If I were a publisher of a funky, little blog, and I was ordered to provide the government with personal information about Eeyore or Cherry Bomb, I would refuse. (I know this has more to do with First Amendment Rights than 4th, but the principle holds.) They would threaten to throw my ass in jail. And that would be bad, but it would just be MY ass. I wouldn't be jeopardizing the livelihoods of thousands of innocent employees.
On the other hand, these telecoms are BIG companies and they're just chock full of legal counsels who have certainly heard of the 4th Amendment and the FISA Act . GWB could have gotten all the wiretaps and warrants he wanted and abided by FISA limitations at the same time. That he didn't, that he pretended that the rules didn't apply to him, time after time, was an action borne of arrogance and disrespect. He has now set a precedent, a prototype for others who will succeed him. What he has done needs to be declared unconstitutional, thus illegal.
From the Washington Post last week:
.....Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) continue to oppose the new legislation, as does Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). All Obama backers in the primary, those senior lawmakers contend that the new version of the FISA law -- crafted after four months of intense negotiations between White House aides and congressional leaders -- provides insufficient (FISA) court review of the pending 40 lawsuits against the telecommunications companies alleging privacy invasion for their participation in a warrantless wiretapping program after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"The immunity outcome is predetermined," Feingold wrote in a memo today.
Obama came down on the side of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who argued that a provision in the new law reaffirmed that FISA, and that act's courts, gives the final say over government spying. President Bush has argued that a war-time chief executive has powers that trump FISA.
"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," Obama said today.
Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the most prominent Republican opponent of the compromise bill, issued a statement today calling that exclusivity provision "meaningless because that specific provision is now in [the] 1978 act." Specter said Bush just ignored existing law in starting the warrantless surveillance program.The reason Barack/Pelosi support the compromise bill is that it contains a provision that was already there in the first place! (In other words, we get nothing new while George and his minions get immunity from prosecution.) Of course, Mr. Obama promises he will more strictly monitor intelligence operations, that these abuses should not occur in the future. So, it all comes down to whether or not we believe that promise.
Mr Nixon, whose illegal wiretapping of the DNC (Watergate) inspired the FISA Act, would be proud.
- Maggie (Lois Carneiro)