Obama Drama: FISA Wiretapping Bill Passed, A Major Blow to Civil Rights

Lawrence Lessig defends Barack Obama’s vote to support WARANTLESS WIRETAPPING and RETROACTIVE IMMUNITY FOR CORPORATIONS WHO FAIL TO DEFEND THE PRIVACY OF U.S. CITIZENS:

  1. Obama is no (in the 1970s sense) “liberal”
  2. Obama has not shifted in his opposition to immunity for telcos:
  3. Obama’s shift was in his promise, as relayed by a member of his staff, to filibuster any bill with telco immunity
  4. Unless, of course, it was good politics
  5. But assume you reject #4 completely. Then one more thought: Isn’t it time for Obama to resign from the Senate?
  6. Finally, and 2bc: please, fellow liberals, or leftists, or progressives, get off your high horse(s).

I edited for simplicity, read his entire reaction, “The Immunity Hysteria“.

Meanwhile, two critically important organizations, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, have taken action:

The ACLU is suing on behalf of journalist and human rights groups, asking the court put a halt to Congress’s legalization of Bush’s formerly secret warrantless wiretapping program. The ACLU contends (.pdf) the expanded spying power violates the Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

In passing the FISA Amendments Act, Congress gave the executive branch the power to order Google, AT&T and Yahoo to forward to the government all e-mails, phone calls and text messages where one party to the conversation is thought to be overseas.

“We are also preparing a new case against the government for its warrantless wiretapping, past, present and future,” said EFF senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston, who said the details were being withheld to keep the element of surprise.

“But suffice to say it will be quite different from the other cases against the government that have been filed so far,” Bankston said. “Like with our case against AT&T, however, the ultimate goal will be the same: to halt the mass interception of Americans’ communications and to dismantle the dragnet spying network that was first exposed by our witness, AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein.”

You don’t have to be a liberal to believe this far-reaching power to spy on Americans without judicial oversight is a complete disaster.   But let’s be honest with ourselves: this type of work has been going on for a long time.  It was a secret program which journalists uncovered, and now we’ve missed our opportunity to actually disable illegal wiretapping programs and enable accountability for politicians who violate our trust.  And by the way, Barack Obama voted in support of this, along with both of Pennsylvania’s Senators.

I have remained optimistic about Obama as president, but I have not supported him or any major party candidate this far.  Lessig jabs a bit at folks who are “fair weather” liberals, who surge when Obama does something cool, otherwise bashing him for not being liberal enough.  I voted Democrat in 2006, with the expectation that we would see a swift end to funding of the occupation of Iraq, and impeachment proceedings would move forward against George Bush and Dick Cheney.  What we received was a session of complete mediocrity, which has done it’s part to continue the current administration’s abuse of powers.

This election, third-party candidates Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader remain alluring.  Obama is a far better candidate than his major-party contender John McCain, especially considering what he might be able to do for this country.  What I have learned however, is we must consider a peaceful revolution the United States, in order to properly heal our wounds and move our world forward.  Until we put people before profits, a position Democrats and Republicans have not supported, our cities and farms will remain oppressed by the people who profit from our silence and imprisonment.