John mentioned our new coalition, Strange Bedfellows, earlier and I can't reiterate more strongly the need to fight Blue Dogs like Steny Hoyer, so i
June 18, 2008

John mentioned our new coalition, Strange Bedfellows, earlier and I can't reiterate more strongly the need to fight Blue Dogs like Steny Hoyer, so if you can donate, please do so. Think of the message it sends to Congress that we are willing to fight our own if they don't represent us and our Democratic values the way they should.

Steny Hoyer's "compromise" on FISA is odd, to put it mildly--infuriating to put it accurately. With a majority in the Senate, why the need for a compromise? Is it that Hoyer is just afraid not to be invited to any more cocktail parties by his Republican brethren? Even the NY Times calls it ridiculous. Booman:

Glenn Greenwald has been leading the charge against Steny Hoyer's FISA capitulation plan. It's very comforting to see that the New York Times' editorial board agrees with us that Hoyer's plan is an outrage:

[..]The bill is not a compromise. The final details are being worked out, but all indications are that many of its provisions are both unnecessary and a threat to the Bill of Rights. The White House and the Congressional Republicans who support the bill have two real aims. They want to undermine the power of the courts to review the legality of domestic spying programs. And they want to give a legal shield to the telecommunications companies that broke the law by helping Mr. Bush carry out his warrantless wiretapping operation.

Bingo. The editorial goes on to detail the sham more thoroughly. The big 'concession' in this deal is that the matter of retroactive immunity for telecom corporations will be decided in a federal district court rather than in the ultra-secret FISA court.[..]

Here's the meat of this issue. All electronic surveillance involving U.S. citizens must be carried out in accordance with the FISA law. And, provided that the law is followed there can be no liability for telecom corporations or anyone else that provides assistance. That's laid out here(emphasis mine):

(i) Bar to legal action
No cause of action shall lie in any court against any provider of a wire or electronic communication service, landlord, custodian, or other person (including any officer, employee, agent, or other specified person thereof) that furnishes any information, facilities, or technical assistance in accordance with a court order or request for emergency assistance under this chapter for electronic surveillance or physical search.

Good God, is this why we elected a Democratic majority in 2006? So they can continue to enable the Bush administration as more and more independent sources have verified the criminality that we've claimed correctly all along?

UPDATE 1: CQ Politics and WSJ are reporting the deal is done. Hoyer, capitulating until the end, tries to spin it:

Hoyer said that if a deal was finalized, he would support it, even though he " would not like it." He said he would have preferred the original House version of the legislation which didn't include retroactive immunity for the phone companies.

But he said that if a compromise bill wasn't brought forward, pressure would come from the Democratic caucus to allow a vote on the Senate version of the legislation which includes full retroactive immunity for the phone companies.[..]

"No matter how they spin it, it is still immunity, period," said Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group involved in the lawsuits.

Don't take this lying down. McJoan has some ideas of what you can do, including asking our new putative head of the Democratic Party, Presidential Nominee Barack Obama, to kill this before it comes to a vote:

Call Barack Obama and urge him to make a public statement reiterating his opposition to telco amnesty. His opposition could kill this deal: Phone (202) 224-2854, Fax (202) 228-4260
Call Steny Hoyer and tell him this is a bad deal: Phone (202) 225-4131, Fax (202) 225-4300
Call Nancy Pelosi and urge her to pull the bill from the House schedule: Phone (202) 225-4965, Fax (202) 225-8259
Call your representative and tell them to vote no on the FISA rewrite tomorrow.

UPDATE 2: Empty Wheel has more:

As Glenn says, the "immunity" provision here sucks ass. Here's the operative language:

[A] civil action may not lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be properly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the district court of the United States in which such action is pending that


(4) the assistance alleged to have been provided by the electronic communication service provider was --

(A) in connection with intelligence activity involving communications that was (i) authorized by the President during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on January 17, 2007 and (ii) designed to prevent or detect a terrorist attack, or activities in preparation of a terrorist attack, against the United States" and

(B) the subject of a written request or directive, or a series of written requests or directives, from the Attorney General or the head of an element of the intelligence community (or the deputy of such person) to the electronic communication service provider indicating that the activity was (i) authorized by the President; and (ii) determined to be lawful.

Contrary to what the WSJ suggested, this provision puts no restrictions on whether the directives were authorized by anyone but the President--all it takes to get off scott free, in this bill, is for the President to have said the program was legal, regardless of whether it was or the whether the telecoms should have questioned whether the directives were legal.

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