FISA: Another Week of Inaction Passes

By March 21, 2008Briefly Legal, Communications

Good, tough editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Wiretaps and Blue Dogs,” on the House’s passage of its intelligence bill, meant only for political cover instead of legitimately providing for effective surveillance of foreign terrorist suspects:

In addition to leaving phone carriers exposed to billion-dollar lawsuits, the legislation strips away the “state secrets” privilege for any entity that cooperated with the U.S. intelligence community. What this does, essentially, is ensure that the dozens of suits already pending against carriers would, at the very least, reach the merit phase of litigation and possibly drag on for years. Such legal exposure makes it that much more difficult to gain private cooperation in national security emergencies going forward.

Another provision would create a new 9/11-style commission to investigate antiterror surveillance. Congressional committees already exist to perform this oversight, but no matter. The first 9/11 commission blamed everyone for not doing enough to fight terror. This commission would have as its main goal blaming the Bush Administration for trying to do too much.

By requiring prior court approval to gather foreign intelligence from foreign targets on foreign soil, the House measure would also further involve unelected judges in warfighting decisions. By the way, since when do foreign targets have a right to any court review under the U.S. Constitution?

The House-passed legislation may have served its narrow, political purpose for now. We haven’t seen a lot of coverage of the issue from local media outlets this first week of the Easter recess.

One more week before Congress returns. Let’s hope the House leadership is satisfied with the temporary cover and now agrees to serious discussion about what laws are really needed for effective surveillance of America’s murderous enemies.

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