Have Republicans given up on FISA and telecom amnesty?

A huge blow to telecoms, and the lobbyist-dominated Beltway process, appears likely.

By Glenn Greenwald

Published April 10, 2008 8:39PM (EDT)

I'm still traveling and so have only a little bit of time to comment, but The Hill is reporting that the GOP is de-prioritizing their efforts to enact the Rockefeller/Cheney FISA bill:

House Republicans are poised to shift their focus from national security to the economy, hoping to rally opposition to what they claim are Democratic plans to raise taxes amid the economic downturn.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to announce Thursday that the House GOP floor emphasis will transition away from passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and earmark reform to "stop the tax hike."

The article goes on to quote GOP operatives as claiming that they're not giving up on FISA altogether (and the anti-warrantless-eavesdropping ads for which $50,000 was recently raised will be running shortly). But clearly, they have come to accept that they are not going to win the fight any time soon and they are not getting any real political traction from their scare-mongering campaign. Other than AT&T, Verizon, Fred Hiatt and Dick Cheney, there is not -- and there never was -- any constituency in the U.S. demanding new warrantless eavesdropping powers and telecom amnesty. And the ongoing disclosure of still-new secret surveillance programs, combined with increasing dishonesty from the likes of Michael Mukasey and Mike McConnell, only made the prospect of GOP success here that much more unlikely.

This is the first time in a long time that right-wing fear-mongering on Terrorism hasn't succeeded. Given that virtually everyone (including me) assumed that the Congress would ultimately enact the new FISA bill demanded by Bush, it demonstrates that smart strategies combined with intense citizen activism can succeed, even when the Establishment -- its lobbyists, Congressional representatives and pundits -- lines up in bipartisan fashion behind their latest measure. And it removes the Democrats' principal excuse that they cannot resist Bush's Terrorism demands without suffering politically.

The telecom lawsuits -- which have gone quite poorly for the telecoms -- have been stalled as the courts have been awaiting the outcome of Congressional efforts to bestow amnesty. Those lawsuits ought to proceed now. Additional rulings rejecting the telecoms' claims will only further highlight the key issue here -- that these telecoms systematically, deliberately, and repeatedly broke the law in how they enabled government spying on millions of their customers, and, like ever other lawbreaker, ought to be held accountable in a court of law.

Glenn Greenwald

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