Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dodd to Filibuster, again

Senator Dodd has threatened again to filibuster the telecom bill which would grant immunity to telecommunications companies which aided the Bush Administration to conduct illegal electronic wiretaps. A presidential order, signed in 2002, was a clear violation of the FISA law. FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, came into law as a result of the Watergate Scandals under President Nixon. FISA is meant to prevent the government from conducting domestic intelligence against American citizens and confirms the constitutional requirement that the government attain a warrant.
The Fourth Amendment states;

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

In December of last year, Dodd threatened to filibuster the legislation and Reid temporarily backed down.
Dodd objected to the motion to proceed to the bill early this morning and remained on the floor for almost ten hours, taking a stand for the rule of law and the Constitution with his statements throughout the day. At approximately 7:30 P.M. Majority Leader Reid announced the FISA reform bill would be pulled from the Senate calendar and reconsidered in January.

The press release goes on to state;
“Today we have scored a victory for American civil liberties and sent a message to President Bush that we will not tolerate his abuse of power and veil of secrecy,” said Dodd. “The President should not be above the rule of law, nor should the telecom companies who supported his quest to spy on American citizens. I thank all my colleagues who joined me in fighting and winning a stay in the rush to grant retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies who may have violated the privacy rights of millions of Americans.

Senator Edward Kennedy speaking last year against telecom immunity on the Senate floor. Kennedy was one of only a handful of Senators to support Dodd last year.

Dodd was then still a presidential candidate and received a significant amount of press coverage, aided by citizen journalists. The other democratic candidates took a stand in support of Dodd, which no doubt added momentum to the cause.

It is January and Reid has returned to the FISA amendment legislation as promised. Dodd is no longer a candidate and their is less reporting coming from the MSM. A simple Google search will bear this out. The activist blogosphere however is on fire. So far, only two candidates have come out with statements supporting Dodd, John Edwards and Barack Obama.

In Washington today, telecom lobbyists have launched a full-court press to win retroactive immunity for their illegal eavesdropping on American citizens. Granting retroactive immunity will let corporate law-breakers off the hook and hamstring efforts to learn the truth about Bush's illegal spying program.

"It's time for Senate Democrats to show a little backbone and stand up to George W. Bush and the corporate lobbyists. They should do everything in their power -- including joining Senator Dodd's efforts to filibuster this legislation -- to stop retroactive immunity. The Constitution should not be for sale at any price."
"I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill. No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people - not the president of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program [… T]hat is why I am proud to stand with Sen. Dodd and a grassroots movement of Americans who are standing up for our civil liberties and the rule of law."

Hillary has thus far been silent. A filibuster is a long and difficult process and Dodd would need his fellow Senators to support him by asking long winded questions, allowing him time to rest.
It's unclear what Edwards can or will do to actually help Dodd and it doesn't seem Obama will leave campaigning in South Carolina to actually lead or "unite".

from Wikipedia
A filibuster, or "talking out a bill", is a form of obstruction in a legislation or other decision-making body. An attempt is made to infinitely extend debate upon a proposal in order to delay the progress or completely prevent a vote on the proposal taking place.

Senator Dodd's office yesterday released the following;
"Few things are more detrimental to this country than the erosion of and attack on the civil liberties we enjoy. This isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue; this is an American issue. If after debate, the Senate appears ready to pass legislation granting telecom providers retroactive immunity I will use any and all legislative tools at my disposal, including a filibuster, to prevent this deeply flawed bill from becoming law. More and more, Americans are rejecting the false choice that has come to define this administration: security or liberty, but never, ever both. For all those who have stood with me throughout this fight, I pledge, once more, to stand up for you."

I sure miss Dodd's presence in the Democratic race. His presence helped draw attention to the core constitutional issues he was fighting for, much like Edwards' presence has brought attention to issues of economic justice. Dodd is also one of only a handful of senators working on legislation to restore the writ of Habeas Corpus, the cornerstone of Anglo-American civil liberties.

It's just accepted knowledge that the Bush Administration has over the last seven years gutted the constitution. But everything he achieved was passed into law with the complicit support of Democratic members. In 2006, the Democrats took back both houses and things were expected to change. Yet Dodd is not only fighting Bush but his own party's leadership, Harry Reid.

Glenn Greenwald explains (via the Agonist)

Harry Reid -- who has (a) done more than any other individual to ensure that Bush's demands for telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping powers will be met in full and (b) allowed the Republicans all year to block virtually every bill without having to bother to actually filibuster -- went to the Senate floor yesterday and, with the scripted assistance of Mitch McConnell and Pat Leahy, warned Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold and others that they would be selfishly wreaking havoc on the schedules of their fellow Senators (making them work over the weekend, ruining their planned "retreat," and even preventing them from going to Davos!) if they bothered everyone with their annoying, pointless little filibuster.

To do so, Reid announced that, unlike for the multiple filibusters from Republican colleagues, he would actually force Dodd and company to engage in a real filibuster.

The Democratic led Senate has accomplished absolutely nothing towards rolling back the unconstitutional legislation passed by the previous Congress, let alone push forward its own agenda. How exactly will a Democratic presidency change the formula in DC? All three leading candidates, (with the exception of Senator Dodd when he was in the race) have not actually led on anything. Obama and Clinton after all are still supposedly serving in the Senate. The blogosphere will be ablaze as will liberal and progressive organizations like the ACLU and I admire Senator Dodd for his courage. But how could it ever get to the point that a minority faction coup within the Democratic led Senate must fight its own party leadership to uphold basic fundamental constitutional rights? Perhaps an outpouring of grassroots activism will lead to action from the candidates or other members of the House and Senate. Perhaps the blogosphere can influence media coverage which at the moment is focused on the cat fights between Obama and the Clintons. There is something terribly rotten in Washington and its not just George Bush. There must be more important "business" to attend to in Switzerland.

photo of Senator Dodd attributed to public