Thursday, July 10, 2008

The FISA Fallout

By now most Americans have formed an opinion about the Senate's vote on the Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) amendments yesterday.

The particulars of the bill itself have been greatly discussed elsewhere (and you can also read the original for yourself). There were three different amendments on the floor.

The first would have removed immunity for the telecom who voluntarily participated with the warrantless wiretapping.

The second would have removed the immunity with the stipulation that if a federal court determined the warrantless wiretaps were constitutional the telecoms were safe from prosecution.

The third would have delayed decision on immunity until 90 days after Congress received the Inpector General's report on his investigation of the wiretapping activity.

All three failed.

Republicans were expected to vote down the amendments to protect the administration -- which they did. Democrats -- especially those recently sent to Washington to counter the Administration -- overwhelmingly did as well, to the surprise and consternation of many.

Now in the old days (I.E. just a few years ago), there would have been a great deal of hue and cry, but if the congresscritters hung tough, they could have ridden out the storm. And come the next election cycle, all would have been forgotten.

But that was before this current presidential campaign and the increased usage of the Internet to generate and organise political action. In reaction to this controversial vote, a new organisation has come to the fore.

The Accountability Now PAC (or Strange Bedfellows) is concerned with the rights of American citizens, especially those that have taken a backseat in the wake of anti-terrorist legislation (or in the case of the FISA flap, activities that circumvent the legislation).

It's an organisation that's pulling from both sides of the political spectrum, and number both Republicans and Democrats among its founders. The idea's pretty simple. Freedom and civil rights are pretty nebulous concepts that normally don't generate much interest. But Strange Bedfellows intends to be a large, organised, well-funded group that is interested, and will hold legislators accountable -- especially at election time.

So what's the first step? An old tactic from the Ron Paul campaign, the money bomb. Everyone who wants to donate does so on a designated day. If it's true that we have the best government money can buy, then the overnight appearance of, say, 10 million dollars in a PAC's war chest should make those in power sit up and take notice.

This is a new kind of response to politics as usual. And as practitioners of social science can tell you, the most effective way to change a system is to change how you react to the system.

- Ralph

Day 26 of the WJMA Web Watch.

No comments:

Post a Comment