The Senate provided retroactive immunity in its compromise bill; a report from Democrat Jay Rockfeller's Select Committee on Intelligence sensibly concluded that immunity was necessary because "the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future without unnecessary court involvement and protracted litigation." The House balked.
House Democrats tell themselves they are striking a blow against the politics of fear. But only if we suffer another mass-casualty terror attack will a politics of untrammeled fear be unleashed on the land. Best to do all we can to avoid it, especially when it involves nonviolations of the nonrights of non-Americans.
It's not as though Democrats don't traffic in their own politics of fear. The hopeful Barack Obama summons a dark vision in his speeches of Americans denied economic opportunity and health care by lobbyists and callous corporations. Indeed, Exxon puts our planet "at risk." It's just that terrorists don't make his fright list. In his victory speech after the Potomac Primary, Obama warned of using "9/11 to scare up votes," and said that "we need to end the mind-set that got us into war" -- i.e., relax about foreign threats.
Naturally, Obama opposed the Senate's FISA deal, and he even denounced the telecoms that have cooperated with U.S. intelligence as "special interests." Here is a major opening for John McCain. The Arizona Republican will never out-inspire anyone, but he can lead a serious national discussion of what we reasonably should fear, and how Obama, and the Pelosi wing of the Democratic Party of which he is the soaring avatar, discount it at our peril.