Statement of Senator Barack Obama on FISA Compromise
"Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.
"That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.
"After months of negotiation, the House today passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act.
"Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.
"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."
As dday at digby's place says,
This endorsement of a X'ing out the Fourth Amendment is waaaay out of bounds.
Melissa at shakesville says,
Hugely disappointing. Hugely.
But, she saw this lack of leadership from Obama (and Clinton, and democratic leadership) last fall when Chris Dodd took a stand against the FISA bill endorsing the pResident' s illegal spying on American citizenry and the play for immunity for the telecoms.Digby says:
Roy Blunt and Steny Hoyer are practically tongue kissing on the floor right now and congratulating each other on their mutual fabulousness in negotiating the rape of the constitution this morning. It’s quite a love fest.
Capitulating to the most unpopular lame duck president in history because they are afraid of him. Makes you proud to be a Democrat doesn’t it…read on
Update: I felt I must add this important insight from Atrios - being one of the blog boys I rarely read - I found this point right on the mark.
As I've written before, Democrats will regret embracing the expansion of executive power because a President Obama will find his administration undone by an "abuse of power" scandal. All of those powers which were necessary to prevent the instant destruction of the country will instantly become impeachable offenses. If you can't imagine how such a pivot can take place then you haven't been paying attention.
tapped phone image from Michael Moore's site