Nick Juliano, Raw Deal: Wary of making the debate between liberty and security into a campaign issue, Congressional Democrats appear ready to retreat in their years-long effort to instill some sort of accountability on the Bush administration and its enablers in the telecommunications industry for their extra-legal surveillance of Americans.
Congressional leaders have reached an accord with the White House on the update to a controversial surveillance law that essentially legalizes the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program and seems likely to let off the hook the phone companies that facilitated it.
Under the bipartisan measure, a court could dismiss a suit if there is written certification that the White House asked a phone company to participate in the warrantless surveillance program Bush began shortly after the September 11 attacks and assured the company it was legal.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), who has been among the most vocal critics of the administration's apparent disdain for the Constitution, called the latest deal "a capitulation."
“The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President’s illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration.”
A vote on the bill could come as early as Friday in the House of Representatives, which was expected to approve it. It would then be sent to the Democratic-led Senate where even Democratic foes of the measure concede it would be passed and then be sent to Bush to sign into law. (more)
Call your member of Congress and tell them to vote NO on the bad FISA deal. The main number for the House is 202-225-3121. Let Majority Leader Steny Hoyer know this is a bad idea: (202) 225-4131.