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We'll include Barack Obama in the mix of politicians that apparently think all you who were following the FISA debates are as dumb as day-old pill bugs, and it's depressing as hell to have to do so. He may be the Democratic nominee, but he can still write a milquetoast, self-congratulatory justification for choosing the easy way out with the best of them.

You know, I don't mind politicians not agreeing with me much of the time. Or most of the time. And at this point, I'm more than used to various parts of our Constitution being considered strictly optional, and being given away like beads at Mardi Gras.

But it does grate, immeasurably, when they feed us bull and tell us it's candy. I had hoped that, given the length of time it took Obama to come up with a statement, they were going to come up with something substantive. Instead, it appears they were using that time to come up with an assortment of logic-insulting bunk.

[...] 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.

No. It will not be "over", it will just be made retroactively legal so that it can continue. I suppose technically the "illegal" part of it will be over, so it isn't technically the baldfaced lie it sounds like -- so kudos for bending the language like Beckham, but that's not really what most people would consider that phrase to mean.

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.

No, it really doesn't. Because FISA never went away -- it doesn't need "restoring". FISA is FISA. It was FISA, it is FISA. The only reason FISA would need "restoring" is if we are all willing to accept that it had been invalidated entirely by the president's actions -- that the president was not only able to simply break the law, but managed to erase it from the books entirely on his own say-so.

That's absurd. That's asinine. A law does not need "restoring" when it is violated, it needs enforcing. And given that the Democrats have latched onto a piece of legislation designed explicitly to prevent that from ever happening in any meaningful way, there is nothing to be the slightest bit proud of. It is complete acceptance of an illegal program, dressed up as hard-fought victory, and by God the Democrats responsible for it and voting for it, Obama included, naturally presume that if they type up some lovely-sounding bullcrap about it, they'll be able to pretend it is something other than strategically planned and executed cowardice in the face of lawbreaking.

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. [...]

The glowing embrace of the right-wing and administration logic used to foist corporate immunity to lawbreaking upon us: President Bush is so terribly put upon that he cannot possibly follow existing law in conducting espionage against American citizens, and nobody should expect him to, so we must urgently change the law.

But FISA was not expiring. FISA was not falling into a legislative black hole. It continued to exist, as the exclusive means for electronic surveillance of the American people, and all it required was a warrant, and all the warrant required was probable cause. That's it. That's what this entire, months-long parade of panic, bluster and torn hair has been about, that it was just too damn difficult for the administration to be asked to show two sentences of probable cause to a judge in a secret hearing before collecting whatever electronic information about you, your neighbors, your family, your friends, everyone in your town, everyone in your social organizations, everyone in every restaurant you've ever been to, etc., etc., etc. they wanted to collect.

And if you object to it, then even Barack Obama will hold the threat of imminent Terror over your head as justification for why we should ignore past violations of Constitutional rights and declare a massive, flag-waving, star-spangled do over that simply declares there's no more problem.

Oh, but don't worry. The Bush administration is charged with coming up with a "thorough review" of what the Bush administration did, in order to tell us all about whether or not they did anything wrong. Yes, let's all stand in awe that, after all that has happened the last seven years, there are still entire collections of Democrats who think that having the administration investigate itself will solve the problem. I'm not sure whether to laugh, to cry, or to simply throw my hands up at the whole thing.


I'm not sure which frightens me more, the thought that the people leading my nation could be so damn gullible, or the thought that they aren't -- but they're counting on us to be. If the Democrats are going to be so fired up about demanding that they be allowed cave on basic protections, lest the Republicans treat them cruelly in future elections, they could at least have the decency to not insult our intelligence while they're doing it.

That is my primary objection, here. Democrats: if you're going to cave, just cave. Don't draft up flagrantly insulting talking points that pretend you've gotten something in return -- you haven't. You haven't gotten squat, except for the knowledge that the illegal is now legal, that past illegalities will be swept under the rug, and that future illegalities will be met with no action more substantive than a few harshly worded reports.

We all know how much money the telecommunications companies spent "lobbying" you for this legislation; fine. So just come out and say it -- you can't piss off corporate contributors that are that important, so the Fourth Amendment can go suck eggs. We all know you don't have any confidence you can both stand up for the rule of law and get reelected in the face of conservative demands that our laws be considered obsolete in the face of our own pants-wetting fear; fine. So just say that, and quit painting us as rubes who won't know any better if you shove a few noble-sounding sentences our way.

It's beyond insulting.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 08:45 AM PDT.

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