The United State Senate Wednesday gutted what little is left of the American Constitution, capitulating once again to the most unpopular President in history, giving him virtually unlimited powers to spy on Americans while shielding his co-conspirators — telecom companies — from prosecution.
Democrats and Republicans joined together in this overthrow of the American way of life, voting 69-28 to allow George W. Bush and his corrupt, despotic government, to pry into the private lives of Americans without oversight or consequences. Both of the presumptive major party Presidential nominees — Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain — sold out their country and voted for the destructive measure. New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who lost to Obama in a hard-fought primary campaign, joined the few who voted to try and save what little is left of America.
An ecstatic Bush said he would sign the legislation immediately.
Approval of the measure came five days after America celebrated the Fourth of July, a holiday that is supposed to mark this country’s independence from tyranny. Perhaps July 9 will become a new milestone in history — the day that a shadow of a once-great nation died.
Bowing to President Bush’s demands, the Senate approved and sent the White House a bill Wednesday to overhaul bitterly disputed rules on secret government eavesdropping and shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits complaining they helped the U.S. spy on Americans.
The relatively one-sided vote, 69-28, came only after a lengthy and heated debate that pitted privacy and civil liberties concerns against the desire to prevent terrorist attacks. It ended almost a year of wrangling in the Democratic-led Congress over surveillance rules and the president’s warrantless wiretapping program that was initiated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The House passed the same bill last month, and Bush said he would sign it soon.
Opponents assailed the eavesdropping program, asserting that it imperiled citizens’ rights of privacy from government intrusion. But Bush said the legislation protects those rights as well as Americans’ security.
"This bill will help our intelligence professionals learn who the terrorists are talking to, what they’re saying and what they’re planning," he said in a brief White House appearance after the Senate vote.
The bill is very much a political compromise, brought about by a deadline: Wiretapping orders authorized last year will begin to expire in August. Without a new bill, the government would go back to old FISA rules, requiring multiple new orders and potential delays to continue those intercepts. That is something most of Congress did not want to see happen, particularly in an election year.
The long fight on Capitol Hill centered on one main question: whether to protect from civil lawsuits any telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on American phone and computer lines without the permission or knowledge of a secret court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The White House had threatened to veto the bill unless it immunized companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. against wiretapping lawsuits.
Forty-six lawsuits now stand to be dismissed because of the new law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. All are pending before a single U.S. District Court in California. But the fight has not ended. Civil rights groups are already preparing lawsuits challenging the bill’s constitutionality, and four suits, filed against government officials, will not be dismissed.
Numerous lawmakers had spoken out strongly against the no-warrants eavesdropping on Americans, but the Senate voted its approval after rejecting amendments that would have watered down, delayed or stripped away the immunity provision.