Saturday, July 12, 2008

Limits to backlash

I'm part of the netroots backlash on FISA. At MoveOn's urging, I even sent the Obama campaign a blunt email. On the other hand, I did address it to "future President Obama".

Here's what I got back:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for contacting us and sharing your strong feelings about this important issue. Please find a statement from Senator Obama below.

We appreciate hearing from you.


Obama for America,

Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

After months of negotiation, the House passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act. 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. 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.

It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I voted in the Senate three times to remove this provision so that we could seek full accountability for past offenses. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful. 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. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives - and the liberty - of the American people.

Paid for by Obama for America
So, it's a straddle. It says, "My heart's in the right place, but my ass is willing to temporize." McCain's heart isn't even close to the right place on FISA (any more).

Politics won't make you happy. Sure, ecstatic for a few minutes, but the reality is always messier and uglier than your ideals, no matter what they are. Even if you're king.

1 comment:

truth said...

You are a better man than I am.

I am still recovering from the FISA vote. And as a uterus-carrying American, I'm pretty pissed off about the abortion "mental distress" exception he's carved out.

Give me until next week to get over it.