Have I ranted about the FISA debates in Congress yet? I think not. Its not a specifically queer-interest topic, but every time a news item comes up about it my blood boils a little because of how our Dems in congress are responding.
In a nutshell, FISA provides means for the government to obtain expedited secret court authority to spy on us – monitoring electronic communications. Now that to me causes a lot of heartburn right there because when I was young and in civics classes it was only the communist countries that had secret courts. We were not about that!
But now, all of a sudden, the Bush Administration says that its national emergency that they have to even get a warrant after-the-fact from a secret court. This became an emergency when the New York Times published the fact that the Bush spy agencies were in fact violating FISA by not even bothering to get the warrants from the expedited process of the secret court.
The Democrats in Congress, trying to not seem soft on terror, carelessly parroted the administration’s meme that FISA change is now a national security emergency. They passed a temporary “Protect America Act” back in September. This temporary and ill-conceived law granted warrantless surveillance powers. That has just expired because the House of Representative refused to include retroactive immunity for telco lawbreaking in the past.
The real emergency then is retroactive pardon legislation that might help the administration keep the lid on the amount of illegal spying it was doing. Certainly an emergency for GWB but why did the Democrats go along in the first place? There never has been a need for warrantless surveillance given the expedited process FISA already provides.
Now that the ill-informed Protect America Act of last September has expired, let’s hope the Democrats get smart and move on to more important topics for the country. Continuing to debate this and to try to reach any agreement on it just bows to Bush’s cover story that this has anything to do with national security.
Interestingly the libertarian Cato Institute agrees, with a very intelligent essay found here.