BREAKING: FISA Deal
A Deal, Maybe A Good One. Thank Your GOP Representatives And Senators.
By Dan McLaughlin Posted in Barack Obama | FISA | John McCain | National Security | Surveillance — Comments (6) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Jed Babbin reported the rumors this morning and explained why telecom immunity is a sticking point, and the WSJ is now reporting ($) that in the House, at least, a deal has finally been struck to move a 'compromise' FISA bill. You should read the whole thing; here's how the WSJ describes the telecom immunity provision:
The agreement would also pave the way for [telecom] companies ... to shed the nearly 40 lawsuits they face for allegedly participating in a prior version of the NSA program... To win immunity, they would have to pass review from a U.S. District Court.
...Critical to sealing the deal was a compromise that would grant conditional immunity to telecommunications companies for assistance they provided from September 2001 through January 2007. If the companies can show a federal district court judge "substantial evidence" they received a written request from the attorney general or head of an intelligence agency stating the president authorized the surveillance and determined it to be lawful, the cases against them will be dismissed.
UPDATE: The Politico has the story along with the text of the compromise bill. The House is scheduled to vote tomorrow.
Provisionally, this seems like a win for national security and a win for the GOP, and a defeat for the far Left, the 'netroots,' and the plaintiffs' bar. The bill, if passed, will institutionalize even under an Obama Administration surveillance that has previously been conducted only because President Bush ordered it. On the presidential level, the deal sounds like one that John McCain will happily fall in with, and vindicates his longstanding position that the President, regardless of what he can do, should go to Congress for authority on surveillance. And it puts Barack Obama in a tough spot: if Pelosi and Reid are marshalling their troops behind it (even though they both personally oppose the deal), and he opposes them, he will yet again be shown to be an extremist outside the mainstream of his own party; yet if he supports the deal, he will have flip-flopped on his prior votes against FISA bills that contained telecom immunity.
More below the fold.
Here's McCain's 2006 statement urging Bush to go to Congress, and RedState's editorial. Here is Andy McCarthy's great summary of the state of play on this issue, and the McCain camp's response. And here is a roundup of the votes the last time this went to the Senate (with Obama among the bitter-enders on the far Left, as usual), and Obama's prior statement on the issue:
I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.... No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people - not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.
Lastly, lest I focus too much on the presidential race, a big round of applause is due to the House and Senate Republicans who have fought hard for this day and held the Democrats' feet to the fire.