This afternoon, at 12:48 PM EDT, the House of Representatives signed away our fourth amendment rights. After a year of wrangling, the Bush administration was able to convince 105 Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, to vote for this horribly flawed bill. And because the fourth amendment wasn't enough for them, they have established a precedent of allowing the Bush administration to ignore whatever other laws they please.
The biggest issue in this bill is how the telecoms are being treated. In the previous bill that the House rejected, telecommunication companies that allowed the justice department to set up wiretaps that they knew were not warranted and thus were unconstitutional and illegal were granted unconditional immunity. This time, Kit Bond, who I am ashamed to say is one of my state's Senators, was able to work out a "compromise." Instead of blanket immunity, the FISA court would be able to hear whether or not the companies were given letters in which the administration says that what they want to do is legal. The court is not, however, allowed to judge whether such a statement was legal. Because Alberto Gonzales has already testified to the Senate that such a letter was sent to these companies, the courts will only be allowed to determine whether a well accepted fact is a fact. In other words, the telecos were just voted immunity.
The precedent set is that if the Bush administration breaks a law, and asks others to aid and abet him with it, no one will face any prosecution. All Bush has to do to overturn a 220+ year old amendment is write a letter saying, "Trust me."
On a more positive note, both of the local Congressmen, my own William Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan, both voted against it. I had the pleasure of meeting both of them at the Missouri Democratic Convention and both are upstanding men that deserve the positions they have earned.
I don't know if this updated bill still needs to go before the Senate (I'm 99% sure it does), but I don't hold high hopes that it will be killed there. This leaves us only one last option - the Supreme Court. Even though Congress is stripping the courts of their rights to hear cases on this issue, because it is a Constitutional issue, the Supreme Court can still choose to hear a case. With justices like Alito who believe that since we are at war with "radical islamists" we don't need to follow the Constitution, I fear even that might not be enough.