Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Obama and FISA

I read this article in today's NYT and a couple of statements jumped out at me as being suspect:

Greg Craig, a Washington lawyer who advises the Obama campaign, said Tuesday in an interview that Mr. Obama had decided to support the compromise FISA legislation only after concluding it was the best deal possible.

“This was a deliberative process, and not something that was shooting from the hip,” Mr. Craig said. “Obviously, there was an element of what’s possible here. But he concluded that with FISA expiring, that it was better to get a compromise than letting the law expire.”

I've been wondering about the urgency here. Why, after all, is a "deal" needed? Why does what is "possible" have any meaning in relation to not doing anything? According to Craig, it's because without a "deal", FISA would "expire".

I was pretty sure this was incorrect, but I emailed Glenn Greenwald asking about it (Greenwald is also quoted in the NYT article).

Turns out Greenwald was working on a response to Craig's comments and has a post up about it. Wanna read it? Here it go:

Craig's statement is flat-out false. FISA -- enacted in 1978 and amended many times to accommodate modern communications technology -- has no expiration date. The Protect America Act, which Congress enacted last August to legalize warrantless eavesdropping on Americas, had a 6-month sunset provision and thus already expired back in February, restoring FISA as the governing law. Thus, if Congress does nothing now, FISA will continue indefinitely to govern the Government's power to spy on the communications of Americans. It doesn't expire. What Craig said in defense of Obama is just wrong.


The issue is not -- as one extremely confused Obama-cheering blogger put it -- that Obama has done "something contrary to what conventional wisdom as dictated by a small coterie of prominent bloggers agrees with," nor is it -- as an equally confused, Obama-cheering Ed Kilgore put it -- that Obama is "stray[ing] from Democratic Party orthodoxy or from strict down-the-line partisanship" by "expressing heretical thoughts on FISA" (incidentally, it's amazing how the rule of law, the Fourth Amendment and accountability for Bush lawbreaking have now -- in service of defending Obama -- all been instantaneously reduced to nothing more than quirky, self-absorbed, petty blogger "dictates," and Obama's disregarding of those core political values is a bold demonstration that he won't be held hostage to anyone's narrow partisan demands).

This last paragraph of Greenwald's is what really gets my goat. The Ed Kilgore's of the world are all about doing what is apparently not "down the line partisanship", unmindful of the substance of the matter.

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