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March 15, 2008
FISA Bill passed by House - Bush will veto
The reform of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act that would expand the government's ability to record some kinds of communications passed the House yesterday and headed to the White House where an almost certain presidential veto awaits it.
The sticking point for the President is that the bill does not grant retroactive immunity to Telecoms who helped the government with the Terrorist Surveillance Program:
The White House immediately criticized the vote, calling it “a significant step backward in defending our country against terrorism.” The White House predicted that the measure would be “dead on arrival” when it moved to the Senate and promised that, even were it to be approved there, it “would be vetoed by the president if it ever got to his desk.” The Democrats have been under enormous pressure from the online netroots not to include Telecom immunity in any bill passed by the House. Several times over the last few weeks, such a provision was on the verge of being accepted by all parties. But outrage from the far left online community scuttled the pending agreements.
With President Bush and Democratic leaders squaring off almost daily on the wiretapping question, neither side has shown any inclination to budge, leaving them at a political impasse.
A temporary wiretapping measure expired last month. The Senate will take up the question again next month after a two-week break. It passed a bill last month that was much more to the liking of the White House.
Unlike the bill approved Friday by the House, it would give legal immunity to those phone providers that helped in the wiretapping program, and would give the security agency broader discretion in deciding how it goes about wiretapping in the pursuit of terrorist targets.
Manwhile, by many accounts, our ability to intercept and track terrorists overseas has been limited thanks to the stallng and obstructionist tactics of the Democrats.