Follow the Bouncing FISA Ball

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The House Democrats' version of the FISA bill has passed in a more or less party-line vote. The key difference: No immunity for telecom companies that participated in the program.

The House version provides the intelligence community with more than enough tools to adequately monitor terrorist activity, Holt said, before slamming the "relentless drum beat of propaganda … orchestrated by the administration."

Rep. Ed Royce, a California Republican, was not convinced.

"We're going to end up in a circumstance here where for the first time, frankly, this refusal to protect our telecom companies … will end up stopping the intelligence professionals from conducting surveillance of foreign persons in foreign countries," Royce said. "Radical jihadists are physically dispersed, but they're united through the Internet."

Much more reason on FISA here.

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  1. And, through some sort of bi-cameral fooferall, the Senate can’t amend the amended version of their bill, that the House just sent back. They can only vote up or down. So no re-inserting telecom immunity.

    Do you think Pelosi and Reid had this plotted out from the beginning?

  2. The terrorists have won.

  3. They’ve already demonstrated they don’t really care about the old law, so why do they keep acting like they care about the new law?

  4. “Radical jihadists are physically dispersed, but they’re united through the Internet.”

    Ban Internet! It unites teh terrorists!

  5. Since the Dems are doing this at the behest of the plaintiff’s bar, I think its a great example of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

  6. All telcoms, wire/wireless/cable/whatever, were initially bound by CALEA to not only cooperate but to build in worm holes to their systems. At no time did FISA requirements impede the watchers from watching.

    Reports on something called ECHELON had our watchers contracting with ‘allies’ such as UK and Australia, to circumvent prohibitions on domestic (CONUS) taps. FISA was effectively evaded.

    Given these past and likely still extant exercises in spying, why do PATRIOT and PROTECT AMERICA demand universal warrantless authority? What we know of FISA shows a court that rarely denies a warrant.

    Or is that answer considered SENSITIVE SECURITY INFORMATION a mere chattel taxpayer may never know?

    (America is at war with Iraq; America has always been at war with Iraq)

  7. “Radical jihadists are physically dispersed, but they’re united through the Internet.”

    Once again, CounterStrike is to blame for all that is evil.

  8. According to U.S. Code, telecom companies already have immunity, said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.

    “The only question is, do they have their day in court to say that they have immunity?” she asked. “This bill provides for that. I think the administration is more concerned about their liability than the phone companies.”

    So, um, is this all about creating lawsuits against the telecoms for the purpose of skewering the Bush administration? That’s what it sounds like to me.

  9. Good Lord, can’t be holding the government accountable!

    Yes, this about allowing lawsuits to proceed against the telecoms for their illegal, Big Brother behavior, so that they’ll flip on the high government officials who conceived of and ordered the crimes.

    I believe the telecoms should be given immunity.

    By the Special Prosecutor.

    In exchange for their testimony.

    And that fact that the bill will hurt the Democrats’ political opponents? Good. That’s how an adversarial system, or even just a checks-and-balances system, is supposed to work.

  10. Ah, joe. Thanks for the answer, in your usual smug, self-righteous fashion.

    I just couldn’t understand why there would be so much opposition on this one area of the legislation if the telecoms allegedly already have immunity. Confusing. Unless the real purpose is to go after your political opponents.

    Yup, it’s politics. Thanks for clearing that up.

  11. joe | March 14, 2008, 4:43pm | #

    And, through some sort of bi-cameral fooferall,…”

    joe, I took the fambly to the zoo last weekend. we saw some camerals. no fooferall yet. it maybe too early in the spring.

    Oh, the one, she looked kinda butch, but I cain’t tell ya if she was bi.

  12. I believe the telecoms should be given immunity.

    By the Special Prosecutor.

    In exchange for their testimony.

    I’m with joe on this one. My fear is that the Democrats are tapping into some kind of anti-corporate sentiment, deferring the blame from the government to the telecoms. Hooray! Verizon pays $120 million in class-action suit! We won!

    That’s not what I want, or care about. I want the agency which forced the telecoms to reveal this information.

    The government wanted to take my information, and it required a willing and receptive corporation. I’ll bet that a lot of us would become willing and receptive if threatened by the government. And besides, the way I understand NSL’s to work, they probably had no choice. So I’m very reluctant to blame the corporations for anything, except maybe complying too quickly.

  13. “””I believe the telecoms should be given immunity.

    By the Special Prosecutor.

    In exchange for their testimony.”””

    I’m with joe on this one too.

    “”So, um, is this all about creating lawsuits against the telecoms for the purpose of skewering the Bush administration? That’s what it sounds like to me.”””

    Let me guess, that’s what it always sounds like to you? Saying something bad about the government = antiBush?

    This is not about war time authority, anti-terrorism, or Bush. This issue is much larger. The real question is if government should have that much unchecked spying authority over its citizens. Our founding fathers, the Constitution, and the spirit of our nation say no. Why should I take the word of a few people in government who say it’s ok when so much else rich in American values says otherwise?

    Would not good citizen would take the word of the founding fathers, the Constitution, and the spirit of our nation above politicians and their gamesmanship? No single politician needs pointing out.

  14. joe,

    I’d like to think that it was always planned out this way, but there have been too many close votes, and Senate procedures are sufficiently arcane that you should never assume anything until it passes. I mean, would it really shock you if Robert Byrd and Ted Stevens found a way to tuck some pork into this allegedly amendment-proof bill?

    Besides, while I salute them for this achievement, the bill will presumably be vetoed. And we have to see what happens after that. I still fear some kind of capitulation after a few more rounds of back and forth. But I hope I’m wrong.

