History of Warrantless Surveillance- How "Telecom Immunity" Covers Up Bush's Lawless Police State- How Congress Can Stop Him
Check the Comment Section for the eloquent speech by Senator Dodd attacking this travesty: Dodd: The Rule of Law Abandoned, “Dark Day” in the Senate
Also, read my diary on Daily Kos describing my extensive effort to get an answer from my Senator Webb on why he voted for this monstrosity.
For more information on today’s show, check out the Warrantless Eavesdropping Timeline on Wikipedia.
Dodd: The Rule of Law Abandoned, “Dark Day” in the Senate
February 12, 2008
After speaking at length on the Senate floor and keeping the Senate in session late into the evening last night, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) took to the Senate floor one last time before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act was passed by the Senate. Calling today a “dark” day in the Senate chamber, Dodd expressed his profound opposition to the provisions in the legislation that grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have participated in the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. Along with Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dodd offered an amendment to strip the egregious retroactive immunity provisions from FISA. Unfortunately, the amendment failed by a vote of 31 to 67 and the Senate voted 68 – 29 to pass the legislation.
In his address, Dodd made clear that this debate was about more than just retroactive immunity–that it was about the rule of law. Dodd asked his colleagues to put an end to the continuing litany of abuses of the rule of law by this Administration:
“I have fought so long against retroactive immunity because, in this huge fabric of lawlessness, it was the closest thread to grab. I believed that if we grabbed hold and pulled, it would begin to unravel. That hasn’t happened, Mr. President. But if we believe that each assault against the rule of law was an accident, that each was isolated, we’re deluding ourselves. If the past is any guide, there will be another one. And hope, as they say, springs eternal. I hope we will stand up then.”
Acknowledging that his views against retroactive immunity were in the minority, Dodd still expressed hope that that the rule of law will prevail:
“The law in America is not a gift or an inheritance–it is the active work of every generation. And as America’s patience wears thinner and thinner, as more and more citizens take up that active work, our minority will–I have faith that it will–make itself a majority.
Senator Dodd made clear his intentions to move the fight to the expected conference agreement between the House and Senate negotiators. The House previously passed a FISA bill that does not contain retroactive immunity and Dodd said he would use whatever tools were available to him, including forcing a cloture vote and taking to the Senate floor to implore his colleagues to stand with him, to try to stop a conference report that retains the retroactive immunity provision.
The full text of Senator Dodd’s speech as prepared is below:
It is clear now that the Senate will approve retroactive immunity for the corporations that may have helped President Bush to illegally spy on millions of Americans. I’ve fought this day with everything I had in me–and I haven’t fought alone. Many, many average Americans have given me strength for this fight–strength that comes from the passion and eloquence of citizens who don’t have to be involved, but choose to be. They deserve to be noted today, in honor.
But today, when I speak in the Senate against this immunity, and for the rule of law, I am speaking for a minority. And respecting the rule of law anywhere means respecting it everywhere–even when it means we don’t win. The rule of law says that we, the minority, cannot stand forever; and having made our case with all the fire in us, we stand down.
I will say this, though. I have seen some dark days in this chamber; in my mind, one of the worst was September 28, 2007: the day the Senate voted to strip habeas corpus and tolerate torture. Today, February 12, 2008, is nearly as dark: the day the Senate voted to ensure secrecy and to exempt corporations from the law. Frankly, I’ve seen a lot of darkness in recent years, as one by one our dearest traditions of Constitutional governance have been attacked.
At each new attack, millions of Americans have stood up in outrage; but millions more have answered with patience. You might fault them for that, Mr. President; but I do not. More than two centuries of democratic tradition have nurtured that patience; and it speaks well of our democratic faith that so many take the rule of law in America as a given. If millions have not yet noticed the rule of law falling, that is because it has so far to fall.
But fall it will, if we remove our support. The law in America is not a gift or an inheritance–it is the active work of every generation. And as America’s patience wears thinner and thinner, as more and more citizens take up that active work, our minority will–I have faith that it will–make itself a majority.
But today was not the day. And so the Senate has signed its name to this immunity, this silencing of our courts, this officially-sanctioned secrecy–without a majority of us even laying eyes on the secret papers that are supposed to prove the president’s case. Retroactive immunity is a disgrace in itself; in the last months, I believe we’ve proved that beyond a doubt. But it is even more disgraceful in all that it represents. It is the mindset that the Church Committee summed up so eloquently three decades ago: “the view that the traditional American principles of justice and fair play have no place in our struggle against the enemies of freedom.”
That view created the Nixonian secrecy of the 1970s; and the Church Committee wrote those words, in part, as a rebuke to our predecessors in this chamber who for years let secrecy and executive abuses slide. But today those words take on a new meaning. Today they rebuke us. They shame us for our lack of faith that we can, at the same time, keep our country safe and our Constitution whole.
When the 21st century version of the Church Committee convenes to investigate the abuses of these past years, how will it judge us? When it reads through the records of our debates–not if, Mr. President; when–what will it find?
When the president asked us to repudiate the Geneva Conventions and strip away the right of habeas corpus, how did we respond?
When images of American troops tormenting detainees were broadcast around the world, how did we protest?
When stories of secret prisons and outsourced torture became impossible to deny, how did we resist?
And on February 12, 2008, when we were asked to put corporations explicitly outside the law and accept at face value the argument that some are literally too rich to be sued–how did we vote?
All of those questions are coming for us, Mr. President. All of them and more. And in the quiet of his or her own conscience, each senator knows what the answers are.
I have fought so long against retroactive immunity because, in this huge fabric of lawlessness, it was the closest thread to grab. I believed that if we grabbed hold and pulled, it would begin to unravel. That hasn’t happened, Mr. President. But if we believe that each assault against the rule of law was an accident, that each was isolated, we’re deluding ourselves. If the past is any guide, there will be another one. And hope, as they say, springs eternal. I hope we will stand up then.
And perhaps we’ll have the chance to do so very soon. As you know, the House of Representatives has passed a version of this bill without retroactive immunity. It will be the job of the House-Senate conference committee to reconcile the two versions of the bill. And before I stand down, I want to implore the members of that committee, in the strongest terms I can find, to strip retroactive immunity from this bill once and for all.
Remember: This is about more than a few telephone calls, a few companies, a few lawsuits. If the supporters of retroactive immunity keep this small, they win. In truth, the issue we’ve debated for these last months, the issue that will finally come to a head in the conference committee, is so much more. At stake is our latest answer to the defining question: the rule of law, or the rule of men?
That question never goes away. As long as there are free societies, generations of leaders will struggle mightily to answer it. And each generation must answer for itself; just because our Founders answered it correctly doesn’t mean that we are bound by their choice. In that, as in all decisions, we are entirely free; the whole burden falls on us.
But we can take counsel. We can listen to those who came before us and made the right choice, even when our nation’s very survival was at risk. They knew that the rule of law was far more rooted in our character than any one man’s lawlessness.
I don’t think that’s changed. Secure in that faith, I will sit down and end my part in this conversation. But when the question comes again–the question of the rule of law or the rule of men–in whatever guise it comes, I’ll be proud to stand up once more.
I yield the floor.