Barack Obama Responds

Earlier, devil posted the open letter to Senator Obama from the Senator Obama - Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity - Get FISA Right group on, which, with over 16,000 members, is now the largest group on the site.

Senator Obama has now responded via Joe Rospar's blog:

I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to those of you who oppose my decision to support the FISA compromise.

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 responsibility

The Inspectors General report also provides a real mechanism for accountability and should not be discounted. It will allow a close look at past misconduct without hurdles that would exist in federal court because of classification issues. The (PDF)recent investigation uncovering the illegal politicization of Justice Department hiring sets a strong example of the accountability that can come from a tough and thorough IG report.

The ability to monitor and track individuals who want to attack the United States is a vital counter-terrorism tool, and I'm persuaded that it is necessary to keep the American people safe -- particularly since certain electronic surveillance orders will begin to expire later this summer.  Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I've chosen to support the current compromise. I do so with the firm intention -- once I'm sworn in as President -- to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.

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.

I learned long ago, when working as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago, that when citizens join their voices together, they can hold their leaders accountable. I'm not exempt from that. I'm certainly not perfect, and expect to be held accountable too. I cannot promise to agree with you on every issue. But I do promise to listen to your concerns, take them seriously, and seek to earn your ongoing support to change the country. That is why we have built the largest grassroots campaign in the history of presidential politics, and that is the kind of White House that I intend to run as President of the United States -- a White House that takes the Constitution seriously, conducts the peoples' business out in the open, welcomes and listens to dissenting views, and asks you to play your part in shaping our country's destiny.

Democracy cannot exist without strong differences. And going forward, some of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker. That's ok.  But I think it is worth pointing out that our agreement on the vast majority of issues that matter outweighs the differences we may have. After all, the choice in this election could not be clearer. Whether it is the economy, foreign policy, or the Supreme Court, my opponent has embraced the failed course of the last eight years, while I want to take this country in a new direction. Make no mistake: if John McCain is elected, the fundamental direction of this country that we love will not change. But if we come together, we have an historic opportunity to chart a new course, a better course.

So I appreciate the feedback through, and I look forward to continuing the conversation in the months and years to come. Together, we have a lot of work to do.

To the campaign's credit, they also have three members of their policy staff hanging out in the comments of the post including Danielle Gray, Deputy National Policy Director, Denis McDonough, Senior Foreign Policy Advisor, and Ben Rhodes, Foreign Policy Advisor and Senior Speechwriter.

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FISA: Ready to Rumble?

We've seen lots of hand wringing of late in regard to Obama's most recent position on FISA:

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) today announced his support for a sweeping intelligence surveillance law that has been heavily denounced by the liberal activists who have fueled the financial engines of his presidential campaign.

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An Open Letter To Senator Obama

From the diaries, jerome

As I mentioned in my previous post, the “Senator Obama - Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity - Get FISA Right” group is rapidly growing. An open letter was sent to senator Obama's office this morning and they are preparing a response to this.

(We continue to hear that they're working on a statement, but it's getting late, so we decided to take the initiative to make sure we have something out before the weekend.

Please repost widely! - promoted by JonPincus)

            sent by Mike Stark to Senator Obama's office and his campaign at roughly 11:45 a.m. EDT today.  also posted on the Get FISA right wiki and elsewhere)

Here is the full text

Dear Senator Obama,

On October 24, 2007, your campaign spokesman said, “To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.”

On June 20, 2008 you said, of retroactive immunity, “I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses.”

As the largest grass-roots group on your campaign website,, and in the spirit of your open/responsive government campaign pledges, we wish to share our ideas for how we may work together to further the goal of eliminating retroactive immunity from the FISA legislation scheduled for debate in the Senate next week. Although this is only one of the problems we see with legislation allows the government to wiretap the communications of its citizenry without a warrant, it’s the area we think we can help you the most.

First, Senator Obama, we ask that you make the same tools that we used to call undecided voters in Iowa and New Hampshire available for us to call our fellow citizens in West Virginia, Nebraska, Delaware, Florida and other states that have Senators committed to voting against the amendment that would strip telecom immunity. You have the tools and we have the people power. Together, we are confident we can bring Change; we can make the government listen to the people instead of the telecom lobbyists.

Second, Senator Obama, we ask that you attend the Senate debate and schedule floor time to speak about the violence done to the rule of law when Congress retroactively immunizes the illegal conduct of a special interest. We know you understand that justice should not be sold to the highest special interest bidder; we also know that you can persuade other Senators that are not so clear on the issue. Of course, if you do this, our committed members will surely capture the video of your inspiring oratory, load it to YouTube and spread your words to our friends and family far and wide. We trust in your ability to bring a new way of doing business to Washington and look forward to helping you make that Change a reality.

Senator Obama, the caption reads, “I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington... I’m asking you to believe in yours.” We’re ready to put these words into practice.

Thank you.

The 15,000+ (and rapidly growing) members

Please join the group “Senator Obama - Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity - Get FISA Right” to show your support for the effort against FISA.

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100 in 48: A Tiny "Ask" from Utah

(Bowen on ActBlue)  

On Tuesday, Utah Democrats were surprised by something many of you may take for granted, but for us was a sure sign that at least one of our congressional candidates "got it."

Via a press release, we learned that Morgan Bowen (Democratic Candidate for UT-1) had announced that if he had been a member of Utah's federal delegation, he would have voted against any bill that encouraged granting retro-active immunity for Telco's.   This was huge news for any Democrat in the state, let alone the underdog of the underdogs, so surrounded by Republicans parroting Bush's every word. But the real story behind Bowen's press release is a much grander tale than a simple announcement to local media.  

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What Does the Anger Really Mean?

Over the last several days, I've read many diaries and countless posts with a bitter, even fuming, tones toward Obama for some of the policy statements he's made. Of course everyone has their own reasons for being pissed, but there seems to be a fair bit of common ground as well. Where is this anger really coming from?

I've seen so many posts (the "I told you so" posts) in which a person who said they had supported Clinton in the primary was frustrated that the Obama-primary supporters really could not see Obama for what he was and only now realize that Clinton was the better choice. Is it fair to identify this anger at Obama's perceived shift to the center actually just residual primary anger. After all, I haven't seen too many Obama-primary supporters coming out saying "gosh, I only wish I knew this about him, I would have supported Clinton instead!." I have only heard Clinton-primary supporters saying that that's what Obama-primary supporters must be thinking, right? To be clear, I'm sure that some of Obama's primary supporters are disappointed at what they perceive as a shift, but I believe most just see him playing to one of his strengths as a candidate- his attempts at post-partisanship. Because he has highlighted that quality all along, many Obama-primary supporters like myself are more surprised by the surprise than by the supposed shift. After all, being agreeable with republicans doesn't just mean being nice to them, it means finding some common political ground, which is in the center.

Maybe I'm wrong about the misplacement of primary anger, but it sure smells that way to me. Really, I wish we, as democrats could get past it already. There's a universe of difference between Obama and McCain on crucial issues. I'm not trying to say that people voicing their frustration or anger at Obama's positions is a bad thing. It's ok, and part of the process of (hopefully) helping him hear his supporters and helping us hear ourselves. But, I do think it's unproductive to mask primary anger as anger about his current positions and therefore be super-duper pissed about something like Obama wanting to channel some money to the needy through faith-based organizations.

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