Friday, March 14, 2008

The Democratic House Passes a Good FISA Bill

The House has just passed the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 3773, to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish a procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, and for other purposes, by a vote of 213-197-1. The revised House legislation to amend FISA grants new authorities for conducting electronic surveillance against foreign targets while preserving the requirement that the government obtain an individualized FISA court order, based on probable cause, when targeting Americans at home or abroad. The House bill also strongly enhances oversight of the Administration’s surveillance activities. Finally, the House bill does not provide retroactive immunity for telecom companies but allows the courts to determine whether lawsuits should proceed.
The House reached what Democrats say is a compromise on the immunity provision. The bill passed Friday allows companies to defend themselves in court with using classified justifications for the warrantless wiretapping program, and it precludes the administration from invoking "state secrets" privileges. The House bill also creates an independent commission to investigate Bush's warrantless wiretapping program.

If Bush vetoes this bill, he is a cheat, sneaking liar. But, I suspect he is getting the pen out of his pocket right now.

Speaker Pelosi:“Why would the Administration oppose a judicial determination of whether the companies already have immunity? There are at least three explanations:

“First, the President knows that it was the Administration’s incompetence in failing to follow the procedures in statute that prevented immunity from being conveyed – that’s one possibility. They simply didn’t do it right. Second, the Administration’s legal argument that the surveillance requests were lawfully authorized was wrong; or public reports that the surveillance activities undertaken by the companies went far beyond anything about which any Member of Congress was notified, as is required by the law.

None of these alternatives is attractive but they clearly demonstrate why the Administration’s insistence that Congress provide retroactive immunity has never been about national security or about concerns for the companies; it has always been about protecting the Administration.” - Speaker Nancy Pelosi-

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