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House Democrats Signal Capitulation On Government Spying

The Democrats in Congress are preparing to cave in to George W. Bush once again. Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democratic Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has signaled that the House Democrats are prepared to give President Bush exactly the form of the FISA Amendments Act that Bush has demanded, including unchecked power in the White House to spy against Americans without any search warrant or congressional oversight, and even the power for the government to search through Americans’ homes and offices without any search warrant or any other notice.

Silvestre Reyes, whose committee needs to approve the Republicans’ newest version of the FISA Amendments Act, has said that he is now willing even to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications corporations for their illegal spying against their own customers on behalf of the government, sharing private information about Americans’ personal electronic communications. “We are talking to the representatives from the communications companies because if we’re going to give them blanket immunity, we want to know and we want to understand what it is that we’re giving immunity for… I have an open mind about that,” Reyes says.

This capitulation is as outrageous as it would be for the Congress, upon discovering that the President of the United States had embezzled 100 billion dollars from the federal budget, with the help of American banks, to pass retroactive immunity for the banks, and a new law legalizing continued embezzlement, with no protest from the Democratic congressional leadership than to say, “We are talking to the banks, because if we’re going to give them blanket immunity, we want to know where the money went. I have an open mind about that.”

The Associated Press, as usual, understates the issue at the heart of this legislation, saying, “A quirk in the temporary eavesdropping law adopted by Congress last August allows the government to initiate wiretaps for up to one year against a wide range of targets.” Have their reporters actually read the legislation in question, or have they just read White House press releases about it?

It is no mere quirk of the Protect America Act or the FISA Amendments Act that the laws are purported to only allow spying against foreigners and terrorists, when it in practice, the laws allow the American government to conduct electronic spying and physical searches against whomever the government wishes to target. Such uncontrollable, ubiquitous government spying is in fact at the heart of what these laws have been designed for.

America, do you have no memory? Do you not remember the attempt to establish Total Information Awareness? Can you not recognize its profile now in the Protect America Act and FISA Amendments Act?

There is no need for the FISA Amendments Act. We don’t need to give up on the freedoms promised to us in the Bill of Rights.

There is no need for the Democrats in Congress to cave in to George W. Bush once more, with less than a year now left in the Bush term in office. Can the Democratic Congress not find its backbone even once, to finally stand up to Bush, just to prove that they’re not completely useless? Have they been bought, or blackmailed, or are they just to damned timid to do their duty and honor the oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and the rule of law that it establishes?

I am sick to the core of my being at the continuing surrender of America’s freedoms. I am ashamed of the leadership the Democratic Party for going so quietly, and so agreeably, hand in hand with the Republican Party into the darkness.

7 thoughts on “House Democrats Signal Capitulation On Government Spying”

  1. Iroquois says:

    “we want to know and we want to understand what it is that we’re giving immunity for”

    By all means let’s find out exactly what they have been doing, maybe we only know about the tip of the iceberg.

    I don’t see a link, and don’t get all smug and snarky, do they really have the votes?

  2. Tom says:

    What’d i tell ya. Why these spineless bastards can’t STAND UP FOR THE CONSTITUTION i don’t understand. They consistently disappoint us. So much for any semblance of democracy. We’re on the same level (if not worse) than Russia now! Even with their rigged elections, at least their leader has brought about stability and a measure of prosperity – as opposed to here where we’re about to go under economically. Well, thanks for nothing all you in Washington, and everyone who voted for these fascists!

  3. hendrixbot says:

    It seems unlikely, but it could be a great strategy if the Dems are playing the telcos.

    Congress: Mr. Telco, why should we pass this bill?
    Telco: We have been engaging in unwarranted, questionable surveillance activities.
    Congress: Such as?
    Telco: X, Y, Z
    Congress: Why yes, that is highly questionable. Immunity denied! Baliff, please escort Mr. Telco into federal custody while we decide on a list of charges.

  4. J. Clifford says:

    Except, hendrixbot, that the information isn’t provided except under certain conditions of confidentiality, and are not admitted into a court of law. Besides that, how do the Democrats in Congress know that the Bush White House is telling the truth? They can’t, and the credibility of the Bush White House is shot. Why are these Democrats taking Bush at his word?

  5. hendrixbot says:

    Certainly no good reason to take Bush’s word — words that often do not logically justify his actions even when they’re true.

  6. Iroquois says:

    What are they being asked to give immunity for? Everything? What if that everything includes spying on political dissidents and opponents? We know the answer to that already. How about mass collection of everyone’s data for academically questionable data mining operations?… Or how about blackmail? We know that’s been done before. Maybe being done now. What if they have to kill to place a wiretap without being discovered? Immunity for that?

    What the Bush lawyers seem to be forgetting is that very soon Dems will control the white house. Then all the legal spying apparatus they manage to put into place will pass into the hands of their political opponents.

  7. jerseydem says:

    The amazing thing is that there is absolutely no need for an amendment that will grant the telecomms retroactive immunity — FISA as it exists already grants immunity — so long as the telecomm verifies that the government has a search warrant or otherwise conforms to FISA.

    Sen. Chris Dodd did a bang-up job in the Senate the day before the vote; obviously it fell on deaf ears. He went through every point of the admin’s arguments, rebutted them, discussed the history of FISA and noted two interesting facts:

    (1) over the years, the FISA courts have granted search warrants to the government 18,000 times; they denied warrants on exactly 5 occasions.

    (2) the telecomms recently refused to cooperate with the government BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT HAD NOT PAID THEM. So much for “we must make sure that the telecomms can give uninterrupted cooperation to the government.”

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