Thursday, July 3, 2008

Retroactive Immunity, FISA and you (and Obama)

There has been much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands regarding BHO's stated support for the compromise legislation on FISA and telco immunity. I'd have said "pulling of hair," too, but that would automatically dis-qualify me and I have to say I was bummed.

And I'm still a little bummed. But I'm also starting to wonder, in that just-waking-up-what-the-hell-is-that-ringing kind of a way, why? Why would a professor of Constitutional Law decide this isn't such a big deal? And what is it about telco immunity, anyway?

Some of you may know that I used to, you know, be "into" the law. Well here's the problem: in order to sue the telco's, you first have to prove they owe you a duty. Private companies or people can not violate your civil rights. Only the government can do that. And the government almost certainly did, and we should be suing them (us?).

I encourage everyone with a stake in this election (and that's everyone -- literally) to read this very well thought-out essay on the issue at Talking Points Memo. As the author admits, "it's long and pedantic and boring." But since you're reading Borrowed Suits, I'm going to assume that's not an issue for you.

No firm conclusions are reached. In some ways, it raises more questions than answers--one of which is, if all this is true, then why hasn't Obama been more forthcoming about his change of heart?

It also contains this pointed reminder:
Q: "Even if retroactive telecom immunity isn’t so bad, Obama said he would vote against any bill that has immunity in it and I want a president who sticks to his word."

A: Well, if you want a president who takes the attitude that "I said that’s what I’m going to do and by gum I’m going to do it come hell or high water and even if I learn down the road that it’s a stupid thing to do and even if I find out that it’s not working, I’m going to keep on doing it because, by golly, I said I would" ..... then you must have been very happy for the last 7 ½ years.
But in the end, it also begs the question: Why change? FISA works, and that's a fact. It's not the telco immunity that we should be worried about--it's the startling expansion of executive powers to do whatever the hell they want to whomever the hell they please.

No matter your party affiliation, that should molest your equanimity in some way (piss you right the f*ck off).

Let me also say that no matter the whiffling on this issue, I'm very much opposed to immunity--retroactive or otherwise. Qwest, for example, simply told the NSA "no" when they came and asked, "Not without authorization in the form of an AG letter." In response, the government folded up its tents and went away. That alone would seem to indicate that at least some of the other companies didn't bother to decline.

And it may be simple politics on Obama's part. But "the optics" (ugh) are terrible for him and he's so astute politically that there's got to be something more there. I'm just not sure what it is. Uncomfortable.

(Though, when threatened with a President McCain, I quite serene by comparison.)

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