A major step was taken backward – Constitutionally – on Friday when the U.S. House of Representatives voted 293-129 to pass an updated FISA bill. While nominally not granting immunity to telecom companies who participated in illegal surveillance of Americans after September 11, 2001, it literally amounts to that as final approval rests with U.S. District Courts.
All that is required of them is to “rubber stamp” approval if such surveillance was done under the President’s express authorization as demonstrated by certification from the U.S. Attorney General. Nothing more is required. A judge is free to dismiss any lawsuit. In effect, “blanket immunity.”
Madam Speaker Nancy Pelosi stayed away from this topic. Instead, she turned the reins over to House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer (Dem-MD). Hoyer was only too eager to reach a “compromise” with House Republicans.
To quote directly from Dan Robinson (Capitol Hill)- Voice of America — 20 June 2008
“Among key points of the new law, electronic eavesdropping without court approval would be permitted in what are designated as emergencies, allowing the government to submit justifications within one week.”
“It requires court permission and establishment of probable cause for surveillance of Americans overseas, and prohibits a process in which the communications of a U.S. citizen could be monitored without court approval by targeting a foreigner.”
Court permission is the operative concept here. But as previously pointed out – that is a mere formality as all that is required for approval is for the U.S. Attorney General to provide mere certification of the Presidential authorization for such activity. Nothing more. No reasons, justifications or extenuating circumstances. Just plain and simple “Presidential Authorization.” Basically, if the president says it must be done, then that is all the courts need to know to grant constitutional authority for such surveillance.
I don’t know about you but I tend to value my right to privacy, in all “effects.” Communications of a personal nature would fall under that category. Communications of American citizens to other parties should remain private unless expressly and definitively shown otherwise. Merely exercising the prerogative of the President to declare national necessity does not suffice and is but the first step toward the all-inclusive Big Brother World.
Nancy Pelosi should be booted out of office. She has thrown away any reason to continue in office as Speaker of the House of Representatives. It is total and complete capitulation in the face of a president with the highest disapproval ratings in modern U.S. history (71%) and a political star like Barack Obama well poised to occupy the White House in January 2009.
Why, Nancy, why?