"The action I am taking is no more than a radical measure to hasten the explosion of truth and justice. I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight!" - Emile Zola, J'accuse! (1898) -

Sunday, June 29, 2008

FISA Fireworks July 8th

Electronic Frontier Foundation FISA Alert Follow Up

Senate Postpones Spy Bill Vote Until July 8

The Senate has put off until after the Fourth of July a controversial vote on a bill that would widen the government's spying powers and free the nation's telecoms from lawsuit filed by their customers, accusing the companies of helping the government illegally spy on Americans.

The delay until Tuesday July 8 gives the forces opposing the bill -- a coalition that includes Ron Paul-style Republicans, civil liberties groups and the left-leaning netroots - some time to organize a campaign against the bill. The bill could have been voted on before the Senate leaves for its Independence Day break some time Friday or Saturday.

The schedule for the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 includes votes on three amendments. Democratic Senators Christopher Dodd, Russ Feingold and Patrick Leahy's amendment to strike telecom amnesty gets two hours of debate, as does Republican Senator Arlen Specter's amendment. An amendment from Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman (Arizona) will get 60 minutes.

All three face daunting odds -- similar amendments offered in February all lost by substantial margins and the underlying bill also passed by a wide margin.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey and the Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell wrote the Senate Majority leader on Thursday, emphasizing in a letter (.pdf) that they would recommend a veto if amnesty was not in the bill.

"Providing this liability protection is critical to the national security," they wrote.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was not nearly as inflexible as the netroots want, saying he's willing to accept telecom amnesty if it can't be struck since he believes the government needs expanded powers to do sweeping surveillance using equipment based inside the United States.

See Also:

Senate Debates Spy Bill with Telecom Amnesty

Obama Supports Telecom Amnesty Bill

House Grants Telecom Amnesty, Expands Spying Powers

Telecom Amnesty Flip-Floppers Got More Telecom Dollars

Wiretap Ruling Dies Slow Death As Congress Moves Towards Telecom Amnesty

EFF has signed an open<http://www.eff.org/files/bingaman.support.letter.pdf>letter in support of the Bingaman Amendment [PDF] along with the ACLU and eleven other civil liberties organizations, and urges all members of the Senate who care about civil liberties and the rule of law to champion it. The amendment wouldn't cure all of the problems with the bill, and is no replacement for a strong no vote on final passage, but at this moment it looks to be the last best shot at saving the litigation against the telcos from an early death.