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Congress agrees to telecom immunity, other changes in FISA law

Old 06-20-08, 09:22 AM
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Congress agrees to telecom immunity, other changes in FISA law

Honestly... did anyone think that congress wouldn't eventually give in on this issue? Pathetic.

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=5210643&page=1

House and Senate leaders have agreed to a compromise surveillance bill that would effectively shield from civil lawsuits the telecommunications companies that helped the government wiretap phone and computer lines after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks without court permission.

The House was expected to pass the bill Friday, potentially ending a monthslong standoff about the rules for government wiretapping inside the United States.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the bill "balances the needs of our intelligence community with Americans' civil liberties and provides critical new oversight and accountability requirements."

The issue of legal protection for telecommunications companies that participated in warrantless wiretapping has been the largest sticking point. The Senate passed a bill that immunized them from lawsuits, but the House bill was silent on the matter.

The White House had threatened to veto any bill that did not shield the companies, which tapped lines at the behest of the president and attorney general but without permission from a special court established for that purpose, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the bill met the standards sought by Bush and that the president supported it.

Warrantless wiretapping went on for almost six years until it was revealed by The New York Times. Some 40 lawsuits have been filed against the companies by people and groups who think the government illegally eavesdropped on them.

The compromise bill would have a federal district court review certifications from the attorney general saying the telecommunications companies received presidential orders telling them wiretaps were needed to detect or prevent a terrorist attack. If the paperwork were in order, the judge would dismiss the lawsuit.

Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the second-ranking Republican, predicted all the cases would go away.

Under the compromise, the district judge would for the first time be allowed to read the top-secret letters from Bush administration officials - usually the attorney general - to the companies requesting domestic wiretaps without court orders, according to Democratic aides. Each company got around 40 such letters, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The compromise bill would also require the inspectors general of the Justice Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies to investigate the wiretapping program to determine both its scope and legality. The report is due in a year.

Those two provisions, immunity and investigation, are meant to balance two competing concerns. Advocates for telecom protection say the companies acted in good faith and that the wiretaps were necessary to avert another terrorist attack. Opponents to immunity say civil lawsuits are the best way to determine whether the Bush administration illegally spied on Americans.

Not all Democrats were falling in line with the compromise. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin said they opposed immunity. Feingold called the bill a "capitulation."

"The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the president's illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home," Feingold said.

Several privacy and civil rights said Thursday they opposed the bill. The liberal political activist group MoveOn.org was organizing a phone campaign Thursday to pressure House members to defeat it.

Sixty-eight senators were expected to support the compromise, enough to defeat any filibuster attempt. The previous Senate bill, which gave the companies blanket immunity, passed with 67 votes. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, was expected to join that group because the new bill includes a measure she championed- making FISA the only legal authority for wiretapping for intelligence purposes.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said passage of the bill by Congress was necessary before August when the first yearlong surveillance orders approved under a previous surveillance regime would run out. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment bill also would:

-Require FISA court permission to wiretap Americans who are overseas.

-Prohibit targeting a foreigner to secretly eavesdrop on an American's calls or e-mails without court approval.

-Allow the FISA court 30 days to review existing but expiring surveillance orders before renewing them.

-Allow eavesdropping in emergencies without court approval, provided the government files required papers within a week.

-Prohibit the government from invoking war powers or other authorities to superseding surveillance rules in the future.

The new FISA bill, if it became law, would expire in 2012.

Last edited by wildcatlh; 06-20-08 at 09:25 AM.
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Old 06-20-08, 09:43 AM
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Well, they kind of had to give in if they expected to get any kind of cooperation from the telephone companies.
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Old 06-20-08, 02:32 PM
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So much for checks and balances.

Thanks a lot, Congress.
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Old 06-20-08, 05:45 PM
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i'd email my congressman that i would not be supporting his re-election, but he is one of the few that actually voted against it. i guess a right to privacy is no longer needed in a "post 9/11 world." these fucking bastards in congress are the real terrorists.
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Old 06-20-08, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Iron Chef
So much for checks and balances.

Thanks a lot, Congress.
No kidding. I figured we could at least rely on a Democratic Congress to hold back a Republican President.

Pathetic.
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Old 06-20-08, 07:32 PM
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Good. I look forward to President Obama being able to tap rush limbaugh and sean hannity's phones without their knowledge or consent.

It's funny how the republicans kept pushing this, as if they would be the only people to ever take advantage of it.
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Old 06-20-08, 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by orangecrush18
Well, they kind of had to give in if they expected to get any kind of cooperation from the telephone companies.
Yeah, seems like the same thing Bush did about giving oil companies immunity from lawsuits for drilling in Alaska.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:11 PM
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Vote for change in 2006!
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Old 06-20-08, 08:18 PM
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Apparently Democrats want to give McCain a chance at winning this year.

And apparently Democrats haven't heard of the term...Verbal Warrant.

All this is, is a way to let companies like Qwest off the hook for illegal wiretapping. Any extra verbage with this bill is just extra fat for Democrats and Republicans to eat off of and bill the taxpayer.

Maybe the Democrats can take over Gitmo.
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Old 06-20-08, 09:25 PM
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Fucking disgraceful. The majority of Congressional Democrats are just pathetic.
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Old 06-21-08, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
All this is, is a way to let companies like Qwest off the hook for illegal wiretapping. Any extra verbage with this bill is just extra fat for Democrats and Republicans to eat off of and bill the taxpayer.

