I won't rehash what has already been written about the Senate vote on FISA. Detailed analysis, roll-call votes and what the new bill does and doesn't do are available here, here, here and here. Glenn Greenwald, as usual, has the most in-depth and insightful review and analysis.
Progressives are hurt and angry that Obama caved on FISA. At the same time, they seem surprised that Hillary Clinton didn't. I'm not. Her position on FISA has been crystal clear from the beginning and she has never wavered.
Clinton has never supported immunity for telecoms. She has also called repeatedly for greater transparency in how the program operates and requested modifications that would not gut the FISA Court. Here, for example, is her December 2007 statement, joining with 13 other senators to moderate the law and eliminate telecom immunity:
As the Senate prepares to consider legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a group of senators is urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make the FISA bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) the base bill to be considered on the Senate floor. The SJC bill makes significant improvements to the FISA bill that was reported by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It enhances judicial oversight of broad new surveillance authorities, contains protections for innocent Americans, and does not provide immunity to telecom companies that allegedly cooperated with the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. ...
Barack Obama was then one of the 13.
Here's what Clinton said in February, 2008:
As I have maintained for months, I oppose the provision contained in the bill that grants blanket retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that allegedly cooperated in the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. I believe granting retroactive immunity under these circumstances is wrong and undermines accountability. To that end, I have supported and cosponsored Senator Dodd’s strong efforts to strip this provision from the FISA bill, and was discouraged to see the amendment fail by such a significant margin.
Her statement on Wednesday after the Senate's vote is a critical summary of what is wrong with FISA and why she (and 27 other Senators) voted against it:
...For instance, while the bill nominally calls for increased oversight by the FISA Court, its ability to serve as a meaningful check on the President’s power is debatable. The clearest example of this is the limited power given to the FISA Court to review the government’s targeting and minimization procedures.
But the legislation has other significant shortcomings. ... 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.
What is more, even as we considered this legislation, the administration refused to allow the overwhelming majority of Senators to examine the warrantless wiretapping program. ...I cannot support this legislation when we know neither the nature of the surveillance activities authorized nor the role played by telecommunications companies granted immunity.
Congress must vigorously check and balance the president even in the face of dangerous enemies and at a time of war. That is what sets us apart. And that is what is vital to ensuring that any tool designed to protect us is used – and used within the law – for that purpose and that purpose alone. I believe my responsibility requires that I vote against this compromise ...
Progressives of course speculate about her vote: it was calculated; it was honest, but it doesn't undo her vote to authorize military action against Iraq; it was done to deliberately embarass Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee. There were a few grudging kudos for her stance, also.
But considering the length of time FISA has been hanging fire in Congress and the level of debate surrounding it, I can't help but think that if Hillary Clinton was going to change her position, she would have done so before December 2007. And she most certainly would have changed it in February, if she was going to, when she was still seen as the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination. She didn't.
Maybe, like Sens. Dodd and Feingold, she too has principles.