FISA Compromise Update

FISA COMPROMISE UPDATE….Negotiators in the House and Senate are apparently close to announcing a compromise FISA bill that they hope to pass by early July. Over at The Caucus, Carl Hulse wonders how the compromise is going to fly with the party faithful:

The question for the negotiators will be whether the final product is seen by Democrats opposed to the immunity for the phone companies as conceding too much or whether backers of warrantless surveillance will view the compromise as too weak.

Let’s check in with the lefty side of things. Glenn?

[T]here is a major new campaign beginning today aimed at [Steny] Hoyer and a handful of other key members of Congress who enable telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping….All the money raised will be spent exclusively on ad campaigns aimed at the short-term vulnerabilities of those in Congress responsible for delivering this indescribably tyrannical package of surveillance powers to the President and the accompanying corrupt gift to lawbreaking telecoms.

Hmmm. Doesn’t seem to be going over too well.

But what is the compromise? That’s a little harder to figure out, but apparently the idea is to let the FISA court rule on whether telecoms who participated in the NSA spying program should be immune from civil lawsuits. This sounds like a decent compromise — let the courts decide! — but the catch is that the only thing they’ll be allowed to rule on is whether the telecoms received letters from the president assuring them the program was legal. Since we already know that they did, in fact, receive such letters, the court ruling is a foregone conclusion: the telecoms will receive immunity.

If this is really what’s going on, then the whole thing is just the thinnest of fig leaves, not a real compromise at all. Which raises a question: what will Barack Obama do? He’s been consistently opposed to telecom immunity in the past, so presumably he’ll vote against it. But will he just cast a no vote and then bemoan the bill’s eventual passage, or will he expend some real political capital to try to keep it from passing? Wait and see.

UPDATE: Glenn emails to say that the latest compromise would let a regular federal court decide if telecoms received letters from the president. So instead of the rulings being made in secret, we’d all get to watch the kabuki dance in public. Much better.

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