It looks like House Democrats will let tomorrow night’s deadline pass without acting on the Senate’s FISA with telecom immunity monstrosity. That means it the broad spying powers approved last August would expire. Bush, of course, cannot resist scaring the folks.
At a morning appearance in the Oval Office, President Bush pressed the House to adopt quickly a plan the Senate approved on Tuesday to broaden the government’s spying powers and give legal immunity to telephone companies.
The plan is essential, Bush said, because terrorists are planning attacks on American soil “that will make Sept. 11 pale in comparison.”
Really? And how, pray tell, does Bush know this? And if he knows this, why isn’t he using the tremendous resources of the federal government to stop the evil terrorists? Or is he just lying again? Or is he predicting another inside job? No matter which way you slice it, the man does not have the interests of the American people in mind.
Bush maintained yesterday that letting the broadened surveillance powers lapse “would jeopardize the security of our citizens.”
Democrats insisted that a lapse would have no real effect.
The expiration of the powers “doesn’t mean we are somehow vulnerable again,” said Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democrat of Texas and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
The lapsing of the deadline would have little practical effect on intelligence gathering. Intelligence officials would be able to intercept communications from Al Qaeda members or other identified terrorist groups for a year after the initial eavesdropping authorization for that particular group.
If a new terrorist group is identified after Saturday, intelligence officials would not be able to use the broadened eavesdropping authority. They would be able to seek a warrant under the more restrictive standards in place for three decades through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Maybe next week they’ll discover some ‘new’ terrorist group out of Libya, but then they would be forced to use the ‘restrictive’ FISA standards that worked just great for over thirty years. Oh well.
Bush accused the Democratic-led House of needlessly prolonging the debate at the expense of the country’s safety.
“At this moment,” he said, “somewhere in the world terrorists are planning new attacks on our country. Their goal is to bring destruction to our shores that will make Sept. 11 pale by comparison.”
To stop an attack, he urged, Congress must act immediately to strengthen the eavesdropping.
Somewhere in the world? How about Dick Cheney’s office. Bush’s message bears a striking resemblance to blackmail.
In the House, which passed a more restrictive surveillance plan in November that intentionally left out protection for the utilities, Democratic leaders were not swayed.
“The president’s presentation this morning was, I think, basically dishonest,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, the majority leader.
Intelligence officials could continue intercepting suspect communications even if the deadline passes, Hoyer said. In pushing so hard for immunity for the utilities, he added, the Bush administration is “very nervous about what might be disclosed” if the lawsuits against the companies are allowed to continue.
“To some degree, therefore, I think it is a cover-up,” Hoyer said.
That’s right. I’m pleasantly surprised that the House has shown some backbone here. Scrappy is good.
Here’s the bottom line. Bush and Cheney have been telling us that we needed to give up our civil rights and privacy in exchange for protection. So our elected representatives, in their wisdom, handed over our civil rights. So where’s our protection?
We already paid, but Bush and Cheney want that last two cents or the whole thing is off. They’re nothing but a bunch of mobsters.
And by the way, look at the grim faces in the picture. Aside from Henry Paulson (next to Pelosi), they all look like they’re paying respects at a wake. The sign should read Burying Our Economy.