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Saturday, March 01, 2008

FISA Update; House Deal May Provide Retroactive Telecom Immunity

According to Hold Fast, which shows the latest news from Congress Daily (subscription required, the House has come to a tentative deal which would end the impasse on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the Senate passed (with 19 Democrats voting for it) its version of and the House has yet to pass, which let it expire on February 15, 2008 to which the Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell and Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, wrote a six page letter to Congress to let them know their failure to pass the amendments to FISA harmed our ability to gather the information needed to protect America.

From Hold Fast:

This is from last night’s Congress Daily PM dispatch by Chris Strohm and Christian Bourge:

To break an impasse over legislation overhauling the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, House Democratic leaders are considering the option of taking up a Senate-passed FISA bill in stages, congressional sources said today. Under the plan, the House would vote separately on the first title of the bill, which authorizes surveillance activities, and then on the bill’s second title, which grants retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that aided the Bush administration’s warrantless electronic surveillance activities. The two would be recombined, assuming passage of both titles. In this way, Democratic leaders believe they can give an out to lawmakers opposed to the retroactive immunity provision. Republican leadership sources said their caucus would back such a plan because not only would it give Democratic leaders the out they need, it would provide a political win for the GOP. It remains to be seen if such a move will placate liberal Democrats who adamantly oppose giving in to the Bush administration on the immunity issue.

House Speaker Pelosi said that Democrats hope to have a solution worked out by March 8. But she also indicated that Democrats want language included in the bill that would clarify that FISA is the exclusive means under which the government can conduct electronic surveillance. The White House and some congressional Republicans have argued that the 2001 authorization of military force to launch the war on terrorism gave Bush the authority to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance. They also say the president has inherent constitutional authority to do what is necessary to protect the country. Senators have battled over whether to include so-called exclusivity language in their FISA bill. In the end, an amendment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that states FISA is the exclusive means for conducting electronic surveillance failed to win a needed 60 votes in a roll call that split mainly along party lines.

Basically this is a way for the retroactive immunity to get passed with the Republicans and the Blue Dog Democrats voting for it and the far left liberal Democratic politicians voting against it.

Political cover, games and smokescreens is all it is.

Needless to say, Hold Fast is not very happy about this and I would be willing to bet that not many on the far left side of the blogosphere is going to be happy about it either.

They never are when something gets passed that will actually protect America.

More from The Examiner.

Blogs talking about this already are: Protein Wisdom, Right Voices, and Red State.