Constitutional expert Turley on FISA bill: 'The fix is in'
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday July 9, 2008

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The United States Senate is about to vote on a FISA bill that would not only expand the president's powers of surveillance over American citizens but would also forestall civil suits against the telecoms that illegally participated in past surveillance.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, substituting for Keith Olbermann on Countdown, expressed amazement at the sweeping victory that is being handed to President Bush. "I'm betting that his wildest dreams did not include the prospect that Congress -- a Democratic-led Congress -- would help him cover up his crimes," she stated. "That is exactly what the US Senate is poised to do."

In Senate debate, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) argued strongly against telecom immunity, because it would make it almost impossible to ever find out what really happened and "the American people ought to know who in the White House said, 'Go break the law.'"

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) noted that, "We're considering granting immunity when roughly 70 members of the Senate still have not been briefed on the president's wiretapping program. The vast majority of this body still does not even know what we're being asked to grant immunity for."

Maddow spoke with Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, who explained, "What the Democrats are doing here with the White House is they're trying to conceal a crime that is hiding in plain view. ... Nobody wants to have a confrontation over the fact that the president committed a felony. ... That's a very inconvenient fact right now in Washington."

"The Democrats have learned well from Bush," Turley said in amazement. "They're just going to change the rules. ... It's otherworldly. ... I am completely astonished by Senator Obama's position -- and obviously disappointed. All of these senators need to respect us enough not to call it a compromise. It's a cave-in."

"It's like all those stories where someone is assaulted on the street and a hundred witnesses do nothing," continued Turley. "In this case, the Fourth Amendment is going to be eviscerated tomorrow, and a hundred people are going to watch it happen because it's just not their problem. ... There's not an ounce of principle, not an ounce of public interest in this legislation."

Turley added that even though the telecoms could still be prosecuted criminally, it's unlikely to happen. "The fix is in," he concluded. "Tomorrow night, there's going to be a lot of celebrating among telecom lobbyists. ... What we will lose tomorrow, it's something very precious."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast July 8, 2008.

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