« Turkish Parliament Gives Green Light for Raids into Iraq |
Blog Home Page
| Stunning New York Times video op-ed »
October 18, 2007
Deal on FISA Oversight of Surveillance brings Bush a Big Victory
In what has to be seen as a victory for President Bush, the White House and the Senate have agreed on a version of a bill authorizing FISA oversight of the Terrorist Surveillance Program that would give the President most of what he wanted while immunizing some Telecommunications companies that assisted the government in carrying out the program:
The draft Senate bill has the support of the intelligence committee's chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), and Bush's director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell. Getting Rockefeller on board was key since the West Virginia Senator had been a harsh critic of the program since the New York Times spalshed details of the classified program all over its front pages.
It will include full immunity for those companies that can demonstrate to a court that they acted pursuant to a legal directive in helping the government with surveillance in the United States. Such a demonstration, which the bill says could be made in secret, would wipe out a series of pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants.
Bush had repeatedly threatened to veto any legislation that lacked this provision. Senate Democrats successfully pressed for a requirement that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court review the government's procedures for deciding who is to be the subject of warrantless surveillance.
They also insisted that the legislation be renewed in six years, Democratic congressional officials said. The Bush administration had sought less stringent oversight by the court and wanted the law to be permanent.
The measure replaces a much more stringent bill that was being advanced by the Democrats that would have left the telecoms wide open to lawsuits from advocates less concerned about privacy than they were about trying to scuttle the TSP alltogether.
The collapse of the Democratic version of the bill was a huge embarrassment for Speaker Nancy Pelosi who was outmanuevered by Republicans on the floor.
It begs the question of when Democrats are going to start wondering about Pelosi's competence. She has failed in every major battle with the White House , making her look bad in the process.