October 9, 2007

The Surrender This Time

Democrats appear willing to surrender on FISA legislation again, as noted here Sunday. The New York Times reports today that Senate Democrats have even given way on immunity for telecoms who cooperated on national security programs with the NSA. The result could be a years-long victory for the intelligence community over the civil libertarians:

Two months after insisting that they would roll back broad eavesdropping powers won by the Bush administration, Democrats in Congress appear ready to make concessions that could extend some crucial powers given to the National Security Agency.

Administration officials say they are confident they will win approval of the broadened authority that they secured temporarily in August as Congress rushed toward recess. Some Democratic officials concede that they may not come up with enough votes to stop approval. ...

A Democratic bill to be proposed on Tuesday in the House would maintain for several years the type of broad, blanket authority for N.S.A. eavesdropping that the administration secured in August for six months.

In an acknowledgment of concerns over civil liberties, the bill would require a more active role by the special foreign intelligence court that oversees the interception of foreign-based communications by the security agency.

A competing proposal in the Senate, still being drafted, may be even closer in line with the administration plan, with the possibility of including retroactive immunity for telecommunications utilities that participated in the once-secret program to eavesdrop without court warrants.

This story marks the second appearance for the novel notion of "umbrella warrants," although the Times also calls them "basket warrants". The FISA Court would approve "bundles" of overseas communications in advance, rather than allow the NSA to do its job unencumbered. The Inspector General would perform quarterly audits to ensure that the NSA didn't violate civil liberties with its umbrella warrants, and the NSA would be otherwise free to do what it does already.

The point of the umbrella warrants is ... what? They don't ensure that the NSA has probable cause to surveil a target. In telecom parlance, the FISA Court would hand the NSA a calling card which they could renew on an annual basis, which allows them carte blanche during that period. The FISA Court, once it issues the umbrella warrant, has no real jurisdiction over the individual surveillances conducted by the NSA.

How exactly is this functionally different from what the Administration sought and received in Congress? The only real change is that the supervising officer is the IG instead of the Attorney General, which actually puts accountability a little farther away from both Congress and the President. Otherwise, the only change is that Congress has made the FISA Court a rubber stamp rather than a real check on the supposed abuse that Democrats have alleged -- without any substantiation -- against the NSA.

It's lipstick on a supermodel -- it doesn't hurt, but it makes no difference in the end. The Democrats have essentially endorsed their August endorsement of the terrorist surveillance program It's the next surrender on tap for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who should be fitted for backup lights.


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Comments (13)

Posted by Angry Dumbo | October 9, 2007 11:01 AM

The Democrats have essentially endorsed their August endorsement of the terrorist surveillance program It's the next surrender on tap for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who should be fitted for backup lights.

Exactly. Like their stance on the war, Democrats stand for reelection, and nothing else.

A party that stands for nothing but power, stands for nothing.

A reminder:

"We are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding."

Harry Reid

April 12, 2007

Posted by unclesmrgol | October 9, 2007 11:11 AM

When confronted with the need, patriots do the right thing. It's hard to have all the other civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution if you are dead.

Sometimes patriotism manifests itself in nuance. It must be galling for Pelosi and Reid to swallow their own bile, but at least they aren't opposing, solely for political expediency, what their own briefings must have told them is necessary to the security of our United States.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 9, 2007 11:15 AM

So, finally, we can now declare officially that the NSA intercepts are now no longer Bush's?

Congress has spoken. Law of the Land and all that. The Dems have even rolled back the ability of the FISA Court to exercise direct oversight. So, who is NOW responsible for the wholesale abrogation of our civil liberties?

Beuhler? Buehler? Anyone? Anyone?

Posted by Cycloptichorn | October 9, 2007 11:15 AM

Your analysis is incorrect. This bill will be vetoed by Bush, as it contains one important provision:

"requires the Justice Department to reveal the details of all electronic surveillance conducted without court orders since 9/11."

Either the Republicans will Filibuster this, or it will be vetoed; the alternative would land too many exec. branch members in jail.

The House version:

* Restores court oversight of intelligence by requiring that electronic surveillance programs be approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court
* Mandates that FISA warrants be obtained when the administration wants to undertake surveillance of persons in the US
* No retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperated with the administration’s warrantless surveillance
* Does not require individual warrants when targets are reasonably believed to be abroad
* Ensures FISA is the exclusive means of electronic surveillance and that no modifications can be made without express legal authorization.

- is significantly tougher then the Senate version.

If there's no retroactive immunity, and the DoJ and NSA are forced to turn over their records, my guess would be that many Dems would be willing to compromise on this. After all - it will be their leader who inherits the power in just about a year, something I worry about but I doubt they do.

Posted by Carol Herman | October 9, 2007 11:20 AM

In America, there are two parties, claiming to be "representational." But a strange thing happens when people go to vote.

It seems, when voters are asked their party affiliations, you get 34% claiming to be democrats. And, 37% claiming to be republicans.

So there's a whole gamut of voters out there, who basically, spit upon both parties.

Sure. You've got the Ma & Pa Kettle Show. How popular are they, now? Minows in a small pond.

While you also have Larry Craig. A putz. Whose been in Congress, now, since 1980. And, one of the things, besides his Wide-Stance, is the fact that he got to stay there. Though he's about as incompetent and dishonest as you can get.

Today, people of Idaho have to figure out how they kept picking this stinking apple. (I'll take a guess that it came from promising to break the law, and overturn the law. ROE, being the law.) And, most people being against prohibition.

