My letter to Senator Ron Wyden

The FISA re-write passed by the House today (against the objections of a majority of the Democratic caucus) is not a “compromise” at all.

The “exclusivity” clause in Title I, which Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer both claimed were strong counters, are no stronger than the exclusivity clause that President Bush ignored in the previous version of FISA, a clause wiped away with a simple secret memo from John Woo. President Bush felt free to ignore the law before; why would he care now, when he is a lame duck?

The granting of retroactive immunity enshrines into law the shocking Nixonian claim “if the President says so, it is not illegal” and finally establishes the telecommunications corporations just as much above the law as the Bush Administration, to the detriment of our democracy and our Constitution.

Senator Obama stated today his opposition to the retroactive immunity portion of the bill, but would only go so far as to suggest trying to remove that portion. Because he is the nominal head of the Democratic Party, I cannot believe that this bill did not come to pass without either his direct involvement, or at least his blessing. Perhaps he wishes to make use of it’s many provisions for collecting “intelligence” on American citizens… or his own political enemies… in addition to those who see America as a threat to themselves. I support Senator Obama in his bid for the Presidency, but I do not wish him to be a monarch; I wish him to be a President of a democratic (small “d”) republic. Perhaps Sen. Obama is under the mistaken belief, as Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and Senate Majority Leader Reid seem to be, that giving the White House and Republicans in Congress more than they wanted in intelligence gathering is “bipartisan compromise” is seen by American voters as “being strong”.

Not so, Senator Wyden. Not so.

Perhaps you can have the courage to put the Constitution and the country ahead of party and politics. Perhaps you can step up and prevent this erosion of our rights. Perhaps you can take action that other more fearful (or calculating) politicians seem unable to do.

A simple “hold” can stop this bill in its tracks. A fillibuster can derail it. Do not give cover to those who broke the law. Do not allow the most unpopular president in history any victory at all.

Many are paying attention to this matter, including myself. Markos Moulitsas Zuniga is paying attention. Glenn Greenwald is paying attention. The ACLU is paying attention. And we are all working to elect more and better Democrats. Be the kind of Democratic Senator the majority wish to see.