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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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July 9, 2008 1:41 PM

Senate passes FISA act

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Bad day in the Senate. It passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which clears the way to spy on U.S. citizens without judicial approval. The act also grants telecoms immunity for having helped the federal government spy on citizens. I have yet to find out which senators voted for the act but will be back with more later.

UPDATE: Here is a link to how the Senate voted. Washington senators, both Democrats, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell rightly voted against the act. So did Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Unfortunately Sen. Barack Obama voted for the act. It appears Obama tried to mitigate the damage of rolling over for votes by supporting an amendment that would have stripped the bill of telecom amnesty. This clumsy maneuver is nothing more than an attempt to appease his many supporters who are furious about Obama's vote for of the act. An act he once did not support.

Expect his campaign to speak out of both sides of its mouth. To Obama's supporters the message will be that the senator fought hard for the amendment. To independent voters the spin will be centered on Obama's understanding of the need to protect the U.S. from the terrorists.

Obama has gotten a lot right when it comes to media and Internet issues. But this misstep damages his credibility. This was an area he really could have distanced himself from the politics that have plagued this nation since 2001. Hopefully his vote-pandering position stops with FISA. His talk of change rings hollow if this becomes habit.

UPDATE: Here is Sen. Murray's statement about her FISA vote:

"I am committed to giving our intelligence professionals the legitimate tools they need to make America more secure, while at the same time protecting the constitutional liberties of all Americans.

"For that reason, I oppose granting blanket retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have illegally allowed the government to spy on innocent Americans' phone calls, email, and Internet activity. Granting immunity would not make America safer, but would only serve to prevent Americans from asserting their constitutional rights and legitimize the president's warrantless wiretapping program.

"I voted for three amendments that would have improved this bill by increasing accountability and protecting the liberties of Americans. Unfortunately, each of these amendments failed. At that time, it became clear that I could not support the surveillance bill in its current form.

"I remain committed to ensuring that the government is able to collect vital intelligence information in order to protect America, while respecting the civil liberties we so strongly fight to defend."

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Jul 14, 08 - 01:45 PM
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Jun 26, 08 - 12:52 PM
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