SJC FISA Mark-Up, Part I
The SJC FISA bill mark-up is set to begin around 10 am ET. The committee has a number of other items on their plate as well this morning, so it may be a bit before we get to the FISA discussion. As always, I’ll try to liveblog as accurately as I can. I could use your help, though: please try and keep comments to a minimum. The more I have to switch threads, the higher the possibility that I’ll miss a big chunk of the discussion for you guys. Thanks!
While we are waiting for the committee room feed to get going (H/T to selise for getting me the link), I thought you all would appreciate this from Sen. Feingold’s office:
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold will offer an amendment in the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow to strike retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies alleged to have assisted with the President’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program. The retroactive immunity provision, included in the current version of the FISA Amendments Act being considered by the committee, would likely deny the courts the opportunity to review the warrantless wiretapping program. Lawsuits against private entities alleged to have cooperated with the program may provide the only avenue for judicial oversight of the program.
“Granting retroactive immunity for companies that allegedly went along with this illegal program is unjustified and undermines the rule of law,” Feingold said. “Not only would retroactive immunity set the terrible precedent that breaking the law is permissible and companies need not worry about the privacy of their customers, but it would likely prevent courts from ruling on the President’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program. This program was one of the worst abuses of executive power in our history, and the courts should be able to rule on it once and for all.”
Current law already provides immunity from lawsuits for companies that cooperate with the government’s request for assistance, as long as they receive either a court order or a certification from the Attorney General that no court order is needed and the request meets all statutory requirements. This limited immunity already protects companies that act in good faith while also protecting the privacy of Americans’ communications.
“We want companies not only to cooperate with the government, but to comply with the law. And we want the government to comply with the law as well. Granting retroactive immunity sends exactly the wrong message,” Feingold added.
Good for Sen. Feingold. I’ve been hearing all sorts of rumors on what may or may not happen today, but that Leahy, Feingold, Durbin and several others have been working quite a bit behind-the-scenes on a numberof issues, but that they are dealing with problems with Schumer, Feinstein and Whitehouse (the latter two are also on the Intel committee and were briefed into the background aspects of the NSA program and voted with Rockefeller’s telecom immunity in that committee). We’ll see how it goes today if we get a live feed.
UPDATE from the committee room: “We are hearing that we have nine votes. Nine. (we need 10 to win) With Difi being the ONLY hold out. But that is really just rumor…we’ll know soon. Mark up is underway.”