The Senate version of the FISA bill — the one providing legal immunity for telephone carriers involved in the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance programs — looks like it will get approval from the Intelligence Committee, according to the New York Times.
It seems like only August that Senator Ron Wyden — a member of the Intelligence Committee — was promising at a town hall that come September he would be hot on the trail of rolling back the expansions of domestic surveillance approved by the Senate before they went on their summer break.
You’d think that someone who would say that the FISA bill passed two months ago was an example of “the continued erosion of civil liberties” of which the American people “are sickened and fearful” would have something to say about the fight going on to stifle any investigation into what actually is going on. I have no doubt he’ll vote against the Senate bill and tut-tut over how he was unable to do (or apparently say, nothing in his news releases about FISA as of 18 October) anything about civil liberty erosion, but then maybe his opinion is that what we suspect but can’t prove won’t make us as sick or fearful.
Well, kudos where kudos belong. The FISA bill passed out of the Intelligence committee on a 13-2 vote with only Feingold and Wyden voting against it.
“If this program is so legal why does there have to be this special legal protection?” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Wyden and Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis, opposed the eavesdropping bill because of the immunity provision and concerns that American’s privacy would not be adequately protected.
Wyden and Feingold nevertheless succeeded in amending the bill to expand court oversight of government surveillance of Americans overseas. Under current rules, the government can tap Americans’ phone and computer lines outside the country if the attorney general certifies that the American is believed to be an agent of a foreign power. The new bill would require the government to get a court order to eavesdrop on Americans wherever they are in the world.
But the measure may not stay in the bill: Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell objects to the requirement, according to Wyden.