Protecting Shareholders First, Citizens Second

Guess which sensible piece of legislation President Bush intends to veto next? A measure promoted by House Democrats that would ensure more judicial oversight over the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program but still hold telecommunications companies potentially liable for secretly cooperating with the government in trawling through records. Apparently it's more important to the White House to protect stockholders than to protect citizens.

President Bush said Wednesday that he would veto the legislation -- designed primarily to curtail the abuse of executive branch power -- not only because it takes away some of his power but because it does not contain a "retroactive immunity" clause that would reach back and protect those telecom companies for the actions they took (or did not take) when the feds first came calling for help in culling through personal phone records.

In other words, the president wants to make nice and legal conduct that may not have been nice and legal when it was conducted. It's a great idea if you are trying to go back and protect rescuers who rush into a burning building. It's a little less great when you are trying to go back and protect huge, sophisticated companies from being held accountable for premeditated and well-thought out legal and financial decisions they've made. And it's not even remotely great when its considered as a reason for preventing vital changes to a dismal law.

It's possible, of course, that the legislation won't make it to the president's desk to be vetoed. And if that occurs it will be because of congressional Republicans. Here's how the Associated Press's Pamela Hess wrote it: "[Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and other GOP lawmakers said the bill gives too much power to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to oversee intelligence activities and will bog down intelligence agencies with administrative burdens. They charged that the measure extends constitutional protection to phone calls by terrorists overseas, takes rights away from telecommunications companies, and prohibits legitimate surveillance of other countries." Other than that, they love it.

For his part, the president offered this chestnut: "Congress must make a choice.... Will they keep the intelligence gap closed by making this law permanent? Or will they limit our ability to collect this intelligence and keep us safe, staying a step ahead of the terrorists who want to attack us?"

Unfortunately, the White House did not explain how protecting telecoms from liability keeps us safe from terrorism. But the president's remarks did generate this memorable response from Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), one of the most respected members of the House intelligence panel. Harman, reports The Post, accused the president of playing the "fear card" and added: "Time for a deep breath, Mr. President. The point is not whether to conduct surveillance but to do it right, without throwing out the Fourth Amendment."

By Andrew Cohen |  October 10, 2007; 1:01 PM ET
Previous: Thomas Memoir: Don't Steal This Book | Next: The Price of Occupation, the Cost of Terror

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We are fortunate that Jane Harman is still on the Intelligence Committee. She should have been the Chair. Ms. Pelosi never forgave her for rising above partisan politics when Ms. Harman was ranking member.

Posted by: Mark in Austin | October 11, 2007 09:21 AM

The Administration's position on this bill is disgraceful. Congress needs to stick to its guns here and not back down. If the President and the rest of the GOP want to risk national security to give the telecoms a get-out-of-jail-free card, then let them suffer the consequences of playing politics with important national security issues. November 2008 can't come soon enough.

Posted by: Nellie | October 11, 2007 09:31 AM

Let me get this straight.
The liberal Democrats want to hogtie our Intelligence Service's surveillance program that monitors calls from possible terrorists planning more 9/11's and kill more Americans. The WH and Republicans want to catch these terrorists by listening into their plans in order to prevent more 9/11's and other terrorist acts that would kill more Americans. And, according to Democratic Party shill Andrew Cohen, and his far-left friends, it's those bad Republicans who are the villains. The only ones the liberal Democrats and the Andrew Cohen's of this world are helping with their anti-NSA and anti-Bush agenda is the terrorists wanting to do us harm and kill more Americans. Not listening in on their future terrorist plans would help keep the terrorists safe from capture and would enable them to carry out terrorist acts against us without us being able to prevent them.
Question No.1: When will the liberal Democratic Party put their countries interests and the safety of Americans ahead of their quest for political power?
Question No.2: Exactly whose side are you on? It sure as h*** isn't the USA's or with the American people who you're trying to get killed.

Posted by: madhatter | October 11, 2007 12:32 PM

madhatter:

Ever hear of the Constitution?

What part of:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

do you not understand?

Posted by: Nellie | October 11, 2007 01:07 PM

Madhatter:
If I may respond on behalf of the "liberal Democrats" out there.

