When the Democrats passed an update to FISA they called it a “compromise”, claiming they had won important concessions and that while the bill wasn’t perfect, it was better than it could have been. It’s funny how Republicans didn’t see it quite the same way. This is what Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO) had to say,
“I think the White House got a better deal than they even they had hoped to get,”
And Democrat Russ Feingold apparently agrees, calling the deal “a capitulation” by his fellow Democrats.
It’s hard to disagree with either of them given that Bush won essentially everything he wanted, warrantless eavesdropping on Americans and retroactive immunity for the telecoms that have assisted Bush in his illegal activities. Democrats are claiming that because FISA is now the “exclusive” means for the executive branch to conduct warrantless surveillance and that telecoms will only be provided immunity if the president appointed attorney general asserts that the president’s request for cooperation was legal, are important concessions.
Both of these concessions constitute extremely serious breaches to the Constitution and the rule of law. This is not just some abstract legal concept nor is it hyperbolic to say this is the exactly the kind of tyranny our forefathers were trying to prevent. Providing immunity to lawbreakers because the president said it was okay is virtually the same as the president writing his own laws. And infringing the privacy of Americans without judicial oversight is in direct violation of the fourth amendment. And that FISA happens to be the “exclusive” means for the president to do so is hardly comforting.