Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, October 18, 2007

DC Coughs Up A War On Terror Win

It's difficult to say whether passage of a good, tough framework for the terror surveillance bill was:
  • Yet another sign of Nancy Pelosi's utter failure as Leader -- a disastrous role model for women who wish to pursue political careers

  • Yet another sign that the GOP leadership has become stronger since becoming the minority party -- something they might well have tried to do before they became a minority

  • Or -- and I'm reaching here -- evidence that Congress is actually, finally putting petty bickering aside in favor of actually fighting the war on terror.
Whichever is the case (and it's really all three), the Senate agreement on the terms for new legislation on domestic surveillance incorporate most of what Bush wanted, particularly protections for telecoms that participate in the programs, and none of the dangerous restrictions earlier demanded by the Dems.

Pelosi's failure came earlier in the day, when House Dem leadership realized that they had to pull a competing version of the measure that included stupid restrictions on terrorist surveilance. Why pull it? Because, yet again, they didn't have the votes needed to squelch GOP opposition, and yet again, they were out-maneuvered by the GOP leadership. It is the first time NanPo has actually had to pull a bill in the face of GOP opposition. And hopefully, not the last.

As good as it is to see the beginnings of an effective front against those who would like to see terrorist combatants and their supporters be coddled by the government, I have to admit that my pleasure in seeing the progress has taken a momentary back seat to the joy that comes from reading this in WaPo:
Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, called it a "perfect storm" of progressive Democrats who did not think the bill protected basic constitutional rights and of Republicans who took advantage of the lack of unity. "It was too precipitous a process, and it ended up in a train wreck," she said. "It was total meltdown."
Why is the ACLU, which feeds itself in large part off attorney's fee rulings when it wins lawsuits, so upset? Let the Captain (hat-tip: memeorandum) explain:
The collapse of the Democrats on FISA mirrors that of two months ago, when they wound up endorsing the terrorist-surveillance program which they had previously claimed was illegal. The collapse this time comes with the telecom immunity provisions the Democrats had promised to fight. They didn't even protect the trial lawyers by indemnification, which would have forced the government to pay any judgments won by plaintiffs against the phone companies for their cooperation in the war on terror. This provision, which allows the government to show in secret that they ordered the telecoms to cooperate, eliminates all of the lawsuits before they even come to court. (emphasis added)
No lawsuits, no judgments for fees, no judgment for fees, no bucks for the ACLU. And they're good, rich, yummy bucks, because federal court atty fees are pegged at Big DC Attorney billing levels, but the ACLU pays a serf's pittance to the naive, idealistic legal grunts that do their heavy lifting. A nice spread, a tidy profit ... all kaput due to the three bullets above.

Of course, this was a procedural victory and there's a few more rows to hoe before victory is in hand.

If the Senate agreement becomes the new law, the FISA court will be directed to review the government's procedures for deciding who is to be the subject of warrantless surveillance, about the only Dem victory in the matter. As they research the matter, the FISA judges would do well to read Atlas Blogged's brilliant post, A Thought Experiment for Civil Libertarians.

In the piece, Wulf makes the point that when police get a wiretap warrant on Joe in Toledo, they get to listen to Bob in Tampa when Joe and Bob are on the phone. And if Bob lets loose that he's smuggling Marlboros into New York, they can bust him. But if it's the CIA or NSA legally listening to Osama in Kandahar talking to Bob in Tampa, suddenly listening in on Bob is illegal. That's the gist of the Dem battle against Bush's position on FISA, and it makes no sense.

There's reason, and there's Dem rhetoric. There's commitment to victory and there's commitment to campaign contributors. All and all, America is sliding down the slippery slope away from its ideals, but yesterday, the National Heel caught for a moment and our downward trajectory towards the foul Lib swamp was briefly halted.

Labels: , , ,