A million miles from the campaign trail, House Democrats have been railing against President Bush’s plan to grant immunity to the telecommunications companies that provides information to the government prior to changes in the law that allowed them to do so.
As I’ve written several times, this position is all of the below:
- Useless posturing
- Doomed to failure
Actually, as of today, it seems likely that all of this will be in the past now that the Senate has rejected the House Dems’ legislation that would have kept said immunity out of the new security bill.
In a lopsided 60 to 36 vote — with 12 Democrats joining Republicans in the majority — the Senate rejected a version of the proposed legislation sponsored by Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. That bill omitted immunity for the telecommunications firms involved in warrantless eavesdropping.
Expressing his anger, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the maneuver has put the fate of the entire bill in jeopardy. A temporary surveillance law, passed in August, is due to expire next Friday.
No surprise. The no-immunity stance was such an obvious loser that one has to wonder whether it was simply token political resistance to a Republican agenda that the Dems had no way of defeating anyway.
That’s unfortunate, because the NSA may be about the get additional, unsupervised abilities to eavesdrop on some Americans’ communications without having to go before a judge:
The Senate will instead consider a measure passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee that has the backing of the White House. It would give legal immunity to AT&T and the other phone companies against some 40 lawsuits growing out of their alleged roles in eavesdropping. It would also give the N.S.A. a freer hand to eavesdrop on foreign-based communications without judicial checks.
I’m all for national security; however, it is not a good idea to give intelligence agencies unfettered access to our communications. The argument that getting judicial approval takes too long simply doesn’t hold water: We’re spending billions fighting terrorists, I think we can spring for a couple additional judges to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Too bad the Dems in the House didn’t spend their time on the right fight.