Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., voted Wednesday against the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that passed in the Senate saying legislation offering retroactive immunity to telecom companies offered no meaningful change to the immunity provisions.
“I could not vote for the legislation in its current form,” Clinton says in a statement released to the New York Daily News shortly after the FISA vote.
"Any surveillance program must contain safeguards to protect the rights of Americans against abuse, and to preserve clear lines of oversight and accountability over this administration,” she says.
Clinton wasn’t alone in her opposition to the warrantless wiretapping bill that grants immunity to telecommunications companies participating in the Bush administration’s eavesdropping program.
She was joined by fellow Senators Joseph Biden, D-Dela., Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and John Kerry, D-Mass.
“There is little disagreement that the legislation effectively grants retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies,” Clinton says.
“I believe my responsibility requires that I vote against this compromise, and I will continue to pursue reforms that will improve our ability to collect intelligence in our efforts to combat terror and to oversee that authority in Congress.”
Clinton’s vote against the bill put her at odds with the party's presumptive presidential nominee, Barack Obama, who voted in favor of the bill backed by President Bush which passed by a 69-28 vote. Bush signed the bill into law Thursday.
“In my judgment, immunity under these circumstances has the practical effect of shutting down a critical avenue for holding the administration accountable for its conduct,” Clinton says.
Clinton went on to explain her decision to vote against the bill by saying congress must vigorously check and balance the president even in the face of dangerous enemies and at a time of war.
“It is precisely why I have supported efforts in the Senate to strip the bill of these provisions, both today and during previous debates on this subject. Unfortunately, these efforts have been unsuccessful,” she says.
Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says the vote showed Clinton had more principle than Obama. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who will oppose Obama in the November election, skipped the vote.
"Charting Barack Obama's reversals on this issue reads like a road map to political expediency, further demonstrating he [Obama] uses his word as a political tool, not a principled commitment,” Tucker tells The Washington Post. “However, today it appears the same cannot be said of Senator Clinton," he says.
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