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Dodd: “We Say To President Bush, We Would Never Take ‘Trust Me’ For An Answer”

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"Dodd: “We Say To President Bush, We Would Never Take ‘Trust Me’ For An Answer”"

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The Senate today began debate on a FISA bill that would overhaul the rules for electronic surveillance and provide retroactive immunity for telecom companies that participated in the Bush administration’s illegal spying efforts.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) took to the Senate floor and protested the bill today, arguing that that Congress should not reward the President’s “favored corporations” for betraying “millions of customers’ trust.”

In response to the White House’s insistence that the telecomm’s actions were legal, Dodd explained, “[W]e say to President Bush that a nation of truly free men and women would never take ‘trust me’ for an answer, not even from a perfect president — and certainly not from him”:

If this disastrous war has taught us anything, it is that the Senate must never again stack such a momentous decision on such a weak foundation of fact. The decision we’re asked to make today is not, of course, as immense. But between fact and decision, the disproportion is just as huge.

So I rise in determined opposition to this unprecedented immunity and all that it represents. I have served in this body for more than a quarter-century. I have spoken from this desk hundreds and hundreds of times. I have rarely come to the floor with such anger.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/12/doddfisafil.320.240.flv]

The bill brought to the floor by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) requires courts to “throw out lawsuits alleging that telephone companies broke the law by participating in warrantless surveillance.” Dodd and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) have proposed an amendment that would strike this retroactive immunity provision “and leave it to the courts to determine whether the telephone companies acted properly and therefore deserve immunity.”

Firedoglake has more on today’s debate.

UPDATE: Feingold’s remarks are here.

UPDATE II: Cloture passes, 76-10.

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Transcript:

So here we are–facing a final decision on whether the telecommunications companies will get off the hook for good. The president’s allies are as intent as they ever were on making that happen. They want immunity back in this bill at all costs.

But what they’re truly offering is secrecy in place of openness. Fiat in place of law.

And in place of the forthright argument and judicial deliberation that ought to be this country’s pride, two simple words from our president’s mouth: “Trust me.”

I cannot speak for my colleagues–but I would never take that offer, not even in the best of times, not even from a perfect president. I would never take that offer because our Constitution tells us that the president’s word is subject to the oversight of the Congress and the deliberation of the courts; and because I took an oath to defend the Constitution; and because I stand by my oath.

“Trust me.” It is the offer to hide ourselves in the waiting arms of the rule of men. And in these threatened times, that offer has never seemed more seductive. The rule of law has rarely been so fragile.

“It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger…from abroad.” James Madison, the father of our Constitution, made that prediction more than two centuries ago. With the passage of this bill, his words would be one step closer to coming true. So it has never been more essential that we lend our voices to the law, and speak on its behalf.

On its behalf, we say to President Bush that a nation of truly free men and women would never take “trust me” for an answer, not even from a perfect president — and certainly not from him. [...]

If this disastrous war has taught us anything, it is that the Senate must never again stack such a momentous decision on such a weak foundation of fact. The decision we’re asked to make today is not, of course, as immense. But between fact and decision, the disproportion is just as huge.

So I rise in determined opposition to this unprecedented immunity and all that it represents. I have served in this body for more than a quarter-century. I have spoken from this desk hundreds and hundreds of times. I have rarely come to the floor with such anger.

But since I came to Washington, I have seen six presidents sit in the White House–and I have never seen a contempt for the rule of law equal to this. Today I have reached a breaking point. Today my disgust has found its limit.

I don’t expect every one of my colleagues to share that disgust, or that limit. I wish they did–but had that been the case, we would never have come to this point.

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