FISA While You Weren’t Looking

Politico’s Crypt blog provides some rather cryptic news on the ongoing fight in Congress regarding the telecom immunity provisions in FISA. If you’ll remember, when last we left this drama, the Senate had put forth a version of the bill that had immunity built in, meanwhile House Dems stood firm and shut the immunity out of the new FISA bill, creating a kind of ping-pong effect.

Now, the very telecoms themselves seem to be pitching some sort of solution, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is talking about “progress” being made.

Now, look, I’m all about compromise. I’m the most compromising dude you know. When you share a country with three hundred million other people, and realize that they all have the same equal right to self governance that you do, and that they all don’t share your views and values, I think you kind of have to get to a point where you love you some compromising.

And that’s me. Of the founding fathers, while others may have posters of Thomas Jefferson or James Madison on their walls, I got Henry Clay. That’s how down I am with the art of compromise.

But this love of compromise and meeting in the middle that I have throws in stark relief those few things upon which I do not compromise, upon which there is no amicable middle ground, upon which there can not be the slightest budging of an inch. Torture is, of course, one of them, and the assault on Constitutionally protected civil liberties is another.

Thus, that there are House Dems who are saying there is progress on the FISA issue is not good news but very, very bad news. Very bad news indeed. My hopes were that when earlier this year the House bounced the FISA bill back to the Senate without immunity, that bill would die in limbo.

Shut the thing down.

Let it die an ugly death in obscurity while we wait out the clock on the current president, and President Obama has the opportunity to retool an anti-terrorism program that does not infringe so heavily upon our civil rights.

The immunity issue is only a small fraction of this, but it is an issue all the same. As Digby rightly notes, litigation of these telecom companies is not going to cripple them, they are powerful enough to fight the battle in court and come out in one piece win or lose.

But punishment isn’t the entirety of the end game here. Yes, it is part of it, as is sending a clear message to both politicians and telecom companies that violations of the Constitution will not be tolerated. It sets a clear bar that the Constitution is still the standard, and as Americans we still stand by Ben Franklin’s famous assertion that those who would sacrifice freedom for safety deserve neither.

(Note: that was for all you chicken hawks out there who love to talk tough when it comes to bombing folks, but get all twitchy when it comes to terrorism; you’re all a bunch of damn cowards.)

But is it me or is there something else that doesn’t smell quite right here? The telecoms go to congress to propose a solution and there’s progress?

Wait a minute.

Wait one damn minute.


How does that make sense? Do mass murderers get to go to congress to, you know, retroactively make homicide legal? How about dope dealers? I got a car in my driveway with two flats that has been sitting there motionless for two years now, when the cops come to fine me for violating the city’s beautification laws, can I go to city hall, square away some back room deal with the city council, and have the fine nullified due to retroactive beautification law immunity?

What the hell?

I’m already firmly in the camp that this whole bill needs to be shut the hell down, but no way, no way in HELL does letting the culprits themselves broker the deal fly. Not one little bit.

It’s probably time to write a letter.

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