03/28/2006 01:56 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Accessories After the Fact -- "Moderates" Olympia Snowe, Chuck Hagel

Four months ago Sens. Snowe and Hagel were deeply concerned about illegal wiretapping and felt an investigation was urgently needed. Now Snowe says "I'm not sure it's going to be essential or necessary" to investigate. What's worse, they're cosponsoring a bill that would legalize this criminal activity and, says the ACLU, would violate our Fourth Amendment rights.

They're two of the Coverup Senators who would've let Dick Nixon get away with it in 1974 and are abetting W's Watergate today. Get all Republicans out of the Senate now!

Not only are they suppressing any meaningful investigation, but their new law won't make us any safer than we are now. There's no evidence - none - that the FISA court review process wasn't working.

Nevertheless, they want to make any judicial oversight of warrantless spying on Americans strictly optional, to be performed at the President's direction. You can read about the horrors of the bill here.

While there's no legitimate espionage that can't be conducted under FISA, a lot of illegitimate spying becomes legal under this bill. For starters, most journalists covering the Middle East would now become targets, since they talk to people loosely associated with terrorists. And a government that sets military intelligence spying on Quakers defines terrorism very, very loosely.

God only knows what Rovian machinations caused these two Republicans to make such a dramatic about-face since they signed a statement on Dec. 20 of last year that said: "It is critical that Congress determine, as quickly as possible, exactly what collection activities were authorized, what were actually undertaken, how many names and numbers were involved over what period, and what was the asserted legal authority for such activities."

Let's get this one straight: Sens. Snowe and Hagel, allegedly GOP "moderates," knew last December that this program was very likely illegal. They understood their sworn responsibilities as Senators to defend the Constitution, and were prepared to go against party interests if need be to act accordingly.

Now ... not so much.

Snowe and Hagel's reversal and subsequent betrayal of the Constitution makes a clear case for the artificiality of the notion of "moderate Republicans." When push comes to shove (and the GOP's run by pushers and shovers) these "moderates" will toe the party line - even if it means covering up evidence of a crime.

Their new bill humbles Kafka in the Dept. of Dark Imagination. My favorite part? To quote the press release announcing it, "The bill mandates that the President obtain a warrant for surveillance on a suspected terrorist once he has sufficient evidence to do so."

In order words, spy on people illegally unless and until they actually might be guilty of something.
There it is: your Senate "moderates" at work.

Next they'll brag about it. As Peter Tosh said, "legalize it/and I will advertise it." If the Democrats are ineffectual in their response to this bill, the GOP will paint it as further proof that they're tougher on terrorism. Repeat after me: This bill's no tougher on terrorism than FISA, but it's sure tougher on your rights.

In any normal criminal investigation, these "moderates" mighty be considered accessories after the fact, willing to conceal evidence of a crime for their own selfish reasons. Snowe, Hagel, and the other Coverup Senators are betraying their sacred duty. Their reputations will permanently carry the stain of their disgraceful behavior.

Arlen Specter has proposed an alternative bill which would require continued judicial oversight, although he has yet to clearly articulate why any change to the current law is needed. It's painful to watch his high-wire act between staying in the GOP and appealing to his Pennsylvania constituents in an election year, as today's hearings have so far illustrated. (Christy's been blogging about the hearings at FDL, too.)

Glenn Greenwald background on the hearing includes some notes on the disastrous performance of Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin during this debacle. It's true that with Democratic friends like these, the Constitution hardly needs enemies. (To quote Levin: "The question is, is it legal or do we have to change the law to make it legal?") Our only hope is that, once in the majority, timid Democrats will be emboldened to do the right thing - or, at least, to be less zealous in aiding and abetting the crime. And the perps themselves will have fewer tools in their burglary kit.

Bipartisanship is a "feel-good" concept, which is why the press loves it. But with today's cut-throat GOP tactics, it's a myth. This is why we need to do everything we can to make it clear that all Republicans must be driven out of the U.S. Senate this November. You can't compromise with these people. You can only surrender, as Senators like Feinstein and Levin so clearly demonstrate.

I rarely strike such an overtly partisan note, because the Democrats are such consistent underperformers in the strategy, communications, and courage departments. But there's no other option this year. So defeat the Republicans. It's the only way to defend the Constitution.

A Night Light