Yesterday, the Senate enthusiastically endorsed the Administration's wireless wiretapping program (and voted to stop the 40 or so lawsuits against the telecoms for cooperating with it). Now the question becomes whether members of the House will stand by their bill, which contains stronger court oversight of the spying and does not contain retroactive immunity for the telecoms.
The early signs from the House leadership have been that they will strongly oppose the Senate version. The chairmen of the two relevant committees, House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) and House intel committee Chair Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), both say they oppose the Senate bill. Conyers has said outright that he opposes such immunity, while Reyes says he needs more time to review the documents from the program "to make a determination." The House leadership has been making similar noises.
But it will indeed be a battle. The administration has put the pressure on any way it can. It's threatened to veto any bill that does not grant retroactive immunity to the telecoms. It is refusing to agree to any further extension of the Protect America Act -- which, after last month's 15-day extension is set to lapse this Friday -- and is revving up for another round of excoriating Democrats for attempting to extend that deadline while simultaneously warning what a calamity it will be if the bill does lapse.
The Senate overwhelming voted Tuesday evening to legalize President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program and grant amnesty to the phone companies that helped out with the domestic spying..
The 68 to 29 vote is a major step in radically re-configuring 30 year-old limits on how the nation's spying services operate inside America's borders. The vote also deals a severe blow to civil liberties groups that are suing companies such as AT&T and Verizon for turning over millions of American's phone records to the government, and for helping the government wiretap American's phone and internet communications without a court order.
The bill, which expires in six years, allows the government to install permanent wiretapping outposts in telephone and internet facilities inside the United States without a warrant. However, if those wiretaps are used to target Americans inside or outside of the country, the government would have to get a court order. However, if the target is a foreigner or a foreign corporation, and they call an American or an American calls them, no warrant is required.
Scott Horton: Treating the Constitution as a Doormat
Preznit bu$h at long last admitted what everyone has suspected for years -- the nation's telecommunications companies closely cooperated with the National Security Agency and his administration to implement large-scale spying on Americans.
The Asian arms race gathers speed
Brad Blog: Valerie Plame Wilson Describes Sibel Edmonds Disclosures as 'Stunning'
Not holding my breath: Democratic House leaders plan to force a vote as early as Thursday on holding Joshua B. Bolten, White House chief of staff, and Harriet E. Miers, former White House counsel, in contempt of Congress.
John Cole: There is a very real and perverse possibility that the NFL will face tougher sanctions for spying on practice squads and covering it up than the telecoms and this President will face for spying on the citizenry and lying about it.
A Bush administration plan to crack down on contract fraud has a multibillion-dollar loophole: The proposal to force companies to report abuse of taxpayer money will not apply to work overseas, including projects to secure and rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan.
Partners In Crime: The Clintons, the Bushes, and BCCI
Philadelphia Daily News
Feb 13, 2008