I also think Nancy Reagan's ploy, of Just Say No to Drugs, was DUMB. It doesn't disappear. It was just worthless at providing any information.

And, both parties are stuck now; with very poor leadership.

Say what you will about the Bonkeys, it doesn't matter. They've been eroding their capital now for decades.

Where once LBJ, in the senate, could pretty much guarantee to Eisenhower "outcomes" he could deliver; you'll notice that Eisenhower pretty much gave the Democrats everything, and even more, than they wanted.

Bush does the same.

But Bush, who will get credit in the future, for wisely handling that hot potato "irak," still has to deal with what can POSSIBLY get done. While in Irak, the populace backed Maliki. (No, Maliki did NOT get 50%!) But in parliamentary systems, the "spoils" distribute differently.

And, it's been Bush who has managed to pull a win out of a bad situation. While the military has been given a learning curve. You'll also notice that unlike Vietnam, our military does well. Most Americans remain happy. That's where you find a 70% approval rating.

That's where you find name-calling, an abysmal approach for the Bonkeys. As if Betray-Us didn't have Wes-silly Clark puking all over the military establishment; which he once called "home."

The other thing I notice?

Gee, Condi Rice has lost altitude. Heck, Annapolis ain't Camp David.

And, by just being willing to let the bad publicity shoot out from the bad media; both Bush and Olmert may be accomplishing more than you think. And, lots more than they are given credit for.

First off. Diplomacy is a dance that goes back 1000 years in Europe. White gloved. And, rigamorol. Back when we were a fledging nation, we sent Benjamin Fanklin and Thomas Jefferson,to do this diplomatic stuff for us. They even learned a bit of French. And, they "presented themselves" to courts, without embarrassment.

What's the big catch, now?

Well. Here you have the loss of status. From Camp David. To Annapolis. AND, you have a trap, designed to call the Saudi's LIARS.

Well, that's the Mideast for ya.

While the democrats have more erosion to worry over, than the GOP.

Still? It's gonna take a lot of independents and RINO's, to bring one side to victory, in 2008. (With the handicap that both sides see ticket splitting. As congress sits on the 50/50 crack.)

By the way, all projections about what the future brings should be taken with high doses of salt.

Some day, ahead, the biggest mistakes in publishing history, will be shown to be the blindness of the commies; happy as they were enscounced in affirmative action hires.

Still, you can't go to sleep. You can't discount the PEOPLE! And, lying isn't gonna get anyone out of this box.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 9, 2007 11:23 AM

Based upon the USSC ruling on Masri, there will be no forced revelation of NSA files through the DoJ to Congress. The Solicitor General merely has to approach the USSC on the same grounds as used fundamentally on Masri. Case closed.

Posted by quickjustice | October 9, 2007 11:25 AM

With the gap in the Democrat primary widening, Hillary Clinton now feels safe in tacking right. Reid and Pelosi are merely signaling this tack, which enables Hillary to claim that she and her party are reasonable on these issues.

They're counting, as usual, on ubiquitous amnesia in the mainstream media with respect to their earlier position on these issues.

Posted by Al in St. Lou | October 9, 2007 12:50 PM

Methinks the Captain is too dismissive of the use and need of cosmetics on so-called supermodels.

On the issue at hand, I sure hope codewarrior is right, and I'm certain that quickjustice is correct.

Posted by Cycloptichorn | October 9, 2007 1:37 PM


You're a little behind the times with this:

"It seems, when voters are asked their party affiliations, you get 34% claiming to be democrats. And, 37% claiming to be republicans."

This is factually untrue, though in the late 90's and early 2000's it was true. Not surprisingly however 6 years of crappy management by the Republicans have shifted the self-identification to a higher percentage of Dems then Republicans; per gallup's latest, when asking independents which way they 'lean,' the numbers are 50%-40%. Good luck winning elections with those odds.

Posted by kingronjo | October 9, 2007 9:10 PM

the MSM- al-Reuters titles it "Democrats propose safeguards in Bush's spy program- is spinning furiously that this bill is everything and a bag of potato chips for the Dems. Not even good ol' One Eye buys into that crap, but that is because s/he reads. To the average American who has no clue all he sees is that title and thinks,

"yep the bad Republicans have been put on a leash by those brave Dems, thank ummmmmm, not God, but something, for those stouthearted souls, Harry and Nancy."

Posted by whippoorwill | October 10, 2007 7:46 AM

Captain Ed

You shouldn't always believe what you read in the paper. Why don't we wait and see what actually happens. It's funny, if they do what Bush wants then they are surrender monkeys, and if they resist Bush's power grabs their terrorist appeasers. I guess there's nothing dems could do to please you.

Posted by Al in St. Lou | October 10, 2007 10:19 AM

Wow, King Ronjo found the nail and hit it on the head! Just look at what the MSM has wrought. I know a lot of socially conservative Midwesterners who simply don't trust Republicans because they do trust the NY Times and The New Yorker.

Posted by kingronjo | October 10, 2007 6:03 PM

Hey Al in flyover country,

they may not trust the NY Times (I hope) but they trust their local papers (those who still get them, of which there are still quite a few) and their local anchor people. You know, those local stations that don't have the wherewithal to fund DC bureaus and London bureaus and Baghdad bureau's, etc, but sign on to news operations like AP, Reuters, CBS and yes, the NYT's, for there non-local coverage.

Ummm, I hope you knew that or everything the Dems say about the rubes in 'Jesusland' I might have to re-think.

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