All my previous ranting about the Bush Administration’s NSA-run warrantless wiretapping program was for naught. Congress passed complex amendments to FISA granting immunity to telecommunications carriers who violated the existing FISA law and legitimated the NSA’s program. Even Barack Obama voted for it. Thankfully, my other Senator, Dick Durbin, voted against it, as did my former Senator Russ Feingold, for whom I have great respect. I once again recycled verbiage in support of an ACLU campaign to paint the FISA amendments as unconstitutional:
In passing FISA 2008, I believe that Congress has abandoned two core principles upon which our republic is founded: the rule of law and our system of checks and balances.
According to the rule of law, no person, not even the President of the United States, is above the law. FISA was violated. Congress should not have granted anyone retroactive immunity but should instead aggressively investigate and see that justice is carried by holding accountable all those who have acted illegally.
A wise system of checks and balances demands that no branch of government may be allowed to gather to itself unchecked power for whatever good purpose it may be initially intended. The framers of our Constitution clearly understood the inevitability of abuse of such unchecked power. FISA was drafted specifically to allow the executive branch to engage in intelligence gathering with necessary secrecy while at the same time enforcing appropriate judicial checks to prevent abuse. Checks and balances are an essential feature of our republic and must be preserved to protect us against the corruption that unmitigated authority inevitably brings with it. Given its technology-neutral applicability to any communications medium and the latitude it grants for ex post facto warrants, I see no compelling reason to have amended FISA to allow additional unsupervised, classified wiretapping authority. While I accept that in an era of global terrorism certain nonessential privacies and privileges may need to be foregone in order to enhance our security, I demand accountability from those who would diminish our freedoms.