Skip to comments.Bush's phone immunity bill wins Senate vote
Posted on 12/17/2007 5:08:20 PM PST by xcamel
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's demand for immunity for telephone companies that participated in his warrantless domestic spying program won an initial victory on Monday in the U.S. Senate.
On a vote of 76-10, far more than the 60 needed, the Democratic-led Senate cleared a procedural hurdle and began considering a bill to increase congressional and judicial oversight of electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists.
It includes a provision to grant retroactive immunity to any telecommunications company that took part in Bush's spying program -- surveillance without court warrants of e-mails and telephone calls of people in the United States -- begun shortly after the September 11 attacks.
Nearly 40 lawsuits have been filed accusing AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Nextel Corp. of violating U.S. privacy rights.
Backers of immunity, who include some Democrats as well many of Bush's fellow Republicans, contend companies should be thanked, not punished, for helping defend the United States.
But civil liberties advocates and a number of Democratic lawmakers argue the courts should determine if any company violated privacy rights of law-abiding Americans.
Democrats vow to offer amendments in coming days to remove the immunity provision while backing a number of proposed new civil-liberty safeguards that enjoy broad support.
Sixty votes will likely be needed to prevail on any such immunity amendment in the 100-member Senate. "It's going to be an uphill battle," a Democratic aide said.
Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, interrupted his long-shot presidential campaign to return to Washington to help lead the charge against immunity. "For the last six years, our largest telecommunication companies have been spying on their own American customers," Dodd said.
"That decision betrayed million of customers' trust," Dodd added. "But was it illegal? I don't know. And if this bill passes in its current form, we will never know."
The White House said in a statement, "Providing liability protection to these companies is a just result" and warned that allowing litigation "risks the disclosure of highly classified information regarding intelligence sources and methods."
The House of Representatives last month defied Bush and refused to shield phone companies from lawsuits. Both chambers would have to agree to immunity before it could be granted.
The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requires the government receive the approval of a secret FISA court to conduct surveillance in the United States of suspected foreign enemy targets.
But shortly after the September 11 attacks, Bush authorized warrantless surveillance of communications between people in the United States and others overseas if one of the parties had suspected ties to terrorists.
Critics charged that Bush violated FISA, but he argued he had the war-time powers to do so. In January, Bush put the program under FISA's authority. Terms remain secret.
In August, Congress bowed to Bush's demands and expanded U.S. power to conduct surveillance without a court order.
The Senate bill would provide new protections of civil liberties, such as requiring tougher congressional and judicial oversight.
(Editing by Patricia Zengerle and David Wiessler)
Dingy said a little while ago that he intends to table the bill til January.
TELCOs win the immunity challenge. Good for them.
Damn it, these lefties make me sick. Let them live in the world of their making for a week. They'd be begging the Marines to do anything to save them.
Then the line on the phone burned up like a fuse on a stick of .....
Luckily there was a cell phone to call and complain over.
Dead Lines.......But still like 'em.
Editing by Patricia Zengerle and David Wiessler
Dear Pat and Dave,
If you could for a moment put aside your hatred for a moment and assume the responsibilities of what is presumed when you tag yourself as editors.
Whom you refer to as Bush is the President of these United States, hence, one would think that in the editing process you would have inserted the title President in front of Bush.
Reuters, you are a despicable news (dis) organization.
No bias at al-Reuters; none at all.
They have won nothing, unless this immunity becomes law. San Fran Nan's House must still approve. The House leadership is beholden to the left wing blogosphere.
Why not let the courts decide if privacy rights have been violated? Courts ought to adjudicate the constitutionality, anyway.
I hope they do stop it. I'm not against the monitoring of terrorist activity. I am however against the DOJ having the power to listen in to anyones communications including mine or your without obtaining a probable cause court order first. No I do not trust the DOJ.
Obtaining such does not mean the suspect must be notified. I think I'll file this thread away and see how quick the supporters of this change their minds if say Hillary wins? Does anyone want a DOJ ran by the likes of her with this type authority? I don't sure. The DEM's have better than a 50% chance of a two house and white house majority. Think people think. It's not about a Bush victory it is about surrendering our own rights.
I'm thinking of a certain website (see tagline) where the server is going to melt with the publication of this news.
nothing would make me happier...
well... almost nothing...
Because in the process the methods and procedures get disclosed.
We would need it more than ever.
Ok I'll play along. Now care to explain to me how her AG is gonna stop her from using these powers for her own purposes? Will the FBI director? Did everyone in this forum forget what happened between 1993 and 2001 with abuses of power. No security NONE is worth the price of giving up rights and freedoms across the board.
There are some noted exceptions such as persons in DOD jobs who in the past 65 years on their own gave up rights for such things as the Manhattan Project. That was their choice however.
