Friday, March 14, 2008

Democrats Stand Their Ground on FISA

Congress is recessing at the end of the day for two weeks (through the Easter holiday). They were under a lot of pressure from the President to finalize the FISA legislation before they left, and they acted accordingly. Unfortunately for him, it is a better bill than the sham he was demanding-
The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives defied President George W. Bush on Friday and passed an anti-terrorism spy bill that permits lawsuits against phone companies.

But the 213-197 vote was far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a promised veto by Bush. He has demanded that any telecommunication company that participated in his warrantless domestic spying program secretly begun after the September 11 attacks receive retroactive immunity.

The battle over whether to shield companies has been a key reason why the House and Senate have been unable to agree on a bill to replace a law that expired last month that expanded U.S. authority to track enemy targets without a court order...

Just to clarify... this bill gives the government full authority to wiretap suspected terrorists under the law. It just also, you know, insists on oversight and some checks and balances, and a lot of stuff like that which this President cannot abide by. His rhetoric about this bill's passage will be characteristically hyperbolic (I fact-checked one of his recent press conferences on this- here).

Already, the verbal diarrhea is starting. House minority leader John Boehner said this afternoon that "The fact that Congress is going on spring break, at a time when Al-Qaeda and other terrorist enemies continue plotting against us, is both irresponsible and dangerous." You heard him, Congress! No vacation! No warrants! Baton down the hatches, men!

The President's latest talking point-- his previous ones have been destroyed-- is that these telecom companies (the ones that, unlike Qwest and others, went along with the administration's illegal demands after-- before?-- 9/11) deserve amnesty because they "should be thanked for their patriotic service" (just pay your bills on time, Uncle Sam) and "not subjected to billion-dollar lawsuits" (you know, because groups like the ACLU file suits for money). Seriously, this is what he keeps threatening to veto this-- super vital!-- surveillance legislation over.

Glenn Greenwald posted yesterday on the frightening implication of such an assertion.

Kudos to the House leadership for continuing to stand up for the rule of law on this issue, and for not letting the Republicans bully them again with scary rhetoric. The Senate leadership long ago caved on this issue, and hasn't looked back since. So that battle still lies ahead. But for now, this is encouraging to see.

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