John Dean’s analysis of the FISA bill is out, and it’s worth a read. Of relevance to this blog are two passages from the article:
[Obama] should explain to his Senate colleagues that when elected President, he will “immediately” request that his attorney general investigate the criminal activity of the Bush Administration in violating the FISA statute, along with the telecommunications firms who aided and abetted these violations.
…if Obama now has no stomach to enforce the criminal law, as he once proclaimed he would, he may pay a significant cost for balking. In particular, he is likely going to lose more than a few among his base of supporters who are upset with his flip-flop on the FISA amendments, for many of these unhappy supporters may currently take comfort in knowing (as few others know) that he could hold violators responsible for their criminal actions – and will retain that power even if the current legislation becomes law.
Dean also notes that Obama could remain silent, which is “the usual course of action for Washington politicians in these situations.”
I’m not a lawyer, but Dean’s analysis seems well-thought, and he mentions he’s spoken to the ACLU and they agree, there is no prohibition on criminal immunity in this bill. Dean’s (and Keith Olbermann‘s) argument essentially hangs on this being true — while the current bill strips telco immunity, companies participating in illegal wiretapping could still be held criminally responsible.
In any case, most of us aren’t lawyers. One thing Dean is correct on, though, is that we need to hear more from Barack Obama.
With the “Get FISA Right” group now totaling over 8000 members, at some point, Senator Obama needs to address the concern that a growing number of his supporters are expressing.