The WOT has been used by Bush to do everything the man can think of then some. We survived as a nation 200 plus years without this insanity of surrendering rights for security. You want security against terrorism? Arm citizens even on commercial planes. Is Bush gonna allow it? No. Not even the plane crews have gotten that far now have they? WOT my eye!
The biggest threat to us now is the ones we are allowing to shred The Constitution of the United States and create Faux programs, agencies, and laws outside the bounds of the Constitution. Even Liberals will cheer it on.
The biggest act and the most important one which has stopped terrorist attacks has not been new laws or programs. It happened on 9/11 in the skies over Pennsylvania. That is how Americans must deal with terrorist threats. Not by fear or surrendering rights and freedoms for security it is a poor deal with the devil and he still calls the dance.
I heard Senator Sessions speak very eloquently on this bill. It is worth hearing again if cspan should ever replay it.
What about all of the other plots which have been broken up since?
I think your own argument destroys itself. If Clintons didn’t act within the law then why worry about what the law says?
You and me both. I am amazed at the knee-jerk support of this seen on this forum.
Tom Daschle wants to talk to you.
I view all legislation through the prism of “what would the socialists do with this law”.
What our current President will do with it is irrelevant. He would not abuse it, because he is a true, loyal American who wishes to defeat utterly those who would see our citizens dead in the streets.
But I see alot of anti-American politicians who would use that sort of power to imprison real American patriots who oppose their socialist agenda.
Which is why we must severely limit the power we give the government. What would Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid do with such power?
In the same vein, we should ban guns so criminals don't use them.
I think you are right. I think Dodd and Feingold (won over Reid) this by not allowing a vote and allowing the”base” to hound their Senators over the break and to allow the Dems to round around this issue.
pezhead’s website (think Dodd’s debate clock)
“I thought you might be interested to read some of the statistics for hat people have done through our site to lobby the Senate to stop retroactive immunity.
11,300+ people emailed the Senators (16,000 people visited the page, a 75% follow through rate)...
506,000+ emails were sent to the Senate...
5,700+ comments were submitted through the website (350+ were posted on Twitter) in 7 hours...”
-don’t know what “twitter” is however.
Well conservatives have given up on asking Republicans to limit government as long as they're in control. It's evident after 6 years of this crap they toss out the word 'safety' and every Republican (well almost every Republican) will roll over and beg the Executive Branch for another opportunity to sell the citizens of the respective states out.
My understanding is they are not listening in on your calls - they are filtering call records and then listening in on international calls where one end is connected to a suspected terrorist. So to me comments like yours represent kneejerk support to paranoid privacy concerns. Depends on your point of view I suppose.
Again this is foreign-to-domestic calls the foreign calls being from known or (yes) suspected terrorists and generally are from terrorist-comfortable nations. I understand distrust for big brother having access but what in God’s name are we supposed to do? Go through a probable cause hearing for every suspect and by that time they could have changed disposable phones? There is no perfect answer but to not do any monitoring is outlandish.
As far as the likes of Hillary getting in again this is tailored towards foreign-to-domestic. Not the other way around where a warrant is necessary as far as I understand.
What about them? As long as this nation has existed there has been such threats. In the mid 1970's a man threatened to crash a commercial airliner into the Oak Ridge Nuclear Weapons facilities. Did we shut down the nation that day? Did citizens scream we need a Department of Homeland Security and Patriot Act?
Here's you one better and true as well. About 20 miles upstream from Oak Ridge is Norris Lake built in the 1930's. It was a key power producer as well as several other dams for the Manhattan Project downstream. Now even in the early 1940's some considered the idea that a German or a Nazi sympathizer would commandeer a plane laden with explosives and crash it into the dam possibly flooding Oak Ridge. All though most persons did not have a clue as to what the city was anyway. As critical as that project was the only ones who's rights and freedoms were compromised were the ones who volunteered to work there of there own free will.
You want to tell me about the WOT when that city now is saturated with illegals from Latin America and China nationals working in or near sensitive DOD facilities? Where is Mr Bush? Eight years ago there were not any illegals in the city and few China nationals as well.
Below the dam and I think the foundation still exist today for machine gun placements. We had programs in the 1970's that worked against the terrorist of the day namely hi-jackers. Remember them? I do. I remember solutions such as Sky Marshals instead of hours of waiting to get on a plane. From 1976-1980 I could board a plane in 15-20 minutes including the ticket purchase. It was more or less shut down then put back into operation after 9/11. It was doing good till some idiot wanted some publicity and let their training be filmed.
Don't tell me our government is all that concerned about the WOT when anyone from any nation can bring in anything to both our ports and across our southern border. Don't tell me about the WOT when we have a Pearl Harbor type scenario quite possible and no means to ever recover thanks in part to Bush trade policies with China.
