Just imagine if Illinois Senator Barack Obama had kept his primary-season pledge to take the lead in opposing efforts by the Bush administration to rewrite the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to protect the president and telecommunications corporations that cooperated with his illegal warrantless wiretapping schemes.
Obama could have stood on the floor of the US Senate Tuesday, claiming all the attention that is accorded the likely nominee of the Democratic party for president to leap over the spin doctors and speak directly to the American people about the need to defend our constitutionally-defined right to privacy.
Had Obama kept his commitment to join Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd in a filibuster to prevent an abusive “FISA Amendments Act” from being enacted, he could have appealed to the Democrats, Republicans and independents, the liberals and conservatives, who understand that this legislation is at odds not just with the Bill of Rights but every standard of corporate responsibility.
Obama might even have spoken as well and wisely as did Feingold, when he urged the Senate on Tuesday to embrace the Feingold-Dodd amendment to strip Title II of the FISA Amendments Act, which provides immunity to telecom companies that allegedly participated in the president’s illegal wiretapping program.
Here is what Feingold said:
Mr. President, I strongly support Senator Dodd’s amendment to strike the immunity provision from this bill, and I want to thank the Senator from Connecticut for his leadership on this issue. Both earlier this year when the Senate first considered FISA legislation and again this time around, he has demonstrated tremendous resolve on this issue, and I have been proud to work with him.
Now, Mr. President, some have tried to suggest that the bill before us will leave it up to the courts to decide whether or not to give retroactive immunity to the companies that allegedly participated in the president’s illegal wiretapping program. Make no mistake – this bill will result in immunity being granted, because it sets up a rigged process with only one possible outcome.
Under the terms of this bill, a federal district court would evaluate whether there is substantial evidence that a company received “a written request or directive … from the Attorney General or the head of an element of the intelligence community … indicating that the activity was authorized by the president and determined to be lawful.”