Joe Klein defends the FISA compromise. As often with Joe, and despite my sympathies with Glenn's anger at Bush, I can't disagree:
My feeling, from the start, has been that the NSA data-mining operation is a necessary tool in the hunt for terrorists who mean to do us harm--but that the FISA law needed to be updated to include civil liberties protections and limitations guiding the use of the program. The Bush Administration--as usual, arrogantly and outrageously--thought it didn't need the legal authority to conducting the NSA operation and then--as usual, outrageously--tried to use the legitimate Democratic call for legislation as a "soft on terrorists" political bludgeon.
I favor the compromise because I believe the civil liberties encoded into the law are important, and because I wanted to deprive the Bush Administration, and the McCain campaign, of the political bludgeon.
Yes, the telecoms acted in a questionable manner--and yes, there were companies like Qwest that refused to comply, but in the end,as I've written before, their cooperation with the government, at a moment when just about everyone was freaking out about the terrorist threat (i.e.--right after 9/11) was understandable. Prosecuting them now, for past actions that will become legal when this bill is passed, is analogous to prosecuting doctors who performed abortions before Roe v. Wade after the court ruled...or prosecuting speakeasy owners after prohibition was overturned. Of course, if the telecoms engaged in actions that would be considered illegal even after the FISA compromise is passed, they should be prosecuted.
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