No one is suggesting that the surveillance program be nixed. What the Dems are suggesting is that our constitutional rights to unlawful search and seizure be protected via WARRANTS.

Prove probable cause to the SECRET judge, let him sign off on it (checks and balances) and let the surveilling begin. Most Dems would even go so far as to permitting ex post facto warrants.

When FISA protocols were being followed, the percentage of warrants denied was miniscule and there was no administrative backlog (contrary to Republican talking points); however, the power to surveil was shared between the executive and judicial branches.

The issue is not about surveilling communications where at least one party is suspected of terrorist activity. The issue is if this party is suspected of terrorist activity, the Dems are suggesting that this suspicion be presented to a third party (FISA court) for issuance of a warrant based on the evidence presented.

The Dems fear that without this check, that there is no check to the executive branch with regard to the Fourth Amendment to OUR US CONSTITUTION.

Our Constitution is not a bunch of suggestions, they are the law of the land. Violating it is violating the people's will.

If you want warrantless searches, I would suggest you go about it by amending the Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

In this situation, the way I see it, it's the liberal Democrats that are doing more to protect this nation by upholding the rule of law. As they see it, once the rule of law is discounted, this precedence can easily allow for a deconstruction of the rights as they were intended by our forefathers.

Posted by: Steve | October 11, 2007 01:11 PM

Those for surveillance better have a virtually 100% productivity rate that who they are surveying are unquestionably intended terrorists.

Posted by: Topsy turvy | October 11, 2007 01:44 PM

Steve
In case you missed it, we are at war and have been for nearly 30 years.
While your points are valid during peacetime, the fact is that if our enemies succeed in their Holy War, none of you liberals need to worry about our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, Warrants from a FISA court, SECRET judges, human rights, etc, etc. because there won't be any. Tying up our NSA's terrorist fighting abilities in a SECRET court, getting warrants and dotting every i and crossing every t on legal forms takes time, time our NSA and the American lives at stake don't have.
Wake up and smell the coffee. All this legaleze over FISA court oversight of our Intelligence Service isn't about our rights, our Constitution, the Bill of Rights etc, etc, it's all political. It's about trying to bash--Bush and get political talking points for Democrats running for political office. When Bill Clinton did the same the liberal Democrats and the Democratic Party--controlled MSM didn't care. When Bill Clinton sent captured terrorists to Egypt and Jordan for "interrogation", no one cared. Suddenly everyone got religion. It doesn't compute.

Posted by: madhatter | October 11, 2007 02:29 PM

Mudhatter:

Your revisionist history is so far from the truth, I wonder where you've been for the last 30 years. The Bush administration has manufactured a perpetual state of war and has clearly duped you and about 28% of the population into thinking that we are safer when the government intrudes illegally into our lives and personal effects.

What the terrorists couldn't accomplish directly, they have accomplished through the Bush Administration's Chicken Little routine and the go-along Turkey Lurkeys, such as yourself. If anyone needs to wake up, it is you and those like you who think any measure is just fine as long as it carries an "Anti-Terrorist" lable, no matter how dubious. Give away your fundamental rights if you want, but keep your grubby hands off mine.

Posted by: Nellie | October 11, 2007 04:01 PM

I don't know why you get the impression that getting these warrants will somehow tie up the process; that is where the political rhetoric begins. As I said, part of FISA permits the warrants to be obtained after the fact...it is merely a check on executive powers, which again, is a linchpin of our wonderful democracy.

You are clearly so overtaken with fear that you are eagerly willing to compromise the Bill of Rights; this is where we differ.

As Ben Franklin once said, "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

Posted by: Steve | October 11, 2007 04:03 PM

Furthermore, you said:
"none of you liberals need to worry about our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, Warrants from a FISA court, SECRET judges, human rights, etc, etc. because there won't be any.

So either the terrorists can take our democratic principles away through their violent activities or our president can take them away immediately. I think I would prefer the terrorists to try to take them away, because at least I know they would have a much lower chance of success.

Rather if our president starts taking our primary rights away because he is afraid, haven't the terrorists already won?

