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FISA: Does It Mean — For Illegal Surveillance Act?

Yesterday the Senate voted to revamp government surveillance powers and grant retroactive immunity to telecom companies, thus ending all pending lawsuits filed to uncover the extent that Bush and the telecoms violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition of surveillance without warrants. Bush unsucessfuly tried to pass a similar bill under a Republican congress, but finally got what he wanted from the Democrats.

To the surprise of many, Barack Obama voted for the bill while Hillary Clinton opposed it. (John McCain was not there to vote.)

In a statement on her vote, Hillary explained:

In my judgment, immunity under these circumstances has the practical effect of shutting down a critical avenue for holding the administration accountable for its conduct.

Obama's base is inconsolable about its candidate's vote for the bill. Obama explained his rationale directly to his online supporters. To see what he wrote,


Obama wrote:

Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I've chosen to support the current compromise. I do so with the firm intention — once I'm sworn in as president — to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.

If President Bush seized powers beyond his reach, should the citizens be allowed to assert their constitutional rights in court, or should responsibility be political rather than legal? I hope there is some accountability for any illegal violation of civil liberties, as even Americans with nothing to hide should fear a government that can use private information to manipulate those innocent American representatives, journalists, activists, and dissenters working on their behalf.

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