How Barack Obama Lost Me: FISA
Of course I voted for him; he was running against some reactionary fossil whose only reason to live is to start a war. And the symbolism inherent in either an Obama or a Clinton win was so overwhelming that it was absolutely predetermined that I would rush to the polls and vote for either of them. But I was never under any illusions than Obama was a progressive. I once was under such an illusion, though. I met him twice when he was an Illinois state senator. I co-hosted fund-raisers for him twice when he was looking to make the jump from state Senator in Springfield renowned for playing poker with cigar chomping state pols to member of the American version of the House of Lords in Washington. He took me in completely. After one speech I tore up a $500 check I had written and doubled down. But that was the last time that happened.
As soon as Obama got to the Senate, I knew something was wrong. It went beyond picking Joe Lieberman as his mentor-- bad enough-- and beyond the fact that he was never-- not ever-- nearly as progressive a voter as Hillary Clinton, something I warned Obamabots about all during the campaign. The fact of the matter is, he was always down near the bottom of the barrel with the putrid likes of said Lieberman, as well as Max Baucus, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Tom Carper, Mary Landrieu, Kent Conrad... all the quasi-Democratic dreck seemingly sabotaging his agenda.
During the campaign, Obama said quite a few things that didn't thrill me, not the least of which was his tragic perspective on the occupation of Afghanistan. But there was something that came up during the campaign that clinched it for me-- that made me realize he might be great symbolically but he would likely be another in a long, long line of abysmal political hacks who have gotten into the White House. Hope and Change? Not. A. Chance. During the campaign, the FISA bill came up, along with the issue of retroactive immunity. Thanks to Glenn Greenwald it became an important and much-discussed issue. One thing led to another and Obama vowed to vote against any bill that included retroactive immunity. I guess the polling didn't work because when the bill came up for a vote he broke his pledge and voted for it. I never did ask Glenn if he voted for Obama in November. I did... but knowing full well what to expect.
The Blue America PAC never endorsed Obama and never raised any money for him. Instead we concentrated our efforts on progressives running for the House and Senate. One of our favorite candidates-- favorite in terms of proven commitment to progressive principles was Oregon House Speaker-- now U.S. Senator-- Jeff Merkley. And Senator Merkley has lived up to the promise of his candidacy as he's fought on the right side of every battle since being elected-- from Employee Free Choice to health care reform. So it came as no surprise today when his office sent out a release that he has co-authored legislation with Chris Dodd, Pat Leahy, and Russ Feingold to repeal the retroactive immunity provisions of the FISA Amendments Act. The new legislation seeks to repeal a provision that shields telecommunications companies from legal repercussions if they violate the law; clean and straightforward-- and all-American. Or is it only 76 year old Roman Polanski who has to go to jail for breaking the law?
“During the previous administration, telecommunications companies were granted retroactive immunity for violating the rights and privacy of millions of Americans,” said Merkley. “I am proud to join Senator Dodd and co-sponsor the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act to help restore accountability and increase oversight to protect the privacy rights that have been central to our nation since its inception.”
The Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act would amend the FISA Amendments Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2008. The controversial legislation included a provision to shield companies from liability for illegally violating their customers’ privacy during the Bush Administration.
Last week, Senator Merkley also signed on as an original co-sponsor of the Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act, introduced by Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Richard Durbin (D-IL). The JUSTICE Act would reform the USA Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and other surveillance authorities to help restore judicial oversight. The legislation would protect the Constitutional rights of American citizens while making sure intelligence and law enforcement agencies still have the tools they need to fight terrorism.
“We must reverse the decisions that allowed our government to intrude into the lives of American citizens. The JUSTICE Act will restore judicial oversight of surveillance activities in order to keep Americans safe while preserving our rights,” said Merkley.
Dodd, who will be doing a live video blogging session on the bill tomorrow (5pm, EST) at My Left Nutmeg, has spoken eloquently about the bill as well: "I believe we best defend America when we also defend its founding principles. We make our nation safer when we eliminate the false choice between liberty and security. But by granting retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies who may have participated in warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, the Congress violated the protection of our citizen’s privacy and due process right and we must not allow that to stand.” I'm sure Obama will make an eloquent speech about it if he ever gets a chance to sign it. Or maybe he won't.