Senator Chris Dodd Beats Back Bush FISA Spying Bill | December 18, 2007

Dodd Beats Back Bush Spying Bill

Mon Dec 17, 10:50 PM ET

The Nation — After waging an all-out battle against the Bush administration and leaders of his own party, Senator Chris Dodd achieved a legislative victory on Monday, halting President Bush‘s attempt to rush a Senate vote on a bill granting retroative amnesty to companies accused of illegally spying on American citizens.

“Today we have scored a victory for American civil liberties and sent a message to President Bush that we will not tolerate his abuse of power and veil of secrecy,” Dodd said in a statement distributed by his presidential campaign. “The President should not be above the rule of law, nor should the telecom companies who supported his quest to spy on American citizens,” he added.

The news was also cheered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is suing over allegedly illegal domestic spying in Hepting v. AT&T. “The biggest hero today is Senator Dodd, who recognized the profound Constitutional issues at stake in taking this key issue away from the courts, and refused to let it be rammed through the Senate without a fight,” said Cindy Cohen, the group’s legal director. “Over the holiday break we hope that many Senators will listen to their constituents who want them to stand up for the Fourth Amendment,” she added.

Halting the amnesty bill was also a victory for the netroots, which ferociously backed Dodd’s legislative strategy and pressed Harry Reid, who ultimately backed down by announcing he would delay the vote until January. Over half a million people lobbied against the bill via email, Democratic bloggers rallied support and pressed the presidential candidates, and MoveOn targetted specific Senators to back Dodd’s efforts. “No president should be able to work with corporations to break the law and then use Congress to cover up the crimes,” wrote MoveOn’s Nita Chaudhary, urging web activists to lobby Congress on Monday morning. “Holding the phone companies accountable may be the only way that the American people find out the extent of the Bush administration’s illegal actions,” she added.

While Dodd’s effort shows that a little leadership and backbone can get results, the battle is far from over. Bush is demanding that Reid get the spying bill passed — with retroatctive amnesty — in January, when the critical fight over accountability for spying could be overshadowed by a presidential campaign in full swing. The Constitution-netroots wing of the Democratic Party will keep fighting for accountability, thankfully, but it’s up to the presidential candidates and the Senate leadership to ensure that Bush does not steamroll the rule of law once again


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