5:00 PM Memorial Day Weekend FISA post
OK, 6:00PM. OMB Watch:
CQ ($$) reports that, "Republicans unveiled their latest compromise offer Thursday to rewrite electronic surveillance rules, saying they can make no more concessions to Democrats."
Translation: They can make more concessions.
This latest proposal would establish FISA as the "exclusive means" of conducting electronic surveillance after recent news of a declassified 2001 Justice Department legal opinion.
And gawd knows what else is classified still.
Despite language in the 1978 FISA law that cites FISA as the exclusive authority governing domestic wiretapping, the 2001 opinion determined that Congress actually did not want to restrict the president's authority to conduct warrantless surveillance for national security purposes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), is now insisting on tight language in any rewrite of the FISA law to establish the statute as the "exclusive means" for conducting domestic electronic surveillance.
Good for Pelosi. (Except "establish" is wrong. FISA was always the exclusive means.)
The proposal would also allow an inspector general investigation of the warrantless wiretapping program, and allow the secret FISA court to review in advance the procedures....
Wrong. That's bulk (so-called "basket") warrants. Might as well write a blank check to whoever's writing the algorithm.
... the administration would use to conduct surveillance of international calls where one party is in the U.S. to ensure privacy and civil liberties are protected. The compromise would also give the FISA court the authority to decide whether to grant retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications companies that are being sued for assisting the administration with the program.
According to CQ, Senator Christopher Bond? (R-MO), "said the proposal has been vetted with the administration and intelligence community."
Do I hear screams of pain? No. That means we haven't cut into anything important. So what does Steny say?
And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, "We are reviewing it carefully and look forward to resolving remaining differences in the near future."
If Steny were Japanese, "reviewing it carefully" translates to "when hell freezes over." For good or ill, Steny is not Japanese. Can anyone else translate?
Except for that little matter of giving the telcos immunity in secret, the bill is not obviously insane.
Unfortunately, that is insane. Which major corporate sector colludes in breaking the law and then gets to go before a secret court to get well next?