Dodd and Feingold Plan to Filibuster FISA Bill

Senators Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold have announced plans to filibuster the FISA bill:

This is a deeply flawed bill, which does nothing more than offer retroactive immunity by another name. We strongly urge our colleagues to reject this so-called ‘compromise’ legislation and oppose any efforts to consider this bill in its current form. We will oppose efforts to end debate on this bill as long as it provides retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that may have participated in the President’s warrantless wiretapping program, and as long as it fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans.

“If the Senate does proceed to this legislation, our immediate response will be to offer an amendment that strips the retroactive immunity provision out of the bill. We hope our colleagues will join us in supporting Americans’ civil liberties by opposing retroactive immunity and rejecting this so-called ‘compromise’ legislation.

Harry Reid has announced support:

“Unfortunately, the FISA compromise bill establishes a process where the likely outcome is immunity to the telecommunications carriers who participated in the President’s warrantless wiretapping program. Sen. Reid remains opposed to retroactive immunity, which undermines efforts to hold the Bush Administration accountable for violating the law. Thus, he will cosponsor the amendment offered by Senators Dodd and Feingold to strip out the immunity provision, and support their efforts to strip immunity on the floor. “

While I support both their plans to filibuster and their opposition to retroactive immunity, I will mention once again that I am far more concerned about the provisions which provide for insufficient protections of civil liberties in the future than I am about what happened in the past. I hope that drawing the line on retroactive immunity we don’t wind up winning on this while giving everything else away. If faced with the choice of a good FISA bill which adequately protects civil liberties in the future but which also contains retroactive immunity or the current bill minus the retroactive immunity, I’d go with the first choice. Maybe enough Democrats will stick together, being in the majority after all, to prevent both negative aspects of the bill from being passed. I sure wouldn’t mind seeing the telecommunications companies lose out on what appears to have been an effort to buy votes.

With regards to Democrats sticking together, this means you, Barack. The Senate is a deliberative body. Should, as a consequence of hearing such deliberations, you change your mind, I certainly will not think any less of you. Changing one’s mind when they have made a mistake is only a sin to the small minded people on the far right who are obsessed with flip-flops.

Sure, I’ll vote for Obama regardless of what he does on this bill, knowing that the alternative is far worse, but I would sure respect him more if he stood firm on this civil liberties issue. I’m sure he is looking at the political ramifications, but with a second poll now showing a double digit lead, he can afford to stand up for principle.

As long as the Democrats act as if they are afraid of being labeled as being soft on terrorism, the Republicans will be able to use this against them. Ultimately the Democrats need to stand up for liberal principles, and this is the year in which voters appear to be most receptive to listening.  By going along with this compromise, the Democrats are allowing the Republican line to go unchallenged, perpetuating the illusion that the Republican approach is effective in defending the country when they are actually both undermining civil liberties and pursuing policies which are not necessary for our national security. Ultimately the only way the Democrats can end their problem of being portrayed as being weaker on national security is to face the Republicans head on and make respect for civil liberties a bigger part of the pubic discussion.

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