FISA And What You Are Not Hearing

I may not be as edumacated as my esteemed blogging professor colleagues from the north whom seem to think that passing FISA reform without Telcom immunity is a compromise that will weaken the legislation. Nor am I as smart as those that consistently blame the Democrats for holding up this legislation and are in turn weakening our national security.

So since I ain’t that smart, maybe someone could explain to me what from the following points make the Democrats, re: Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, the bad guy on this issue.

– What the Telcom companies did by allowing the government access to their US customers without warrants was illegal and they knew it was illegal. They already had immunity for turning over records to the Government as long as they followed existing laws while doing so.
– Not giving Telcoms retroactive immunity will not prevent them from helping the Government in the future. Why? Because they would be legally bound to do so (If the government had legal standing to get the records in the first place that is) and would open themselves up to legal action or worse if they didn’t.

What President Bush and Republican’s stonewalling of the legislation because of the lack of immunity does do:

– Prevents the implementation of oversights that would ensure that the Administration hasn’t gone too far while stomping on our 4th Amendment rights.
– Opens up the possibility that current FISA regulations could expire as President Bush has already rejected a House and Senate offer to extend current rules until a new policy could be worked out and refuses to sign any reform that doesn’t include immunity. In other words, his stubbornness is putting us in danger.
– Continues to reward Telcom companies for breaking the law and leaves open the possibility that they can continue to break the law without consequences.

What this fight is really about:

– Protecting the Telcoms whom are facing over 40 lawsuits because of their complicity with the Bush Administration’s illegal wiretapping program. After all they have spent millions on campaign contributions to members of Congress and now want some return on that investment.’s research department reveals that the telecom industry gave, on average, $10,660 to members of the House of Representatives who voted “no” as opposed to $7,085 to those who voted “yes” on the House amendment (to the Senate amendment to H.R. 3773), to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA).

– Giving the Adminstration an open door to unchecked misuse (see my comment on oversights above). All the government has to do is say the word “terrorism” and suddenly it can spy on anyone, anywhere, whenever it wants, with no due process whatsoever and no warrants to get in the way.

So could someone explain to me why Herseth-Sandlin is the bad guy here and Tim Johnson (and John Thune for that matter) aren’t? And speak slooowly…

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