Friday, 4 July 2008

Obama Responds to Supporters Concerns on FISA

In response to concerns expressed by his supporters about Barack's position on the FISA bill, he took some time yesterday to respond in detail to those who were upset by his reluctant decision to support the new FISA legislation.

Here's a short summary of what he said about the bill itself:

This was not an easy call for me. I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power. It grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush Administration's program of warrantless wiretapping. This potentially weakens the deterrent effect of the law and removes an important tool for the American people to demand accountability for past abuses. That's why I support striking Title II from the bill, and will work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate.

But I also believe that the compromise bill is far better than the Protect America Act that I voted against last year. The exclusivity provision makes it clear to any President or telecommunications company that no law supersedes the authority of the FISA court. In a dangerous world, government must have the authority to collect the intelligence we need to protect the American people. But in a free society, that
authority cannot be unlimited. As I've said many times, an independent monitor
must watch the watchers to prevent abuses and to protect the civil liberties of
the American people. This compromise law assures that the FISA court has that

Barack also made a point of commending those who strongly oppose the bill for their activism, even though on this occasion they did not come to the same position:
Now, I understand why some of you feel differently about the current bill, and I'm happy to take my lumps on this side and elsewhere. For the truth is that your organizing, your activism and your passion is an important reason why this bill is better than previous versions. No tool has been more important in focusing peoples' attention on the abuses of executive power in this Administration than the active and sustained engagement of American citizens. That holds true -- not just on wiretapping, but on a range of issues where Washington has let the American people down.


Jim Jay said...

I thought this was excellent for a number of reasons, even though I'm not 100% convinced he was right on this.

a) he's directly engaging with what his supporters are saying and is open to criticism rather than defencive about it.

b) he is not insisting on people being his followers and agree with his every word.

c) he's not afraid to do what he thinks is right even if one section of his supporters disagree.

It shows strength I think, but more than that it shows he does listen in a way I've not seen from other Presidential hopefuls.

Obama London said...

I agree. I was also glad to read some specifics about where he thinks the new bill is stronger than the old one, which made me feel marginally more comfortable with the decision. I thought it was an impressive and thoughtful response - and it's always better to engage people directly when they have a fair concern.