Sunday, January 6, 2008

FISA and Dodd's Fight for the Constitution

Now that Senator Chris Dodd has dropped out of the presidential race, let's not forget that he was and remains the only prominent Democrat in the country fighting to restore our Constitutional rights.

And when I say "fighting," I don't mean complaining about that meanie in the White House after the latest dictatorial legislation has passed and it's too late.

I mean Dodd returned to D.C. at the height of the Iowa campaign to stand alone in the well of the Senate and say to telecom immunity in the FISA bill:

"This shall not pass."

And it didn't! Dodd won! Temporarily, yes, but it was the first and only victory by Democrats in defense of the Constitution in the 12 months since they took over Congress.

It was also the biggest single accomplishment by any of the Democratic presidential candidates, by far.

The Hydra-headed FISA re-authorization that hands amnesty to corporate law-breakers is coming back soon, and it's critical we stand behind Dodd again.

Glenn Greenwald, as always, nailed it:

Dan Froomkin yesterday reported on what the top legislative priority is for the Bush administration and the reasons why it is such: As President Bush begins his final year in office, the White House is aiming for one last major domestic legislative triumph: permanent expansion of government spy powers, including retroactive immunity for the telecom companies that assisted in warrantless surveillance.

(More after the jump.)

In an impromptu briefing aboard Air Force One, as Bush returned to Washington from his Texas vacation yesterday, White House counselor Ed Gillespie told reporters that an administration-supported bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is Bush's top priority.

"FISA is front and center," Gillespie said, according to a pool report from New York Times White House correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg. "If it is allowed to lapse we will be less safe as a country" . . .

Why is this such a big deal to the White House? Eric Lichtblau, James Risen and Scott Shane explained in the New York Times last month: "At stake is the federal government's extensive but uneasy partnership with industry to conduct a wide range of secret surveillance operations in fighting terrorism and crime". . . .

In short, it's a historic battle over the future of the country as a surveillance state.Indeed it is. I would add that retroactive immunity is also so vital to the White House because it is the key to suppressing permanently any prospect that their illegal spying will be investigated and adjudicated by a court.

That's why obtaining telecom immunity is the top priority for Bush. That's why stopping it ought to be a top priority for anyone who cares about the rule of law and limits on our government's surveillance powers. And that's why it is so obscene for Democrats such as Harry Reid and Jay Rockefeller to be leading the way in ensuring that Bush is given everything he is demanding.

In a email to supporters (I'm an Edwards partisan, but I gave money to Dodd to support his FISA fight) after Iowa, Dodd wrote this:

I know a lot of you came to this email list through a shared desire to return our nation to one that respects the rule of law, and I want to make one thing clear to all of you:

The fight to restore the Constitution and stop retroactive immunity does not end with my Presidential campaign. FISA will come back in a few weeks and my pledge to filibuster ANY bill that includes retroactive immunity remains operative.

You've been an invaluable ally in the battle, and I'll need you to stick by my side despite tonight's caucus results.

We made a real difference in shaping the debate, and we'll continue to do so in the coming days, weeks and years.

Chris Dodd

Smirky and Darth have a whole year left to finish shredding the Constitution and divide the citizenry into sheep and detainees.

Don't let the presidential election distract you from the fateful battle former candidate Chris Dodd is still fighting.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.