Why is House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (Democrat) suddenly signing on with the GOP on their plan to rewrite the electronic surveillance laws. That plan would let a secret "court" grant immunity, even for past actions, that are illegal to those big communications companies that helped our President spy on all of us.
The blog Digby's Hullabaloo points out,"There just isn't enough money at stake to explain this. Nobody's suing for the money, they are suing for the discovery. Something bad happened here and the Democrats are helping the Republicans cover it up."
But wait, a senior Reyes aide has now "clarified" his boss’ positions by saying that while Reyes thinks the GOP's proposal introduced by Sen, Kit Bond is a positive one, he remains supportive of Hoyer’s efforts to improve on it.
One guy could end the confusion and that is the newly anointed leader of the Democratic Party - Barack Obama.
Digby (?) on his blog writes:
"Barack Obama could put an end to this today if he wanted. He could tell his colleagues in the House and the Senate that they should not work so hard to codify into law what his opponent (McCain) is calling for - the ability for an executive to secretly spy on Americans."
Seems like something a guy who is all about "change" might do, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, the American Civil Liberties Union says the Republican "compromise language" on telecom immunity (ed. - which Reyes thinks is postivie) is not an improvement over the original Senate bill. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court is still not empowered to determine whether the warrantless wiretapping program was legal - just whether the attorney general sent a letter to the companies requesting assistance.
The compromise "just says that the existence of an order — whether legal or not — is enough to dismiss the cases," said Michelle Richardson, a legislative consultant with the ACLU.
Huh? More simply put the Bond "compromise" would handle the existing court cases against the telecom companies' illegal surveillance activities like this.
* If you believe the government is spying on you, and want to bring a court challenge, your case will be heard by a Secret Court.
* The primary concern of the Secret Court will be to confirm that the Attorney General (AG) certified the surveillance.
* If the secret court determines that the AG did in fact certify the surveillance, your case will be dismissed.
As some fellow by the name of Darryl W. Perry puts it at his blog,"The Executive Branch would decide what the Executive Branch should be allowed to do. The AG is, after all, a member of the Executive Branch. So the only role for the Judicial Branch would be to confirm that the Executive Branch really decided to do what it decided to do."
Oh by the way, the FISA Court membership is chosen (from the ranks of sitting Federal Judges) by the Chief Justice.
If that doesn't make you feel better, then you must be some sort of commie scum.
The following is from Congress Daily.
House Chairman Open To Republican Compromise On FISA
by Chris Strohm
The House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat disclosed late Tuesday that he is ready to accept a Republican-brokered deal to rewrite the nation's electronic surveillance laws, signaling that a long-running congressional impasse could soon be coming to an end.
House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes told CongressDaily that he is "fine" with language offered by Senate Intelligence ranking member Christopher (Kit) Bond and other Republicans to overhaul the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Notably, the GOP language, which was offered a day before the recent congressional recess, would leave it up to the secret FISA court to grant retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have helped the Bush administration conduct electronic surveillance on the communications of U.S. citizens without warrants.
About 40 civil lawsuits already have been filed against the companies. The administration, Bond and other Republicans had backed a Senate-passed FISA bill that would have shielded the telecom firms from the lawsuits upon enactment.
"It's about finding middle ground and we have middle ground," Reyes said of the compromise offered by Republicans. "It's not going to please everyone but let's get on with it."
Reyes said he believes enough Democrats will support the proposal to pass it in the House.
But he said House Majority Leader Hoyer told him that House Democratic leaders want to have the liability of the telecoms reviewed in federal district court as opposed to the FISA court.
A senior Reyes aide clarified his boss' positions by saying that while Reyes thinks Bond's proposal is a positive one, he remains supportive of Hoyer's efforts to improve on it.
A FISA reform bill passed by the House earlier this year would have had the cases heard in district court.
Efforts to obtain comment from Hoyer's office were unsuccessful at presstime and Reyes' assertion that the GOP language would pass the House could not be confirmed.
Public interest groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the GOP language on the immunity issue, saying it does not empower the FISA court to determine if the administration or the telecom firms broke the law. They say the court review would be too limited to give plantiffs in the lawsuits a fair hearing.
On another issue, the proposed GOP compromise would require the administration to submit its procedures and certifications to the FISA court for review before surveillance could begin, except in exigent circumstances. This would apply to wiretaps involving the communications of a U.S. citizen inside the United States.
Republicans also have said they will accept, for the most part, language from House Democrats making FISA the exclusive means for conducting wiretaps to collect foreign intelligence. House Speaker Pelosi has said that having such language in a final FISA bill is her top priority.
And Republicans have agreed to accept a Democratic demand that the inspectors general of the intelligence agencies conduct audits of the terrorist surveillance program.
The House-passed FISA bill included a provision that would have established an independent commission to investigate the administration's warrantless wiretapping activities.
"We knew we weren't going to get everything, but we need to get this done," Reyes said.