Maybe the Democrats can take over Gitmo.
Actually, IIRC Qwest was the only company who stood up to the President. I believe they're the reason the issue came to light in the first place because they were the first to stand up and say "ummm warrant please"
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Old 06-21-08, 12:13 PM
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Yeah, well don't believe all you hear.

Kind of an interesting pun, given this is a telecommunications company.

A lot of websites make Qwest out to be the Lone Gunman, but they certainly are not. What they did was question the legal protection clauses if they decided to do it. In other words, they wanted assurances from the US Government, they couldn't be sued.

Big difference than "standing up to the government".

But anyway, former CEO Joe Nacchio, convicted of over $50 Million in insider trading, is seen as a hero on some websites. Like this man is concerned about Americans being illegally wiretapped.

Qwest was certainly part of the three major telecommunication companies who were awareded $20 to $48 Billion in contracts over 10 years just over a year ago (March 2007), which also included AT&T and Verizon.

Source: http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/82672

http://www.whitefence.com/blog/white...of_20_bi.html:

"Although Qwest is already a leading supplier to the U.S. government, this award enables us to grow our federal business," said Diana Gowen, senior vice president and general manager of Qwest government services.

Doesn't sound like Diane is too concerned about the legalities of the Federal Government tapping consumer homes without a warrant, now does it.

----

I've dealt with Qwest. These guys are shady, even on a consumer level. They overbill, place charges on your account, and dozens of other tactics, then refer you to collections if you don't pay them for charges you never even used or were aware were on your bill. I've personally taken them to the Public Utilities Commission here in Oregon, and won a judgment against them. Unfortuantely, it still didn't clear things up entirely, but pissed them off.

Qwest doesn't like me.
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Old 06-23-08, 04:08 PM
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So wait, Bush the villiage idiot outsmarts all those smart people on the left in Congress again? Only the 50th time or so.
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Old 06-23-08, 04:11 PM
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1-party government rules again.
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Old 06-23-08, 04:31 PM
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It has to do with politics & survival politically.

It's similar to not funding the war.
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Old 06-23-08, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
It has to do with politics & survival politically.

It's similar to not funding the war.
So let me see if I get this: Republicans spend taxpayer money to stay in power even though they campaign against it. Democrats allow runaway executive power even though they campaign against it.

Like Red Dog said: 1 party government.

They should stop calling them Republicans and Democrats and just call all politicians the Power Party.
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Old 06-23-08, 10:35 PM
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Originally Posted by mosquitobite
They should stop calling them Republicans and Democrats and just call all politicians the Power Party.
Then they can release a collection of dance remixes:

<img src="http://bp3.blogger.com/_pefvlYXVDAk/RncEWl8YpEI/AAAAAAAAAuE/fohkD9GA568/s320/power.jpg"/>
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Old 06-23-08, 11:38 PM
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One Party. One Candidate.

Don't be confused or waste your time at the polls ever again!

Save taxpayer money! No need for campaigns!
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Old 06-24-08, 07:40 AM
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The problem is that the carbon blobs have become conditioned to believe that we must have a strong, powerful, do-something (nothing short of everything), heroic executive branch, and Congress (regardless of who is in control), recognizing this trend, over most of the last century has been too meek to do anything to stop it.
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Old 06-24-08, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
The problem is that the carbon blobs have become conditioned to believe that we must have a strong, powerful, do-something (nothing short of everything), heroic executive branch, and Congress (regardless of who is in control), recognizing this trend, over most of the last century has been too meek to do anything to stop it.
It is this very idea that terrifies me of what would become of our country if we have another attack on our soil, or if we have another national disaster the likes of Katrina, etc.

http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0403a.asp
Why would Hitler and his associates turn a blind eye to an impending terrorist attack on their national congressional building or actually assist with such a horrific deed? Because they knew what government officials have known throughout history — that during extreme national emergencies, people are most scared and thus much more willing to surrender their liberties in return for “security.” And that’s exactly what happened during the Reichstag terrorist crisis.
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Old 06-24-08, 10:36 AM
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Katrina is a great example. Look at much people bitched about Bush's inaction in repsonse to Katrina.

So what happens....a defense authorization bill that contained gaping new exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 was signed into law in October 2006. One of those exceptions is essentially a hurricane exception - it gives the president power to use U.S. armed forces to "restore public order and enforce the laws" when confronted with "natural disasters," "public health emergencies," and "other…incidents." "Other incidents" - isn't that nice anything/everything phrase.

So that happens and you hear nary a peep from many of the same folks who commonly bitch about how he has trampled on separation of powers doctrine.

Last edited by Red Dog; 06-24-08 at 10:51 AM.
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Old 06-24-08, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
It has to do with politics & survival politically.

It's similar to not funding the war.
Doesn't the media tell us that the american people are overwhelmingly against the war? Why would the dems fear not funding a war that the american people are overwhelmingly against?
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Old 06-24-08, 02:41 PM
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The majority of the American people are probably opposed to the war, but they don't want to see another Vietnam - as they perceived it.

They will accept opposition to the war. They will not accept non-funding of the troops.
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Old 06-25-08, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
The majority of the American people are probably opposed to the war, but they don't want to see another Vietnam - as they perceived it.

They will accept opposition to the war. They will not accept non-funding of the troops.
This is what I'm getting at. Depending on the way the question is framed by the people running the poll, they can get pretty much any answer that they want.
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Old 06-26-08, 02:55 PM
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