LLR Pages

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Democrats Caving In on Government Surveillance

It seems like congressional Democrats are compromising on the Leviathan's never-ending surveillance program. Well, isn't that just fine and dandy?

Here's an excerpt of today's Washington Post on this story:

Congressional Democrats outlined a temporary plan yesterday that would expand the government's authority to conduct electronic surveillance of overseas communications in search of terrorists.

The proposal, according to House and Senate Democrats, would permit a secret court to issue broad orders approving eavesdropping of communications involving suspects overseas and other people, who may be in the United States. To issue an order, the court would not need to identify a particular target overseas, but it would have to determine that those being targeted are "likely," in fact, overseas.

If a foreign target's communications to a person inside the United States reaches a "significant" number, then an court order based on probable cause would be required. It is unclear how "significant" would be defined.

Under a sunset provision, the authority would have to be revisited in six months.

"Given the continued threat environment and some recent technical developments, I have become convinced that we must take some immediate, but interim, step to improve collection of foreign intelligence in a manner that doesn't compromise civil liberties of U.S. citizens," said John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

In recent days, the administration has proposed giving the attorney general sole authority to authorize the surveillance, suggesting that if Democrats do not act quickly Americans would be at greater risk of attack.

Democrats said that giving sole authority to the attorney general would be unacceptable and insisted that the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have an oversight role.

Some civil liberties advocates were pleased.

"It is vastly better than the administration's bill and preserves the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement," said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies.

Others, including some Democrats, said that granting the government authority to intercept calls with broad warrants could allow a large number of phone calls and e-mails of U.S. individuals and companies to be intercepted, as well.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington legislative office, contended that Democrats are "capitulating to the politics of fear."

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) said that the proposal, while better than the administration's, "does not have adequate safeguards to protect Americans' privacy."

When it comes to statist Democrats, can we say....cowards?