This is a repeat of a post over at my blog Speak Softly, Carry A Candle: A Skeptic’s Perspective.
Well, this week the heavyweight title goes to Obama, for his absurd and insulting stance on the FISA Betrayal bill that the House just passed. I decided to hunt down some past statements of Obama’s such as this and this.
“I have consistently opposed this Administration’s efforts to use debates about our national security to expand its own power, whether that was on the Iraq war, or on its power grab to curb our civil liberties through domestic surveillance programs. It is time to restore oversight and accountability in the FISA program, and this proposal — with an unprecedented grant of retroactive immunity — is not the place to start.”
“To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.”
The second is from Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton. Now Obama says
Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President’s illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.
It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.”
Of course, what he is ignoring, and seems to be hoping you will ignore is this, the actual content of the bill itself. Of course, because this is an amendment act, you cannot tell what it does from its own text, it is really just a list of proofreading changes to the 50 U.S.C. 1804 (the FISA law). Comparing the section on court orders yields the following laundry list of changes to the FISA court procedure for obtaining permission of electronic surveillance:
- The Attorney General’s approval is no longer needed.
- When multiple surveillance devices are used their individual and collective scope, capabilities and efforts to prevent the capture of inappropriate information need no longer be listed.
- A less than detailed description of the nature of the information sought and the types of activities that will be under surveillance (i.e. instead of having to specify e-mail they can now say just computer communications, or some other broad term that covers multiple communication methods in one warrant)
- Certifications provided by administration officials not confirmed by the Senate (previously the relevant official had to hold a post that required Senate approval, this cuts Congress even further out of the loop).
- Only a summary of the method of surveillance, rather than an actual statement.
and the list goes on. The fact is, unravelling exactly what this bill does is more than a bit tedious, and I would not be the least bit surprised to find that most of those who voted in favor of it did not bother to comprehend it, and just blindly followed their caucus leaders. From just the part of the section dealing with the FISA warrant process that I deciphered though, there is a clear intent to weaken the provisions of FISA, by cutting out of the loop all officials with any accountability to Congress, leaving only the president’s cronies in the process, and by decreasing across the board the amount of information supplied to the FISA court.
Apparently this is what Barack Obama means by oversight and accountability–decreased accountability, and decreased oversight.
So for this, Barack Obama wins the Intellectual Dishonesty of the Week Award.