Truthout Editor’s Note: A few points not covered in The New York Times report below. The White House, and specifically George W. Bush, stand accused by critics and members of congress of breaking the law by engaging in warrantless wiretapping of Americans. This legislation authored by the White House blurs the line between what was clearly an illegal action by Bush and other White House officials and what now appears to be permissible in Congress’ view. As such, it diminishes significantly any chance that any White House official will ever be held accountable for breaking the law to begin with.
In addition, the White House’s insistence that the FISA court’s authority be significantly diminished is consistent with the administration’s pattern of attacking any entity in a position to question their actions. It appears that there is no impediment to the DOJ notifying the FISA court when surveillance is needed, just an ongoing refusal on the part of the White House to share information with anyone, for any reason, regardless. ma/TO
The roll call vote for the surveillance bill can be found at: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2007/roll836.xml
By Carl Hulse and Edmund L. Andrews
The New York Times
Go to Original
Sunday 05 August 2007
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the measure “does violence to the Constitution of the United States.”
Washington – Under pressure from President Bush, the House gave final approval Saturday to changes in a terrorism surveillance program, despite serious objections from many Democrats about the scope of the executive branch’s new eavesdropping power.
Racing to complete a final rush of legislation before a scheduled monthlong break, the House voted 227 to 183 to endorse a measure the Bush administration said was needed to keep pace with communications technology in the effort to track terrorists overseas.
“The intelligence community is hampered in gathering essential information about terrorists,” said Representative Lamar Smith, Republican of Texas.
The House Democratic leadership had severe reservations about the proposal and an overwhelming majority of Democrats opposed it. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the measure “does violence to the Constitution of the United States.”
But with the Senate already in recess, Democrats confronted the choice of allowing the administration’s bill to reach the floor and be approved mainly by Republicans or letting it die.
If it had stalled, that would have left Democratic lawmakers, long anxious about appearing weak on national security issues, facing an August spent fending off charges from Republicans that they had left Americans exposed to threats.
Despite the political risks, many Democrats argued they should stand firm against the initiative, saying it granted the administration far too much latitude to initiate surveillance without judicial review.
They said the White House was using the specter of terrorism to weaken Americans’ privacy rights and give more power to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, an official Democrats say has proved himself untrustworthy.
“Legislation should not be passed in response to fear-mongering,” said Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey.
The legislation makes changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA.
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