  15. Yes, Lurker, if you don’t like Big Brother listening on your phone, you are Teh Partisan.

    You know what? Fine. Opposing this horseshit and wanting to see the guilty parties held accountable is, like, totally a Democrat thing.

    Hear that, everybody? It isn’t just me saying this. Only Democrats want to see government officials who abuse people’s liberty held to account! Even people who hate me admit it!

  16. Thank you, TrickyVic, Much better put than my effort.

    thoreau,

    I mean, would it really shock you if Robert Byrd and Ted Stevens found a way to tuck some pork into this allegedly amendment-proof bill? LoL! I’m sure they’ll be flying people out from West Virginia to demo that room in AT&T’s building.

    You’re probably right, this wasn’t a grand plan. It’s a just a willingness to do nothing and a recognition that this fight helps them.

  17. I believe the telecoms should be given immunity.

    By the Special Prosecutor.

    In exchange for their testimony.

    It’s late and I’m half drunk, but joe’s right. The telecom companies had all kinds of duties. Duty to shareholders, duty to customers, and not one of them involved rolling over when some fed waved a badge at them. Fire up the lawsuits and tell me where I can donate to the legal fees.

  18. This is such a naked attempt at a cover-up, I can’t believe Bush has the audacity to say not having retroactive immunity for the telcoms “dangerous to our national security.” Unbelievable..

  19. The Democrats gave us warrantless searches of our banking transactions and then exempted the banking industry from legal liability for disclosure of such transactions to government agencies, including the POH-leece. How is the telcom industry different? Joe? Anybody?

    For the record, I don’t think the telcoms should get immunity, but there is a really thorny issue at work here.

    Your government put the arm on the telcom industry. Sure, they should have told them to pound salt, but it does make it difficult to do so when you’re dealing with an agency filled with somebodies like say, Spitzer, who can legally piss in your Cheerios and make your life difficult.

  20. How is the telcom industry different? Joe? Anybody?

    1. Their actions weren’t legal.

    2. The telecoms DO have immunity under the law – if they can demonstrate a good-faith understanding that their actions were legal.

    Your government put the arm on the telcom industry. And if the telecoms can show that to be the case, they are in the clear.

  21. Their actions weren’t legal.

    Yes, but if you count the 4th Amendment neither are the banking industry’s actions. I know, that’s almost like invoking the tax protest argument that Ohio couldn’t have ratified the 13th Amendment cuz technically it wasn’t a state.

    The problem is that the Patriot Act is a billion pages of unintelligible gobbledegook and I don’t think there is anybody at ATT that is sharp enough to definitively say that the warrantless taps were illegal. Especially when you have the government boys in pinstriped suits explaining to you how it certainly is technically legal to monitor conversations by phone when one party isn’t a US citizen and doesn’t live in the US. I mean, those guys were only listening to one side of the conversation, the foreign side.

  22. TWC-

    You’re right that most AT&T employees probably can’t tell what’s legal and what’s illegal. But the more expensive lawyers probably can do a decent job of it, and if the feds are demanding something that involves expense and hassle I’ll bet that the more expensive lawyers can come up with a way to argue against it.

    Why didn’t they? Probably because the phone companies wanted federal contracts.

  23. TWC – AT&T doesn’t employ herds of lawyers to answer exactly that question? Even if their in-house lawyers couldn’t figure it out, smart managers would do one of two things:

    1. Pay other lawyers to consult, so at least they’d have a plausible defense

    2. get the US government to state in writing that the telecom company is following the law

    then they’re free and clear

  24. They want federal contracts, and they also don’t want to be treated like Qwest or Worldcom: “Don’t want to play along? OK, then we’ll see if your accounting practices don’t have any holes in them. Hope your CEO, CFO, and directors don’t mind decades in prison.”

    Remember- there are no innocent men. The vast web of mutually contradictory civil and criminal statutes guarantees that.

  25. Remember- there are no innocent men. The vast web of mutually contradictory civil and criminal statutes guarantees that.

    Absolutely correct. If you atren’t a felon, your wife, child or mother is. That’s why joe’s corrct on this. As Client #9 proved, any corporation can be shook down or face malicious prosecution. I want sworn testimony about the government officials who initiated this violation of peoples rights. Given immunity, the telecoms will never provide it.

  26. I get TWC’s point about the nosiness of the government in banking transactions, all of it legal. The law is messed up.

    But there’s another point here: we can’t have people working for the government violating the law under color of their office. Especially when they cooperate to do it, especially in an area like domestic espionage.

    That way lies madness.

  27. The House passed its own version of FISA. Are you enjoying the deadlock? So are the terrorists.

    What is this garbage? Reason wants to get in on the fear mongering? Here’s your answer David… YES, I am estatic over the deadlock, because this president has shown absolute disdain for our Constitution.

    How about this… Our country is ruled by laws, and if you break them, you are prosecuted. I’m so sick of immunity, pardons, and bail outs for the well connected, while those who can’t “lawyer up” go to jail for dimebags.

    If you are afraid of terrorists, duct tape your windows, wet yourself, then go hide under your bed. Or go to RedState. Same difference

  28. Scooby said it perfectly @ 1:10, but that was what I was getting at.

    Aside from the moral and ethical, I’m not convinced that gill net trawling through billions of phone conversations is particularly productive anyway. But then I’m pretty skeptical of the value or veracity of intelligence gathering anyway

  29. R C Dean | March 14, 2008, 4:48pm | #

    Since the Dems are doing this at the behest of the plaintiff’s bar, I think its a great example of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

    The cases against the Telecoms are being led by the ACLU and the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

    So, no.

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