Posted by: Steve | October 11, 2007 04:17 PM

"we are at war," claims madhatter.

Huh?

What "war?"

Oh, you mean that Iraq thing. That's been going on 30 years?

Why do you guys feed these trolls?

Posted by: Chris Fox\ | October 11, 2007 05:30 PM

MADHATTER:

It would seem that after these last several years of Republi-nazi sewage spewing, it would have become nothing more or less than funny. Problem is, it is still a tragedy and a travesty.

Perhaps you should read the Constitution and Bill of Rights, for once. Denying people due process, and submitting them to unreasonable search and seizure is nothing less than a Fascist move. Hitler would be proud of you.

Bush and Cheney are Fascists too, and all of their claims of hand-tying and excessive administrative burdens are all crap. It all boils down to a pair of spoiled children trying to grab all the toys, selfish in the extreme and a real TERRORIST DELIGHT.

Posted by: Michael Szedon | October 11, 2007 07:14 PM

He means from the Iran hostage thing; always chants some quasi-Zionist sect's alternative reality/

Posted by: | October 11, 2007 07:41 PM

What all the liberal Democrats agenda to undermine our NSA's Information gathering abilities amount to, is to help the terrorists to not get caught.
The bottom line is that the Republicans are trying to protect Americans from the terrorists, while the Democrats are trying to protect the terrorists from Americans.

Posted by: madhatter | October 11, 2007 10:43 PM

Why bother having a discussion with some one no longer capable of rational thought ?

Posted by: Falmouth | October 12, 2007 05:45 AM

I'm not one to suffer the stupidity of fools.

Mudhatter will continue to believe his nonsense and unthinkingly parrot the right-wing noise machine, all evidence to the contrary. Don't confuse him with the facts, he's made up his mind. Hope he's got enought plactic sheeting and duct tape, because "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

Posted by: Nellie | October 12, 2007 08:43 AM

Seconded and thirded in an infinite series if that's possible

Posted by: Etcetera | October 12, 2007 05:46 PM

Ha ha ha! Bush is asking for an ex post facto law. That is the usual preserve of cheap little third-world tin-horn dictators. This request is, in and of itself, a direct assault on the rule of law.

Posted by: fzdybel | October 13, 2007 03:32 PM

You should see the NSA videos of Karl Rove's intern staining the White House on Bush's own children.

Posted by: Singing Senator | October 13, 2007 07:42 PM

Bush has done a presidents primary job of protecting the American people, and has done that job well. If the next president is a Democrat the chances are high that there will be a lot of SUCCESSFULL 9/11's because the Democrats care more about the terrorists rights, and keeping them from getting caught than keeping the American people safe. I'm sure that bin Laden and Al Qaeda, who hate President Bush as much as Americas liberal Democrats do, would vote for any Democratic candidate in '08 if they could vote. Birds of a feather flock together.

Posted by: madhatter | October 14, 2007 04:24 PM

The FISA law has worked fine for years until this admin decided to use it for whatever nefarious purpose...spying on political opponents, perhaps..I worked at NSA There is no need for any new laws. AND there certainly isn't any legal need for retroactive immunity if no one has done anything wrong or illegal. This admin's insistance on this retroactivity is basically an admission that something illegal happened. Prosecute the lawbreakers to the fullest extent of the law and hold each lawbreaker personally responsible. Let's go back to the constitution. And stop believing the halloween scare tactics of the war wimps who are happy to send others off to the front lines and themselves have cowered behind skirts at home.

Posted by: rslipka | October 15, 2007 04:39 PM

"a presidents primary job [is] protecting the American people"

Ummm, no. The oath that is administered when a President is sworn in is quite clear on this. The president does not swear to protect the people of the United States, he swears to defend the CONSTITUTION of the United States. When Bush pushes for security laws that are unconstitutional, he is breaking his oath.

Being at war does not change the importance of our constitution. The founding fathers knew that as long as the constitution endured, the country would thrive and endure. They fought a war to give us these rights. They would be horrified to see us throw that away simply because terrorists killed a few thousand Americans. Our fathers were willing to sacrifice many more lives than that to give us these freedoms.

Live free, or die.

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