Obama and FISA

Slate's blog on legal issues.
June 20 2008 3:34 PM

Obama and FISA

Hey a question: Why is Obama silent on the FISA agreement (unless I missed something)? He has spoken out about Guantanamo, most recently in favor of the Supreme Court's decision this month allowing the detainees there to file habeas appeals. So he's not utterly unwilling to talk about difficult questions of law and national security. Is the problem this time that the deal is being styled as a bipartisan agreement, and he doesn't want to step on it by saying otherwise? Plus just not worth the political capital? Any other less obvious explanations, or thoughts about what he should do?

UPDATE: Obama just put out a statement calling the bill " a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act." More:

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"Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.  It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses...

"It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay..." 

So yes, bipartisan agreement, best we can do for now. Etc. 

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

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