FISA Fight: Capitulation Reached
Thu Jun 19, 2008 at 08:55:06 AM PDT
A final deal has been reached on a rewrite of electronic surveillance rules and will be announced Thursday, two congressional aides said.
The aides said the House is likely to take up the legislation Friday....
As of Wednesday, sources said the new bill would allow a federal district court to decide whether to provide retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies being sued for their role in the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program....One source said the federal district court deciding on retroactive immunity would review whether there was "substantial evidence" the companies had received assurances from the government that the administration’s program was legal.
That means, of course, de facto amnesty for the telcos. The federal district court would not be deciding on the legality of the program, they would be limited to determining if the White House showed the telcos a piece of paper saying that the warrantless program was legal enough--which we already know. They're going to try to justify it with that "substantial evidence" business, as if defining that piece of paper as "substantial" somehow makes the fact that they are directing the court to make its decision, regardless of the law, not a travesty.
Call Barack Obama and urge him to make a public statement reiterating his opposition to telco amnesty. His opposition could kill this deal: Phone (202) 224-2854, Fax (202) 228-4260
Call Steny Hoyer and tell him this is a bad deal: Phone (202) 225-4131, Fax (202) 225-4300
Call Nancy Pelosi and urge her to pull the bill from the House schedule: Phone (202) 225-4965, Fax (202) 225-8259
Call your representative and tell them to vote no on the FISA rewrite tomorrow.
Update: More contact numbers below the fold.
Update II: Glenn has a copy of the bill:
The provision granting telecom amnesty, Title VIII, has the exact Orwellian title it should have: "Protection of Persons Assisting the Government." Section 802(a) provides:
[A] civil action may not lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be properly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the district court of the United States in which such action is pending that . . . (4) the assistance alleged to have been provided . . . was --
(A) in connection with intelligence activity involving communications that was (i) authorized by the President during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on January 17, 2007 and (ii) designed to prevent or detect a terrorist attack, or activities in preparation of a terrorist attack, against the United States" and
(B) the subject of a written request or directive . . . indicating that the activity was (i) authorized by the President; and (ii) determined to be lawful.
So all the Attorney General has to do is recite those magic words -- the President requested this eavesdropping and did it in order to save us from the Terrorists -- and the minute he utters those words, the courts are required to dismiss the lawsuits against the telecoms, no matter how illegal their behavior was.
That's the "compromise" Steny Hoyer negotiated and which he is now -- according to very credible reports -- pressuring every member of the Democratic caucus to support. It's full-scale, unconditional amnesty with no inquiry into whether anyone broke the law.