I am very unhappy about this so-called “compromise” and am still fantasizing that Feingold and Leahy succeed in removing the immunity provisions from the bill. Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, speaking on MSNBC’s Countdown tonight, offered this assessment:
“Just a few days ago in the Al Haramain case… a federal judge said obviously the president committed an illegal act. That illegal act is defined as a felony – a crime – under federal law. So, what the Democrats are doing here with the White House is they’re trying to conceal a crime that is hiding in plain view – that everyone can see it. And so, the argument for [immunity] is quite simple: nobody wants to have a confrontation over the fact that the president committed a felony not once, but at least thirty times. That’s a very inconvenient fact right now in Washington…”
“The Founders would have found this incomprehensible. It expands [the president’s] power to the point of including what is now defined as a federal crime. And not only that, but the Democrats have learned well from Bush. Because the telecoms are losing in court, because the administration is losing in court – they’re just going to change the rules so that these public interest organizations that have brought these cases will all lose by a vote of fiat by the Democrats. It’s otherwordly.”
On Senator Obama’s description of it as a compromise:
“I am completely astonished by Senator Obama’s position and obviously disappointed. All of these Senators need to respect us enough not to call it a compromise. It’s a cave-in. If it was a compromise, why aren’t civil libertarians supporting it? Because we don’t like to receive a good deal? .. it’s like one of those stories where someone is assaulted on the street and a hundred witnesses do nothing. And in this case, the Fourth Amendment is going to be eviscerated tomorrow and a hundred people are going to watch it happen because it’s just not their problem… you talk about expanding the president’s power, it’s coming out of the marrow of the Fourth Amendment.. and it’s going to hurt. It’s being done for political convenience. There’s not an ounce of principle nor an ounce of public interest in this legislation.”
On criminally investigating the telecoms despite civil immunity:
“It could happen but I doubt it will happen. The fact is that the fix is in. Tomorrow night there’s going to be a lot of celebrating among telecom lobbyists that have just poured money into this.. but it’s a pyrrhic victory for the rest of us. What we will lose tomorrow is something very precious – [it’s] part of the Fourth Amendment, and that is beyond measure.”
As usual, Turley brings it home.
Last weekend, I visited the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. In the context of the last seven years, it felt much more like an eerie post-modern memorial.
And tomorrow, setting aside a miracle, we’ll put another brick in that wall.