...and the bill should hit the House floor next week.
The bill, HR3773, is notable both for what it contains, judicial oversight provisions, and what it doesn't contain, retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that aided the Bush Administration's violation of privacy and civil liberty laws.
President Bush has demanded both freedom from oversight and that immunity for telecoms, saying that he will veto any bill that doesn't meet both criteria.
The committee hearing went as expected, with Republicans, including Arizona's own Trent Franks, arguing that any judicial oversight only helps terrorists kill Americans, and Democrats arguing "bulls_t."
(OK, so they were a little bit more eloquent than that; the meaning was the same. :) )
After going back and forth over various amendments and the underlying bill for a while, the committee passed the bill along party lines.
The bill isn't perfect. The ACLU has some objections and urges support of the "FISA Modernization Bill" instead of this bill, the RESTORE Act. This bill still gives way too much authority to the President. However, it is a vast improvement over the repugnant "Protect America Act" (PAA) that was passed and signed into law in August.
Note: I couldn't find a link to a bill with the name "FISA Modernization" but I'll keep looking; I think the act that the ACLU prefers is HR3782, "To reiterate the exclusivity of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 as the sole authority to permit the conduct of electronic surveillance, to modernize surveillance authorities...,"introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ).
While less than perfect, the RESTORE Act is significantly less vile than the PAA. There will still be a lot of angst over the bill from the Republicans and from Democrats who are afraid of the President (aka - the Blue Dogs), all of whom will attempt to water down the oversight provisions.
And to protect the large campaign contributors in the telecommunication$ indu$try. [Can't forget them :) ]
However, it is something of a compromise bill - it does contain some things that the President wants (blanket warrants that require only an annual review/renewal). It does also contain enough to assuage some of the concerns of civil liberties-focused progressives in Congress.
Further watering-down of civil liberties at the behest of the President and his water carriers on the Hill (like Franks!) will only push the more hesitant members into the 'No' column on the RESTORE Act and increase the likelihood that the Congress will receive and pass a bill that the President will *really* hate.
Hmmm....there's a thought.... :)
Anyway, I have a final question, one that I don't ever expect a straight answer to, so I won't bother actually asking it of Trent Franks, Dan Lungren (R-CA), Randy Forbes (R-VA) and the other opponents of the Bill of Rights and civil liberties in the House.
So I'll just post it here. :))
It's not an original question (I don't know who first asked it in print, otherwise I'd give credit here), but it needs to be asked again -
Revocation of which part of the Constitution would prevent terrorist attacks?
A simple question, really, but one that the fear-mongers can never answer, because there isn't such a section and they know it. They also know that blind, unreasoning fear is the only thing that the Republican Party has left to offer America and they're hoping they can milk it one more time.
A FireDogLake post by Christy Hardin Smith containing a rough transcript of a statement by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is here.
CongressDaily, via GovExec.com, coverage of the hearing here.
CNN coverage here.
House Judiciary Committee summary of the provisions of the new bill is here; a comparison between the Restore Act and PAA is here.
House Judiciary Committee press release on the hearing here.