The Democratic Congress passed and President Bush signed the “FISA Amendments Act of 2008,” legalizing the president's illegal wiretapping program.
The law allows broad warrantless surveillance of Americans in the United States, so long as the call or e-mail is thought to be international.
Eavesdropping on domestic communications is legal for a week before court papers even have to be filed. The telecom companies that cooperated with Bush are immune from civil lawsuits. Most important, the administration's illegal conduct has been retroactively approved and future administrations have wider powers than ever to spy on Americans.
The Democratic leadership and virtually all congressional Republicans approved the law. In a complete reversal of his campaign promise, so did Sen. Barack Obama. Last October, his campaign announced, “To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.” Instead, he voted to prevent a filibuster and then he voted for the bill
Democrats and Obama supporters defend the betrayal with hollow claims that the law actually protects civil liberties. Why then was Bush so eager to sign it? Missouri Republican Sen. Christopher Bond, a leader in this “compromise,” says “the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped.”
Two years ago, the Democrats seemed outraged after we learned Bush had ordered the National Security Agency, a military outfit, to spy on Americans without warrants, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Now they control Congress with good odds at the presidency. Power and the hope for more power corrupt.
As Salon.com, civil liberties expert Glenn Greenwald notes, “in 2006, when the Congress was controlled by [Republicans], the administration tried to get a bill passed legalizing warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, but was unable. They had to wait until the Congress was controlled by [Democrats] Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to accomplish that.”
Both parties have long been at war with the Fourth Amendment.
In 1978, after the Senate's Church Committee reported decades of intelligence abuses, President Carter signed FISA to regulate foreign surveillance. It created a secret court within the Justice Department with