FISA: Clinton Stands Up; Obama Caves

By Taylor Marsh;; July 9, 2008

Senator Hillary Clinton voted against cloture on the FISA bill today AND against the final bill.

Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, voted for cloture and for the final FISA bill, which legalizes warrantless eavesdropping, with the bonus that it immunizes lawless telecom companies, too. Mr. Obama continues to be the exact type of nominee I predicted he’d be after 18 months of coverage of this man.

Glenn Greenwald (

“The Democratic-led Congress this afternoon voted to put an end to the NSA spying scandal, as the Senate approved a bill — approved last week by the House — to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, terminate all pending lawsuits against them, and vest whole new warrantless eavesdropping powers in the President. The vote in favor of the new FISA bill was 69-28. Barack Obama joined every Senate Republican (and every House Republican other than one) by voting in favor of it, while his now-vanquished primary rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, voted against it. John McCain wasn’t present for any of the votes, but shared Obama’s support for the bill. The bill will now be sent to an extremely happy George Bush, who already announced that he enthusiastically supports it, and he will sign it into law very shortly.”

What a pitiful collapse from the Democratic nominee. Of course, Obama will “work” to get the telecom immunity stripped from the bill, he says, but right now it’s in there. No doubt he’ll get the approval of Bill O’Reilly and all the wingnuts on this one, which no doubt was his purpose.

Clinton continues to prove what a leader she is and why when it comes to not having to simply show her strength by trying to gain approval from the right, she actually demonstrates it instead through action and purpose. It’s why she was my candidate and remains the leader I trust in the Democratic Party.

That Barack Obama voted with the Republicans should put to rest any idea whatsoever of his alleged “progressive” bonafides or his ability to stand up to knee jerk charges that inevitably come at Democrats. The fact that he likely voted the way he did in order not to be tagged as being “weak on national security” actually illustrates his vulnerabilities more than prove his strengths. Because you can’t posture that you’re strong on matters like these, you either are or you aren’t.

As an aside, it also proves that on Iraq, if Obama had been in the senate, he’d likely have voted for the AUMF, just like Hillary and all the other Democrats. But that’s moot now.

Hillary Clinton is not worried about being called weak, because she isn’t. Obama seemed to have to prove his strength by caving to wingnut talking points because he was afraid of being tagged “weak on national security.” The difference between them today was starkly drawn.

UPDATE: Clinton’s statement on FISA vote:


July 9, 2008

One of the great challenges before us as a nation is remaining steadfast in our fight against terrorism while preserving our commitment to the rule of law and individual liberty. As a senator from New York on September 11, I understand the importance of taking any and all necessary steps to protect our nation from those who would do us harm. I believe strongly that we must modernize our surveillance laws in order to provide intelligence professionals the tools needed to fight terrorism and make our country more secure. However, any surveillance program must contain safeguards to protect the rights of Americans against abuse, and to preserve clear lines of oversight and accountability over this administration. I applaud the efforts of my colleagues who negotiated this legislation, and I respect my colleagues who reached a different conclusion on today’s vote. I do so because this is a difficult issue. Nonetheless, I could not vote for the legislation in its current form.

The legislation would overhaul the law that governs the administration’s surveillance activities. Some of the legislation’s provisions place guidelines and restrictions on the operational details of the surveillance activities, others increase judicial and legislative oversight of those activities, and still others relate to immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in the administration’s surveillance activities.

While this legislation does strengthen oversight of the administration’s surveillance activities over previous drafts, in many respects, the oversight in the bill continues to come up short. For instance, while the bill nominally calls for increased oversight by the FISA Court, its ability to serve as a meaningful check on the President’s power is debatable. The clearest example of this is the limited power given to the FISA Court to review the government’s targeting and minimization procedures.

But the legislation has other significant shortcomings. The legislation also makes no meaningful change to the immunity provisions. There is little disagreement that the legislation effectively grants retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies. In my judgment, immunity under these circumstances has the practical effect of shutting down a critical avenue for holding the administration accountable for its conduct. It is precisely why I have supported efforts in the Senate to strip the bill of these provisions, both today and during previous debates on this subject. Unfortunately, these efforts have been unsuccessful.

What is more, even as we considered this legislation, the administration refused to allow the overwhelming majority of Senators to examine the warrantless wiretapping program. This made it exceedingly difficult for those Senators who are not on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees to assess the need for the operational details of the legislation, and whether greater protections are necessary. The same can be said for an assessment of the telecom immunity provisions. On an issue of such tremendous importance to our citizens – and in particular to New Yorkers – all Senators should have been entitled to receive briefings that would have enabled them to make an informed decision about the merits of this legislation. I cannot support this legislation when we know neither the nature of the surveillance activities authorized nor the role played by telecommunications companies granted immunity.

Congress must vigorously check and balance the president even in the face of dangerous enemies and at a time of war. That is what sets us apart. And that is what is vital to ensuring that any tool designed to protect us is used – and used within the law – for that purpose and that purpose alone. I believe my responsibility requires that I vote against this compromise, and I will continue to pursue reforms that will improve our ability to collect intelligence in our efforts to combat terror and to oversee that authority in Congress.



  1. It’s definitely tempting to break out the “I told you so’s” to all those Obamaniacs who drank the kook-aid. Kudos to Clinton for standing up for what’s right.

  2. Just when I was coming around to find a rationale to support Obama, given that he is now the presumptive Democratic nominee – there is almost nothing that can be done now – I am so bitterly disappointed by his support for the new FISA bill. Basically, Obama is telling us, “To hell with the 4th amendment!”

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