Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama votes to punish companies that help fight terror

In our fight against terrorism, one key component is our ability to determine what the terrorists are planning, before they can carry out their plans. 9/11 was in part a failure of intelligence, our inability to effectively put together information, to intercept the communications, to dig through seized computer assets.

We learned a lot in the wake of 9/11. We had multiple hearings on various aspects of that attack and our failures, including the famed 9/11 report. In response, we passed bills which improved our ability to catch the terrorists not in the act, but before the act.

In some cases, our executive branch requested the services of American telecommunications companies in protecting our country and it's people from terrorist attacks. These patriotic companies joined in the fight against terror. Whether you agree or disagree with the administration actions (I agree with them), it is clear the companies were doing their part in good faith to protect the citizens of this country.

But rather than praise these companies for looking out for American interests, some want to punish those companies. So the new anti-terror bill included protection for this companies. A broad bipartisan majority agreed to this protection. But Obama voted to punish these American companies. From the Wall Street Journal, "Obama's Wiretap Votes":

Now and then sanity prevails, even in Washington. So it did yesterday as the Senate passed a warrantless wiretap bill for overseas terrorists while killing most of the Lilliputian attempts to tie down our war fighters.

"We lost every single battle we had on this bill," conceded Chris Dodd, which ought to tell the Connecticut Senator something about the logic of what he was proposing. His own amendment -- to deny immunity from lawsuits to telecom companies that cooperated with the government after 9/11 -- didn't even get a third of the Senate. It lost 67-31, though notably among the 31 was possible Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama. (Hillary Clinton was absent, while John McCain voted in favor.)

The WSJ rightly criticizes Obama for this vote, and asks what this tells us of his naivete when it comes to protecting our country from the very real terror threat:

It says something about his national security world view, or his callowness, that Mr. Obama would vote to punish private companies that even the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee said had "acted in good faith." Had Senator Obama prevailed, a President Obama might well have been told "no way" when he asked private Americans to help his Administration fight terrorists. Mr. Obama also voted against the overall bill, putting him in territory.

It is clear that a large number of Democrats don't mind attacking American companies who are doing their best to help protect America. Those Democrats will be happy to vote for someone like Obama who will vote to make those companies pay for their service with lawsuits.

But I hope the large portion of the American electorate who care about this country and about protection from a terror attack will not support a Presidential candidate who does not share their views. I was hoping they would make up a majority of the Democratic voters, but it appears now that Obama is, inconceivably, being considered the party's choice for President. It may be too late for me to help get a more sane candidate from the Democratic party.


Craig said...

Charles, those companies that went along with the administration's warrant less wiretapping program did so in violation of Federal Statutes and deserve no protection from the law. Breaking the law does not make one a patriot. Giving them retroactive protection from their crimes is even worse.

Lest you forget, not all companies approached by the administration went along with the warrant less wiretapping program. Several companies said we would be glad to help you out as soon as you come back with the proper warrants. All of the companies approached were well versed with the law and FISA and knew what was being asked of them was illegal. Some chose to violate the law, possibly in the hope that the administration would repay them at a later date with preferential treatment in one form or another.

Should we praise companies for violating the law? Really? The FISA statutes were put into place because of grievous violations of privacy that took place under the direction of past administrations. Congress is choosing now to ignore history and open Pandora's box by allowing the administration free reign. Where is the respect for the Constitution, privacy, and rule of law?

Charles said...

The issue isn't one of violating criminal law. The wiretapping has not been found to violate the law, and the company leaders were not threatened with jail time.

This bill was to protect them from lawsuits.

While some companies said they needed warrants, the Bush administration contended, and still asserts, that no warrants were needed. And congress has not found they were, and has in fact codified the administration view.

But this isn't about that program, but about holding companies who were in fact given what they beleived were valid requests, and who made no personal gain from adhering to those requests, to punishment by those who really want to punish the government but can't.

And yes, when the government presents a company with a request that appears legal and meant to aid in capturing terrorists, I expect that the government won't turn around later and allow those companies to be sued for helping.

Your beef is with the administration so go after the administration. Don't go after the companies that did nothing but what they believed was legal to help our government.

Even a good number of democrats agree with that point of view.