Buh-bye 4th Amendment ~sniff~ I’ll Miss You!

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a bill overhauling the rules on the government’s wiretapping powers and conferring what amounts to legal immunity to the telephone companies that took part in President Bush’s program of eavesdropping without warrants after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


Original DVD cover.

“Our intelligence officials must have the ability to monitor terrorists suspected of plotting to kill Americans and to safeguard our national security,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican minority leader. “This bill gives it to them.”

The Democratic majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, was considerably more restrained in his support of the bill, calling it the best compromise possible “in the current atmosphere.”

The issue has bitterly divided Democrats, as a sampling of remarks after the vote made clear. “The FISA legislation we approved gives our intelligence community the tools it needs and the public the civil liberty protections it deserves,” said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “While this bill isn’t perfect, the perfect should never be the enemy of the good. I applaud the Democrats and Republicans who reached this compromise and produced legislation that earned support from both sides of the aisle.”

But Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who heads the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, called the bill “a fig leaf,” and one that “abandons the Constitution’s protections and insulates lawless behavior from legal scrutiny.”

…snip…

The deal, expanding the government’s powers to spy on terrorism suspects in some major respects, would strengthen the ability of intelligence officials to eavesdrop on foreign targets. It would also allow them to conduct emergency wiretaps without court orders on American targets for a week if it is determined that important national security information would otherwise be lost.

…snip…

With AT&T and other telecommunications companies facing some 40 lawsuits over their reported participation in the wiretapping program, Republican leaders described this narrow court review on the immunity question as a mere “formality.”

“The lawsuits will be dismissed,” Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 2 Republican in the House, predicted with confidence on Thursday.

…snip…

The bill was supported by 188 Republicans and 105 Democrats in the House, while 128 Democrats and a single Republican voted against it. The contrary Republican was Representative Tim Johnson of Illinois […].

…snip…

The Senate Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said he would still resist the immunity section of the bill.

…snip…

Another Democratic Senator, Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, who pushed unsuccessfully for more civil liberties safeguards in the plan, called the deal “a capitulation” by his fellow Democrats.

…snip…

Perhaps the most important concession that Democratic leaders claimed was an affirmation that the intelligence restrictions were the “exclusive” means for the executive branch to conduct wiretapping operations in terrorism and espionage cases. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had insisted on that element, and Democratic staff members asserted that the language would prevent Mr. Bush, or any future president, from circumventing the law. The proposal asserts “that the law is the exclusive authority and not the whim of the president of the United States,” Ms. Pelosi said.

…snip…

Among other important provisions in the 114-page plan, Democrats also pointed to requirements that the inspectors general of several agencies review the security agency’s wiretapping program, that the government obtain individual court orders to wiretap Americans who are outside the United States and that the secret court overseeing wiretaps give advance approval to the government’s procedures for wiretapping operations.

…snip…

The proposal also seeks to plug what the Bush administration maintained was a dangerous loophole by no longer requiring individual warrants for wiretapping purely foreign communications, like phone calls and e-mail messages that pass through American telecommunications switches. The government would now be allowed to use broad warrants to eavesdrop on large groups of foreign targets at once.

…snip…

The arcane details of the proposal amount to a major overhaul of the landmark surveillance law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Congress passed in 1978 after the abuses of the Watergate era. But much of the debate over the bill in the last six months has been dominated by the separate question of whether to protect the phone companies from legal liability for their role in the eavesdropping program.

On that score, the bipartisan proposal marks a clear victory for the White House and the phone companies.

…snip…

Even Democratic officials, who had initially opposed giving legal immunity to the phone companies, conceded there was a high likelihood that the lawsuits would have to be dismissed under the standards set out in the proposal. That possibility infuriated civil liberties groups, which said the cursory review by a district judge would amount to the de facto death of the lawsuits.

Just for nostalgia’s sake:

The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

15 Comments

Filed under Chimpy, Civil liberties, Constitution, Democrats, FISA, George W. Bush, Harry Reid, House Judiciary Committee, humor, Jane Harman, John Boehner, movies, Nancy Pelosi, parody, politics, Republicans, Russ Feingold, Senate, snark, Wiretaps, Wordpress Political Blogs

15 responses to “Buh-bye 4th Amendment ~sniff~ I’ll Miss You!

  1. Alfie

    I know the answer to this already but I’d love to see if anyone wants to take a whack at it. Is having a telephone a right ? On a semi related note that hasn’t gotten the play it should have. Credit ratings and purchases. Are they really yours ? Anyway love to see any responses to the first query. Again not just out of politeness…Nonnie very interesting work.In2thefray.

