Fighting Presidential Lawlessness

Senator Chris Dodd gave a Congressional speech yesterday denouncing the Democratic capitulation on the recently introduced surveillance “compromise,” highlighting how expanded surveillance opportunities and no-questions-asked amnesty for telecommunications companies that illegally enabled unlawful spying are part and parcel of the Bush administration’s tapestry of misconduct. For those unfamiliar with the issue, the whole speech is worth reading to get a sense of why this latest bill matters.

Here’s the gist of it:

 Mr. President, unwarranted domestic spying didn’t happen in a panic or short-term emergency, not for a week, or a month, or even a year. If it had, I might not be here today.

 But that isn’t the case.  What we now know is that spying by this Administration went on, relentlessly, for more than five years.

 I might not be here if it had been the first offense of a new administration. Maybe not if it had even been the second or the third.

But that isn’t the case either, Mr. President.  Indeed, I am here today because with offense after another after another, I believe it is long past time to say: “enough.”

I am here today because of a pattern—a pattern of abuse against civil liberties and the rule of law. Against the Constitution—of which we are custodians, temporary though that status may be.

And I would add that had these abuses been committed by a president of my own party, I would have opposed them, every bit as vigorously.

I am here today because warrantless wiretapping is merely the latest link in a long chain of abuses.

So, why are we here?  Because, Mr. President – it is alleged that giant telecom corporations worked with our government to compile Americans’ private, domestic communications records into a database of enormous scale and scope.

Secretly and without a warrant, those corporations are alleged to have spied on their own customers – American customers.