

[F]ree government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power: that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go ... In questions of powers, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.
And as John Adams said

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.
And choosing this key issue to do what Democrats love to do - cave on the issue - so that you can try to say you're for civil liberty while also saying you're "strong" on national security (i.e. voted with Republicans to erode civil liberties) doesn't do a lot in the way of earning my trust, anyways.

It is with actions like these that the tide inches closer in, with each approach taking back a little bit more of our liberty as it dissappears like a castle made of sand.

Update III: I noticed this comment/reply comment at Balkinization

At what point do you think that the Republicans in Congress are going to wake up in a cold sweat about the vast surveillance powers they've just handed to a liberal black Democratic president?

January 21, 2009.
Spot on, I say. And this is going to stress our constitutional order. When a Republican is president, movement conservatives are comfortable granting him virtually unlimited powers to do what he says need be done in the name of national security. When a Democrat becomes president they then panic that they are living under totalitarian tyrrany irrespective of whether or not they actually are (case in point).

Heads or tails, it won't really matter. It wil be either Democrats are not protecting us from terrorists and we're going to die (John Bolton already expressed this view) or Democrats are not protecting us from terrorists and they're Liberal Fascists (Jonah Goldberg, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, et al.)


NAL said...

My enthusiasm level for Obama just plummeted. I will not be contributing to his campaign. Maybe, if he wins, he will use the Justice Dept. to start criminal investigations against the telcos. What happened to Dodd's filibuster promise?

PhD9 said...

I share the disappointment over Obama's cynicism but I have to admit that I am alarmed by the number of people willing to say they are withdrawing their support.

Does anyone honestly believe that a McCain White House wouldn't be an unmitigated disaster and they really can afford to play games with their votes?

Hume's Ghost said...

I have no intention what so ever of wasting my vote. Here's what I said at Balloon Juice about this:
Look, I am utterly disgusted, frustrated and angered by the latest Democratic capitulation. I am seriously dissapointed with Obama for this action – I believe he has failed to live up to his own campaign rhetoric.

Am I going to vote for McCain or throw my vote away with a third party candidate? Hell, no.

But in my view, it’s not my job to make political calculations like Obama has quite apparently made here. I just want to keep my elected officials as honest as possible, and I’m not sure how to do that with voicing what I feel and why about voting Yes on telecom amnesty and expanded surveillance powers.


Also, I mean, c’mon!

A president who has unprecedented unpopularity levels, is arguably the worst president in American history, had an historical defeat of his party in the last election, who is now approaching lame duck territory, looks as though he is going to get telecom amnesty which he couldn’t get from a Republican led Congress from the Democrats who were voted in because the public was sick of Bush vassal Republicans with the Democratic candidate for Presidendt voting Yes on it as well.

Practical considerations or not, that’s still like a massive kick in the balls. People are going to be pissed.

And in a previous comment here I wrote:

I don't expect that much from Obama ... I'm not looking for a silver bullet or anything. My hope for the presidential race was for someone who wouldn't continue to shred the Constitution and start more endless wars.

I think the real battle is at the Congressional level where we need to get enough reformers elected to where we turn American back into meritocratic democracy rather than a plutocracy.