  2. alfie,
    of course, having a telephone is not a right. neither is having a pen or a piece of paper or an envelope or a stamp. for that matter, owning a house or renting an apartment is not a right per se. however, that still doesn’t give the government (or anyone else) a right to read your mail or put listening devices in your home without a warrant.
    credit ratings do not belong to you, just as credit cards are the property of the issuer. i am not a lawyer, but i would have to say that once you make a purchase and pay for it, it is yours. are you referring to purchases you make with a credit card? technically, i would suppose that they belong to the credit card company until you pay them in full.
    thanks for visiting, alfie. i know that we are on opposite sides of the spectrum politically, but you are always respectful, and i appreciate that. 😀

  3. nightowl724

    I’m not even gonna say it. Everyone here knows how I feel on this subject already.

    Superb work, nonnie – as in superbly frightening and superbly rendered.

    I’ve missed everyone. I’ve been busy, and then when I did sit down to “web,” I kept having all kinds of problems with the tubes, my computer, or both. I’ll be back-commenting. I see that I misses a song. D*mn!

  4. hey nightowl! 😀
    it was thundering all day today, and the power kept going on and off. i was wondering where you’ve been.
    i originally had boohoo boehner on the dvd cover (it’s in my photobucket), but it was bugging me, so i changed it to rahm emanuel. i don’t want anyone to think that i am giving any of the dems a pass on this one. my rep has redeemed herself by voting nay on this crappy legislation.

  5. nightowl724

    This is not a good week to be a Democrat… or an American.

  6. or to make a phonecall.

  7. nightowl724

    Sigh…

  8. jeb

    Alfie, owning a telephone is not a right. However there are rights involved here. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution ensures citizens’ right to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures …”

    “Perhaps the most important concession that Democratic leaders claimed was an affirmation that the intelligence restrictions were the “exclusive” means for the executive branch to conduct wiretapping operations in terrorism and espionage cases. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had insisted on that element, and Democratic staff members asserted that the language would prevent Mr. Bush, or any future president, from circumventing the law. The proposal asserts “that the law is the exclusive authority and not the whim of the president of the United States,” Ms. Pelosi said.” This is just complete and utter BS. She is saying “Here Mr. President. You broke our laws but we are going to rewrite the laws for you and now you should follow these laws.” Right! The administration is really waiting for this capitulation so that they can get on with what they’ve been doing (possible since even before 9/11) and so that they and their buddies can be immunized. Jonathan Turley likened it to robbing a bank and then asking to have the law rewritten to make it legal.

    Let’s hope the Senate holds the line against this crap and this affront against our country.

  9. Alfie

    Well thanks for the discussion all. Nonnie the credit thing I was inching towards was Sen Dodds federal database thing that will have the government gobble up credit info. The bill also includes the fingerprinting mortgage people and some other jewels. Right- Left it doesn’t seem to make a diff. I’ll echo nightowls point. Not a good week for America.

  10. jeb,
    jonathan turley nailed it. when this maladministration doesn’t like the laws, they just ignore them/write a signing statement to say they have no intentions of following them/rely on the rubberstamp rethugs and spineless dems to rewrite the laws complete with retro-activity. makes me sick.

  11. alfie,
    i wasn’t aware of dodd’s bill, so thanks for pointing that out. the part about fingerprinting mortage people doesn’t really shock me. i worked for 2 different banks, 2 different financial processors, and the a company that services credit card issuers. before i got any of them, i was required to take a polygraph and to be fingerprinted. i didn’t like it, but i needed a job. i will have to read more about it before i can comment on what kind of credit info the govt will gobble up if the legislation passes.

  12. nightowl724

    And, how that stored credit information will be used…

    For example, people with low credit scores pay more for car insurance. Why? What’s the connection? Maybe they are actually safer drivers because they have more at stake!

    And, perhaps some of you missed this:

    The Doctor Will See your Credit Now
    http://tinyurl.com/25hmlg

  13. that’s scary as hell, nightowl! it’s not as if the health of your wallet directly affects the health of your health care, but this will surely make it even worse.

  14. nightowl724

    Well, I think it’s scary, because I declared bankruptcy last year (over my husband’s medical bills) and I have no health insurance. So, what does that make me? Dead, maybe…

    Universal. Health. Care. Now.

  15. not sure how it is now, but i remember a friend of my mother’s who would declare bankruptcy every 7 years. once she would declare bankruptcy, her slate was clean, and everyone wanted to give her credit, because she had to pay them for at least 7 years. i don’t know what the law is now and how often you can declare bankruptcy.

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