Fish in an optician's window, Passy, Paris.
Pathetic. It's 10 p.m. Paris time and I just got home from a photo shoot in the Loire Valley to learn the U.S. Senate passed the FISA bill, giving AT&T, Verizon et al blanket immunity for warrantless spying on Americans. Twenty-eight courageous senators stood up for the Fourth Amendment, voting against the so-called "compromise" bill. They include Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who tirelessly have worked to strip telecoms immunity from the bill. Moments before the final vote, a group of senators voted to filibuster the vote, including Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York, Feingold, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Tom Harkin of Iowa.
To my great disappointment and dismay, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barack Obama voted yes on the compromise bill. And they were wrong to do so. John McCain, as usual, didn't bother to vote.
So now all those big telecom companies that are raking in money hand over fist may avoid lawsuits filed by customers who are furious their personal information was given to the government without a warrant. Plus, our phone calls and email can be monitored, no warrant needed. Thanks a lot, all you brave senators. You've really done America proud with your strong principled stance for civil liberties.
Here's the brutal truth from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF):
Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Senate this afternoon passed the FISA Amendments Act, broadly expanding the president's warrantless surveillance authority and unconstitutionally granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the president's illegal domestic wiretapping program. The House of Representatives passed the same bill last month and President Bush is expected to sign the legislation into law shortly.
"It is an immeasurable tragedy that just after its return from the Fourth of July holiday, the Senate has chosen to pass a bill that betrays the spirit of 1776 by radically expanding the president's spying powers and granting immunity to the companies that colluded in his illegal surveillance program," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston "This so-called compromise bill represents a shameful capitulation to the overreaching demands of an imperial president. As Senator Leahy put it in yesterday's debate, the retroactive immunity provision of the bill upends the scales of justice and makes Congress and the courts handmaidens to the White House's cover-up of its illegal surveillance program."
The FISA Amendments Act won passage after several amendments intended to remove or modify the bill's immunity provision failed to pass. One amendment, offered by Senator Christopher Dodd, would have stripped immunity from the bill altogether. Another, introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman, would have stayed the pending cases against the telecoms and delayed the implementation of the immunity provision until the Inspectors General of the Department of Justice and other U.S. government intelligence agencies finished their investigation into the spying program, thereby preventing Congress from granting immunity in the dark.
"We thank those senators who courageously opposed telecom immunity and vow to them and to the American people, that the fight for accountability over the president's illegal surveillance is not over," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Even though Congress has failed to protect the privacy of Americans and uphold the rule of law, we will not abandon our defense of liberty. We will fight this unconstitutional grant of immunity in the courtroom and in the Congress, requesting repeal of the immunity in the next session, while seeking justice from the Judiciary. Nor can the lawless officials who approved this massive violation of Americans' rights rest easy, for we will file a new suit against the government and challenge warrantless wiretapping, past, present and future."
EFF is representing the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of millions of AT&T customers whose private domestic communications and communications records were illegally handed over to the National Security Agency (NSA). EFF has been appointed co-coordinating counsel for all 47 of the outstanding lawsuits concerning the government's warrantless surveillance program.
And the ACLU says it will sue for violating the Fourth Amendment, if Bush signs the bill into law.
"If we do not change course and stand up for our Constitution, for what is best in America, for what we know is right and just, then history will most certainly decide that that it was those of us in this body who bare equal responsibility for the President's decisions-for it was us who looked the other way, time and time again." - Sen. Chris Dodd
And just how out of touch can one presidential candidate be?