There were two big stories yesterday, one which dominated the news, and the other which seemed to slip through unnoticed by most of the MainStream Media. The one getting all the press is that Obama swept the Potomac primaries and now leads in the delegate count
The story that was eclipsed by the primaries was the spying bill vote. Yesterday, the Senate once again gave Bush everything he wanted
After more than a year of heated political wrangling, the Senate handed the White House a major victory Tuesday by voting to broaden the government’s spy powers after giving legal protection to phone companies that cooperated in President Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program.
The Senate rejected a series of amendments that would have restricted the government’s surveillance powers and eliminated immunity for the phone carriers, and it voted in convincing fashion — 69 to 29 — to end debate and bring the issue to a final vote. That vote on the overall billwas an almost identical 68 to 29.
The House has already rejected the idea of immunity for the phone companies, and Democratic leaders reacted angrily to the Senate vote. But Congressional officials said it appeared that the House would ultimately be forced to accept some sort of legal protection for the phone carriers in negotiations between the two chambers this week.
The Senate debate amounted to a proxy vote not only on the president’s warrantless wiretapping program, but also on a range of other issues that tested the president’s wartime authority, from secret detentions to wiretapping issues. The discussion in effect presaged the debate over national security that will play out this year in the presidential and congressional elections.
Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, who spoke on the Senate floor for more than 20 hours in an unsuccessful effort to stall the wiretapping bill, said the vote would be remembered by future generations as a test of whether the country heeds “the rule of law or the rule of men.”
But with Democrats defecting to the White House plan, he acknowledged that the national security issue had won the day in the Senate, even among many of his Democratic colleagues. “Unfortunately, those who are advocating this notion that you have to give up liberties to be more secure are apparently prevailing,” Mr. Dodd said. “They’re convincing people that we’re at risk either politically, or at risk as a nation.”
To add insult to injury, it appears that the White House admits that the telecoms broke the law. From a press conference yesterday with Dana Perino
Q But were the telephone companies told that it was legal to wiretap six months before 9/11?
MS. PERINO: The telephone companies that were alleged to have helped their country after 9/11 did so because they are patriotic and they certainly helped us and they helped us save lives.
They've also apparently been discussing pending litigation with the telecoms. From Raw Story
A US government attorney working for the Director of National Intelligence secretly discussed pending litigation with a telecommunications carrier, a top Intelligence official acknowledged this month. But much remains unknown about when the conversation took place or what advice the government attorney may have offered, as the Intelligence Director works to keep notes of the conversation classified.
In a filing released as part its ongoing lawsuit with a privacy watchdog, the government for the first time revealed the contents of a telephone message slip it previously withheld from a Freedom of Information Act response. A DNI administrative assistant took a message from a telecommunications company representative and gave the telco rep's name and number to a govenrment lawyer, who returned the phone call and took notes on the message slip, according to the filing.
What better way to hide the misdeeds of the government then to classify them as Top Secret?
So while everyone is talking about the amazing come-from-behind story of the skinny kid with the funny name, our personal privacy and the rule of law are both slowly being eroded.
Chip by chip, the mountain is reduced to sand...