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I find this cave-in most discouraging.
Because the bill evidently allows the executive to invade the privacy of Americans WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL OF ANYONE OUTSIDE THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH, it raises this vital question:
Is this legislation even constitutional?
Evidently, the FISA court does to some sort of review, but not only is it four months after the fact but --according to Jonathan Turley on COUNTDOWN last night-- it is not a case-by-case review but a more general look at the "process." I find no reassurance there.
One central disappointing aspect of this story is that the Bush administration is apparently still able to use completely bogus scare tactics of its usual post-9/11 sort to intimidate the Democrats. I am referring to arguments like these:
"Al-Qaida is not going on vacation this month," said Sen. Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
"I hope that there are no attacks before we are able to effectively update this important act," said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
It is disgraceful that this kind of argument can successfully be used despite the fact that THERE IS NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER that prior court review as called for under FISA has interfered with necessary surveillance, nor that the Bushite's trampling over the law has protected America in any instance.
What this does, instead, is help to consolidate the notion of an unchecked executive power, which indeed is the whole core of this national crisis we face with this criminal regime.
It seems clear that the Democrats are terribly frightened of getting in the way of the administration on anything that can be used by the Rovian propagandists to blame them for any kind of future disaster, however flimsy and unfounded that blame might be.
That fear may be understandable, given the history. But with an administration whose approval is hovering below 30 percent, that fear now seems excessive.
If the Democrats could mount a more vigorous campaign of telling it like it is --that prophetic fire (I've been talking about for more than two years), and that image from Aesop of grabbing the nettle firmly (which I employed a few months ago)-- I believe they would be able to get the upper hand in the PR war.
But the Dems lack the coherent, powerful message --and perhaps the single, effective spokesman-- to be able to stand up to this contemptible presidency.
The one consolation to be found in this AP report lies in this statement:
The Senate bill gives Bush the expanded eavesdropping authority for six months. The temporary powers give Congress time to hammer out a more comprehensive plan instead of rushing approval for a permanent bill in the waning hours before lawmakers begin their month-long break.
I'm not sure I can see, however, what is going to change in the next six months that will lead to a different outcome that time around. The Bushites can be relied upon to continue to hold America hostage to getting ratification for their all-powerful, lawless presidency. And as for the Democrats in the Congress, if they cannot get the upper hand under the present circumstances, when would they?