Here is the text of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Today the U.S. Senate thirded George W. Bush's opinion of the entire U.S. Constitution (quoted in my title above; the House did the seconding last week) when it passed amendments to the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) that include a grant of immunity to the telecoms who have been violating the law, the constitution, and their contracts with their customers/citizens since 2001, which immunity extends even more significantly to the state actors who authorized -- ordered -- all that law-breaking. Worse, that grant of immunity would seem to legitimize unconstitutional claims of executive power going forward. Glenn Greenwald:
With their vote today, the Democratic-led Congress has covered-up years of deliberate surveillance crimes by the Bush administration and the telecom industry, and has dramatically advanced a full-scale attack on the rule of law in this country ...
Today, the Democratic-led Senate ignored those protests, acted to protect the single most flagrant act of Bush lawbreaking of the last seven years, eviscerated the core Fourth Amendment prohibition of surveillance without warrants, gave an extraordinary and extraordinarily corrupt gift to an extremely powerful corporate lobby, and cemented the proposition that the rule of law does not apply to the Washington Establishment.:
Greenwald also embeds Jonathan Turley's summary of what today's vote could mean and urges you to watch, as would I.
I am not an American and Lord knows I am not a constitutional scholar, but I have followed this struggle long enough to know that there was, on the face of it, no good reason at all -- on national security grounds -- to rush this amendment through. Nothing was going to happen to the oft-amended FISA, which was and continues to be a fairly conservative, somewhat xenophobic law, always very conservatively administered, massively tilted in favour of the law enforcers and against suspects of any kind. All kinds of scare-stories and downright lies have been spun about what would happen without amendment, and specifically an amendment including immunity, but those were scare-stories and lies ultimately benefiting no one but the original law-breakers, George W. Bush and his advisers, now immunized (we think) for one of the worst crimes of their long criminal careers.
(Oh -- and I guess some senators get some money from telecoms, not that the telecoms would not always have ensured that they would be safely indemnified anyway.)
On the turn, a couple of links to flesh out the background to this story: