McConnell viscerally objected to a Democratic proposal to limit warrantless surveillance of foreigners’ communications with Americans to instances in which one party was a terrorism suspect. McConnell wanted no such limits. “All foreign intelligence” targets in touch with Americans on any topic of interest should be fair game for U.S. spying, he said, according to two participants in the Aug. 2 conversation.
McConnell won the fight, extracting a key concession despite the misgivings of Democratic negotiators. Shortly after that exchange, the Bush administration leveraged Democratic acquiescence into a broader victory: congressional approval of a Republican bill that would expand surveillance powers far beyond what Democratic leaders had initially been willing to accept.
Yet both sides acknowledge that the administration’s resurrection of virtually unchecked Cold War-era power to surveil foreign targets without warrants may be only temporary. The law expires in 180 days, and Democrats, smarting from their political defeat, have promised to alter it with new legislation to be prepared next month, when Congress returns from its recess.
“The real train wreck happens in September,” said a senior administration official involved in the negotiations with Congress. He was referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s declaration hours after the bill’s passage that portions are “unacceptable” and that the public will not want to wait six months “before corrective action is taken.”
1) The 180 day expiration date is a red herring. Careful reading of the law reveals a clever little provision that allows the president to re-authorize warrantless surveillance for one year after the law sunsets, which means that president Bush will never lose the powers that Congress just gave him.
2) As the saying goes, tough talk from Democrats and six bucks will buy you a venti mochacchino at Starbucks. Last week all Dems needed to defeat the Orwellian bill was to not pass it. Today Harry Reid will have to corral Lieberdems and several Republicans to break a filibuster.
Then, after the Earth reverses its orbit, Israel and Hamas settle their differences and the Pirates win a World Series the Dem leadership can try gathering enough Republican support to override a presidential veto. Think about how likely that is. Physicists estimate that Reid and Pelosi would be better off building a time machine to travel back and assassinate the grandfather of whatever idiot counseled that capitulating to the White House was a great way to look strong.
So far I have seen zero legally informed responses to my Grandma Test post (there was a good comment that did not quote the law), so I will ask again. How does the law define who “can” and “cannot” be wiretapped? What is the process for determining whether a given tap meets the criteria? Who oversees the operation to prevent abuse? Who is responsible for detecting, reporting and judging violations and what are the penalties? If you can answer or if you have written a blog post that answers my questions, drop a line and I will promote it. Many thanks.