Democrats: But we were scared!!!
Some Democrats are waking up to the idea that the surveillance bill they hastily passed before going on vacation might not have been such a good idea. DUH!!
The NYTimes is reporting is that the legislation may have given Bush more powers than he actually asked for.
Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.
Passing legislation they didn't understand. Say it ain't so.
The dispute illustrates how lawmakers, in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble, passed legislation they may not have fully understood and may have given the administration more surveillance powers than it sought. It also offers a case study in how changing a few words in a complex piece of legislation has the potential to fundamentally alter the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a landmark national security law.
One of the things they did was to greatly narrow the definition of electronic surveillance, thus reducing the role of the FISA court. That is, more surveillance can take place without the oversight of FISA. A Democratic aide has the following understatement:
“We did not cover ourselves in glory,”
Ya think? God what morons. Here's the crux:
Some civil rights advocates said they suspected that the administration made the language of the bill intentionally vague to allow it even broader discretion over wiretapping decisions. Whether intentional or not, the end result — according to top Democratic aides and other experts on national security law — is that the legislation may grant the government the right to collect a range of information on American citizens inside the United States without warrants, as long as the administration asserts that the spying concerns the monitoring of a person believed to be overseas.
So whats the excuse of the Democrats. Well they are scared:
Though many Democratic leaders opposed the final version of the legislation, they did not work forcefully to block its passage, largely out of fear that they would be criticized by President Bush and Republican leaders during the August recess as being soft on terrorism.
Listen there has not been an administration bill that restricted our freedoms or gave the president unprecedented powers that the Dems haven't help pass. This is especially loathsome given that we all know what the president will do. Do the Dems have to be such enablers?
Yet Bush administration officials have already signaled that, in their view, the president retains his constitutional authority to do whatever it takes to protect the country, regardless of any action Congress takes. At a tense meeting last week with lawyers from a range of private groups active in the wiretapping issue, senior Justice Department officials refused to commit the administration to adhering to the limits laid out in the new legislation and left open the possibility that the president could once again use what they have said in other instances is his constitutional authority to act outside the regulations set by Congress.
And why wouldn't the administration take this tact knowing full well that the Dems do not have the balls to oppose the president on anything. or is it that they actually agree with all of this and just mouth meaningless disagreement to appear to be an opposition party. Opposition party! Hey I can do comedy. The Democrats are like the Washington Generals who get paid to lose to the Harlem Globetrotters.
Tim F over at Balloon Juice has a good summary of some of the details of the law under discussion. But here is a nugget I haven't seen discussed. He quotes a piece by Marty Lendeman over at Balkinization.
Obviously, what happened is that the Democratic leadership decided not to insist that Democrats could vote only to allow warrantless foreign-to-foreign surveillance. Presumably, the Democrats could have simply voted in favor of the Democratic bill, giving the Administration what it professed to need, and sent that bill to the President for his veto. But the leadership chose not to instruct their caucus to do so. And no one has yet quite uncovered the story of why Speaker Pelosi and crew did not simply insist on that course of action.
No leadership or complicity?