Amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
From the New York Times:
Under pressure from President Bush, Democratic leaders in Congress are scrambling to pass legislation this week to expand the government’s electronic wiretapping powers.
Democratic leaders have expressed a new willingness to work with the White House to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to make it easier for the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on some purely foreign telephone calls and e-mail. Such a step now requires court approval.
It would be the first change in the law since the Bush administration’s program of wiretapping without warrants became public in December 2005.
In the past few days, Mr. Bush and Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, have publicly called on Congress to make the change before its August recess, which could begin this weekend. Democrats appear to be worried that if they block such legislation, the White House will depict them as being weak on terrorism.
I find this news deeply distressing. The Bush Administration has demonstrated a contempt for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), declaring that it doesn’t deem FISA to have binding power over the executive branch. So now Congress wants to work with this administration in crafting a new legal regime for surveillance. It seems to me that this administration has lost all credibility when it comes to working in good faith on legislation on this issue. Anything Congress does should be temporary, and any permanent legislative solution should wait until the next presidential administration.
Hat tip: Orin Kerr