Below are Keith Olbermann’s dead-on comments regarding Bush’s lies about the renewing of The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and his successful fight to award immunity to the telecom companies:
The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires a warrant to intercept international communications involving anyone in the United States. A secret court has granted these warrants quickly nearly every time it has been asked in history. After 9/11, the Patriot Act made it even easier to conduct this kind of surveillance. Bush warned that the country faced terror strikes that would make September 11 “pale by comparison” if Congress refused to renew the FISA (some provisions of which would have expired today), which would further expand the government’s ability to spy on Americans. This is just another example of secrecy and fear being used to herd the confused populace into compliance, as has proven effective so many times before.
The renewal would grant retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies that illegally helped the U.S. government in its warrantless wiretapping program. In other words, Americans would be prevented from suing phone companies that helped the administration spy on them since the White House surveillance program was instituted in 2001.
Given the Bush administration’s status quo of secrecy, lawsuits against the telecoms seem to be the only way to obtain any relative of truth about actions within the government. There are roughly 40 lawsuits pending by citizens and consumer groups against companies that enabled the government to illegally eavesdrop on Americans’ phone and Internet communications. However, Bush insisted on immunity from civil prosecution for the telecoms, saying it’s a must-have for revamping the nation’s surveillance laws. He promised repeatedly to veto any bill that does not exempt telecoms from lawsuits.
It wasn’t until Wednesday, after the Senate approved a bill granting immunity, that the President admitted for the first time that the telecoms participated in wiretaps which were not authorized by court-issued warrants. But he got what he wanted, and the rest is history. And we all know that history isn’t exactly Bush’s strong suit.
New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt’s speech speech condemning the Bush administration for misleading and disrespecting the American people in supporting warrantless wiretaps:
Ever since 9/11, we’ve watched Republican lawmakers help Bush shred the Constitution in the name of fighting terrorism, while being serenaded with the “Star-Spangled Banner” and Old Glory flying high in the background. We have seen Democrats stick their heads in the sand, cowering in what can only be called fear as the Bush administration wipes their ass with the Constitution. How long is long enough? How deeply can the American public take the monstrous phallus of rhetoric and lies before we say “No More!”?
Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU legislative office in Washington, hit the nail on the head in a recent statement:
“The House should stand up to the bullying from the President and reject the administration’s lies and fear mongering,” she said. “This administration has abused its power over and over again and it is time for the House to reject any attempts to consider the unconstitutional Senate Intelligence Committee FISA bill.
She went on to demand that Americans be heard in their suits against phone and Internet companies. “Let the American system of justice decide this case,” Frederickson said. “Do not give the phone companies a ‘get out of jail free’ card. If the companies really ‘did the right thing’ as the President said, then they have nothing to fear from going to court.
“Terrorism is a threat. But ignoring the Constitution is also a threat.”