In the wake of Monday’s votes on cloture of several bills to revise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), it was heartening to see both senatorial presidential candidates, Obama and Clinton, vote “no” on the first cloture vote with Sen. Dodd and almost all other Democrats.
Of the remaining presidential candidates, Edwards, with some encouragement from the netroots, got it first. In a letter sent out on January 24, customized for each state, he wrote,
When it comes to protecting the rule of law, words are not enough. We need action.
It’s wrong for your government to spy on you. That’s why I’m asking you to join me today in calling on Senate Democrats to filibuster revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that would give “retroactive immunity” to the giant telecom companies for their role in aiding George W. Bush’s illegal eavesdropping on American citizens.
The Senate is debating this issue right now — which is why we must act right now. You can call your Senators here:
Daniel K. Akaka, (D): (202) 224-6361
Daniel K. Inouye, (D): (202) 224-3934
Granting retroactive immunity is wrong. It will let corporate law-breakers off the hook. It will hamstring efforts to learn the truth about Bush’s illegal spying program. And it will flip on its head a core principle that has guided our nation since our founding: the belief that no one, no matter how well connected or what office they hold, is above the law.
But in Washington today, the telecom lobbyists have launched a full-court press for retroactive immunity. George Bush and Dick Cheney are doing everything in their power to ensure it passes. And too many Senate Democrats are ready to give the lobbyists and the Bush administration exactly what they want.
Please join me in calling on every Senate Democrat to do everything in their power — including joining Senator Dodd’s efforts to filibuster this legislation — to stop retroactive immunity and stand up for the rule of law. The Constitution should not be for sale at any price.
Thank you for taking action.
This was good action by Edwards in a timely way, challenging his competitors (“every Senate Democrat” means “I’m looking at you, Senators Clinton and Obama!”)
I like the way Obama responded with this statement, quoted in a blog by Jane Hamsher today (Monday January 28, 2008) in a diary with the title, Barack Obama Statement on FISA. Here’s what Senator Obama wrote:
I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.
Ever since 9/11, this Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.
The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend.
No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people – not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.
That is why I am co-sponsoring Senator Dodd’s amendment to remove the immunity provision. Secrecy must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens â€“ and set an example to the world â€“ that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient.
A grassroots movement of Americans has pushed this issue to the forefront. You have come together across this country. You have called upon our leaders to adhere to the Constitution. You have sent a message to the halls of power that the American people will not permit the abuse of power â€“ and demanded that we reclaim our core values by restoring the rule of law.
It’s time for Washington to hear your voices, and to act. I share your commitment to this cause, and will stand with you in the fights to come. And when I am President, the American people will once again be able to trust that their government will stand for justice, and will defend the liberties that we hold so dear as vigorously as we defend our security.
I also like the way he acknowledged the role of the netroots in rallying almost all Democrats to do the right thing. Thanks to everyone for the faxes, emails and phone calls that demonstrated how important this matter is to us, and to Senator Obama for stepping up!
More like this from Clinton, please! If she has made a similarly strong statement, please report it in a comment.