I came home this evening after a busy afternoon at the 8-5, started catching up on the news shortly thereafter, and haven’t been able to stop laughing since. Why? Well, it all centers around the story about the agreement reached today between Democrats and Republicans in the House on the FISA bill, which has been stalled for quite some time now thanks to numerous disagreements, among them immunity to telecoms:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — A bipartisan deal that clears the way for a sweeping overhaul of domestic wiretapping laws will let telecommunications companies escape lawsuits over the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program, congressional leaders announced Thursday.
The measure could be brought to the floor of the House of Representatives as early as Friday.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said the bill is “not perfect” but “strikes a sound balance” between intelligence-gathering and court oversight.
Democrats have managed to kill previous efforts in Congress to revise the Watergate-era law governing domestic spying.
Jay Rockefeller, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the bill would prevent administration officials from conducting any new warrantless surveillance.
Companies that cooperated with the post-September 11 surveillance program now face federal lawsuits over their participation. Critics say the program was illegal, and Republicans have pushed strongly for protecting those companies.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the intelligence community depends on “the backing of patriotic private companies.”
“Those businesses that cooperate are putting their shareholders and employees at stake, and they deserve our support, not multibillion-dollar lawsuits,” Hoekstra said. “This bill recognizes that and provides an avenue for the liability question to be answered.”
The new proposal would protect telephone and Internet providers from those lawsuits if a court finds that the government told the companies that the president had authorized the surveillance and it was “determined to be lawful.”
Obviously, this is good news – but what I’m laughing about is the apoplectic outrage I’m reading from The Usual Suspects about the Dems’ “cave” on FISA. Here’s a sampling:
David Kurtz, Talking Points Memo:
Who really thinks that the White House and the telecoms would go along with this so-called “conditional immunity” that congressional Democrats have agreed to if they didn’t think they could satisfy the condition?
The far left’s favorite windbag, Glenn Greenwald:
I’ve now just read a copy of the final “compromise” bill. It’s even worse than expected. When you read it, it’s actually hard to believe that the Congress is about to make this into our law. Then again, this is the same Congress that abolished habeas corpus with the Military Commissions Act, and legalized George Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program with the “Protect America Act,” so it shouldn’t be hard to believe at all. Seeing the words in print, though, adds a new dimension to appreciating just how corrupt and repugnant this is:
For a few laughs, check out Karl at PW’s response to Greenwald’s tirade
McJoan at Daily Kos: In a post titled “FISA Fight: Capitulation Reached,” she (he?) scribbles:
That means, of course, de facto amnesty for the telcos. The federal district court would not be deciding on the legality of the program, they would be limited to determining if the White House showed the telcos a piece of paper saying that the warrantless program was legal enough–which we already know. They’re going to try to justify it with that “substantial evidence” business, as if defining that piece of paper as “substantial” somehow makes the fact that they are directing the court to make its decision, regardless of the law, not a travesty.
Call Barack Obama and urge him to make a public statement reiterating his opposition to telco amnesty. His opposition could kill this deal:
Well, maybe he’ll be available when he’s not busy cutting campaign ads for Blue Dog Democrats like Georgia Congressman John Barrow, who the Nutroots despise because:
Barack Obama has cut a radio spot for conservative Dem Rep. John Barrow of Georgia, who favors staying in Iraq and favors immunity for the telecom companies, and he’s taking a beating from liberal bloggers over it.
Barrow is loathed by the Netroots, and not without cause: During his 2006 reelection campaign he ran an ad saying that “we can’t cut and run” from Iraq. And he was one of the House Dems who sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi demanding that they be permitted to vote for the recent Senate bill giving amnesty to the telecoms.
Over at Open Left, ringleader Matt Stoller threatens:
It is up to us to create a progressive check on Obama, and we might just have our first opportunity.
I’m sure Obama’s quivering right about now.