FISA Update: Movement, Process, Progress

By March 4, 2008Briefly Legal, Communications

From The Washington Post:

House and Senate Democratic leaders are headed into talks today that they say could lead to a breakthrough on legislation to revamp domestic surveillance powers and grant phone companies some form of immunity for their role in the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

A senior House Democratic aide said a bill could be sent to President Bush as early as next week. But significant issues remain, including those surrounding immunity, said Wyndee R. Parker, general counsel of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

It appears the movement by House Democrats toward a resolution of this issue, complete with immunity, is motivated by a mixture of serous concern about national security and the political reality of this — it’s a loser issue except among the activists and trial lawyers.

Andrew C. McCarthy writes about telecom immunity in today’s National Review Online, arguing that sensible Democrats are worried.

They know their House leadership has bungled this issue. The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a compromise measure by a decisive two-to-one margin. Yet, Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to allow the Senate bill to even reach the floor — where it would have doubtlessly passed. Instead, top Democrats embarrassed themselves by voting a couple of transparently politicized, legally meaningless contempt citations against Bush-administration officials and then . . . leaving for a week’s vacation. Now, we are only a few legislative days away from yet another recess, this one for two weeks over Easter.

The party’s 2008 prospects may hinge on a convincing demonstration of national-security seriousness. For members who grasp that, skipping town without addressing the perilous gap in our capacity to detect new terrorist threats is unacceptable.

Seems like a fair assessment, politically speaking.

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