But like I said though. I am not against monitoring suspected terrorist communications. However I think a court order should be needed to do so. If the judge leaks? Remove him from the bench and put his hide in federal prison. I am against wholesale databases as well that ones such as former AG Alberto Gonzales called for.
I'll go you one better. I say shut down DOJ foreign intelligence all together. Give it to the real experts to handle instead who can process it with far greater accuracy and act on it's value This would also have far greater accountability. The DOD hint hint.
Well before Bush we could have put them in prison now couldn't we? No indeed we couldn't. We couldn't even remove them thanks to some DEM and GOP senators a few of whom are now considered so beloved statesmen by their party that they are deemed worthy by some to be POTUS.
All legislation should be sifted through two filters.
1st Is it Constitutional? Does it adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of the document?
2nd How can this law be misused? What would Hillary do with this law?
Not a whole lot of proposed legislation passed both tests.
If a DEM POTUS had done it they would be screaming for impeachment. I'm not amazed anymore just disgusted with party over our Constitution and nation types.
It is not paranoid privacy concerns. DO you know anything about traffic analysis?
If the government has an articulable need to track someone through electronic means, let them shop it to a judge. G-d knows there are enough of them around that will sign any paper put in front of them if the magic words of "terrorism" or "drugs" is mentioned. I'm sick of the government coming up with yet more ways of avoiding the precepts of due process and judicial oversight. I don't care if the jackboot wears an (R) by his name or a (D). It is never a good idea to give government power without accountability. We know they will abuse it. Every time.
Yeah well for 135 years we didn't have a phone in every house and for 215 years we didn't have cell phones. Now we not only have cell phones outnumbering landlines but throw away phones available in every community.
When foreign calls from suspected terrorists in terrorist-harboring countries call we don't always have the time.
The very phrase is a lie. The targetted communications were always between a party overseas suspected of ties to Al Qaeda, and another party possibly in the U.S.
Traffic analysis? Sure I’ve done that. But here computer programs are sifting through call detail records, emails and probably all forms of communications looking for patterns related to terrorist names and numbers. They then hand the results over to people to investigate. I fail to see your problem.
As far as the likes of Hillary getting in again this is tailored towards foreign-to-domestic. Not the other way around where a warrant is necessary as far as I understand.
Again the threat has always been there. Radio communications were used and Uncle still was clueless even with it broadcasted in the clear. The problem is these are foot in the door precedents for domestic intimidation or possibly prosecutions on matters completely unrelated to terrorism or even national security at all. Right now I bet if I had access to your computer hard drive I could find evidence that would make your life miserable. Would you like the world to know your phone conversations? Are you absolutely certain about that? What about those jokes your old army buddy sent ya know those pictures? Yea Mr Whoever we have them in our records.
Now let's address another issue. With the storage of databases kept on all of us which is where this is leading up to comes the problem of data theft. All this bits and pieces at a time sold to the sheeple in the name of the WOT. No thanks.
I’d be upset at a warrantless domestic spying program, but applying that description to a program intercepting communications to and from suspected AQ agents abroad is simply a lie.
The executive branch has the power as an accident of war to intercept suspected enemy communications. It does not need a warrant to do so. An innocent party calling, say Pakistan, having their conversation monitored as a result of NSA monitoring of communications between the US and Swat province is no more a victim of government violation of privacy than an innocent party calling a business suspected of being a mob front on which a warrant for a wiretap was issued. The only difference is the constitutional basis for the intrusion, in one case presidential war powers, in the other, a court finding that the telecommunications analog of a search was reasonable.
Tell me something. Are you any more dead by say 200 years ago causing a stampede through town killing people? The threat of violence is as old as Cain and Abel so are attacks by the weapon of the age. Name me one government that has suceeded in stopping it. The only workable solution is well armed and free citizens.
Criminals will do what they wish, regardless of law. As will socialists.
I cannot support restricting freedom because of what the base-minded might do with freedom. If a citizen abuses another, we as Americans must have an answer, sufficient to prevent a recurrence of the offence. If a citizen offends the rights of another citizen, we must have a punishment suitable for the greatest of offenses. That is what our Founders envisioned.
But an object, by itself, cannot reach that level of offense. A firearm (gun) is incapable of such an act. We punish the offender, not the object.
Your opinion on this topic was made very clearly in post #3, now you are being redundant!
Post 37 will likely make you very happy then :>} Short and to the point.
Technology is no defense against the US Constitution.
We monitor millions of communications more than we can actually use. The idea we might use the concept that there are more communications than we can intercept as the reason why ALL communications are subject to intercept is, well, anti-American.
The US Constitution trumps all.