Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced Friday that S. 2248, the rewrite of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, will be on the floor for debate Monday starting at 10 a.m. He says the Senate Intelligence Committee’s version of the bill will serve as the base text, while the Senate Judiciary Committee’s version will be the substitute. (Reid’s statement is here.)
The Intelligence Committee version, which passed on a bipartisan 13-2 vote, is the only acceptable legislation because it preserves the concept of corporations acting as good citizens in pursuit of America’s enemies. The language provides retroactive immunity for the telecom companies that assisted in what they understood to be legal surveillance of foreign communications in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Enactment of the Judiciary version — which, admittedly, faces a presidential veto — would make a mockery of the concept of an active citizenry playing a role in national security. On the other hand, it could gain the plaintiff’s bar a lot of big-cash settlements.
The issue has activated the left-wing, anti-Bush element of the public sphere far more than it has the pro-business, pro-national defense, trial-lawyer skeptics out there. The ACLU — guess they’re in the former camp — has put out a news release, and here’s the
Electronic Freedom Frontier’s Electronic Frontier Foundation’s call to action.
We’ve blogged extensively on this issue and so won’t repeat the arguments, save for emphasizing the strong, bipartisan support on the Intelligence Committee for immunity. Here is the committee’s news release, including Chairman Jay Rockefeller’s statement after that vote:
“Through our legislation we have taken important steps to restore and expand critical FISA Court review of surveillance programs,” Rockefeller said. “We also recognize that private companies who received legal assurances from the highest levels of government should not be dragged through the courts for their help with national security. The onus is on the Administration, not the companies, to ensure that the request is on strong legal footing, and if it is not, it is the Administration that should be held accountable.”
In our book, the telecom companies are to be lauded and supported; it’s the terrorists who should be under attack.
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