Obama on FISA, 1/28/08
"I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill. Ever since 9/11, this Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.
The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend.
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. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.
That is why I am co-sponsoring Senator Dodd's amendment to remove the immunity provision. Secrecy must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens – and set an example to the world – that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient.
A grassroots movement of Americans has pushed this issue to the forefront. You have come together across this country. You have called upon our leaders to adhere to the Constitution. You have sent a message to the halls of power that the American people will not permit the abuse of power – and demanded that we reclaim our core values by restoring the rule of law.
It's time for Washington to hear your voices, and to act. I share your commitment to this cause, and will stand with you in the fights to come. And when I am President, the American people will once again be able to trust that their government will stand for justice, and will defend the liberties that we hold so dear as vigorously as we defend our security."
Obama on FISA, 6/20/08
"Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.
"That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.
"After months of negotiation, the House today passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act.
"Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.
"It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives - and the liberty - of the American people."
Added: I think we have to assume Obama didn't want to keep the bill off the floor. He said he supports the bill, after all. He said twice that the bill was needed because we face grave and legitimate threats. Then he said he will use the program wisely as president.
Then there's what Reid said--immunity will end up staying. And we'll never know why the government was so eager to get immunity, after they simply blew off outrage over the spying. Lawsuits mean discovery and discovery means phone and e-mail records. They've gone to an awful lot of trouble to ensure one thing remains hidden--who they were spying on. Who Rove was spying on.