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FISA reform, finally: “The bill is passed,” 293-129

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 20, 2008 12:46 PM

The House is now voting on the FISA reform deal. Moonbat callers on C-SPAN are going nuts over Democrat capitulation. I’ll post the tally and roll call vote as soon as the yeas and nays are all counted. (Update: 12:51pm Eastern. “The bill is passed.” Vote was 293-129.) Now, on to the Senate. The 9/10 Democrats succumb to reality.

Andrew McCarthy gives the compromise deal thumbs up:

Here is the bottom line: Our intelligence agencies will once again have authority to conduct aggressive monitoring of foreign powers, including terrorist organizations, which threaten the United States. In particular, this will be the case overseas — that is, when foreigners located outside our borders communicate with each other. The Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency will essentially be able to collect foreign intelligence without interference from the courts, the status quo ante that was U.S. law for decades before being upset by a secret court ruling last year.

Moreover, the telecommunications companies which patriotically complied with administration requests for assistance in the emergency conditions that obtained after nearly 3,000 Americans were mass-murdered in the 9/11 attacks will receive retroactive immunity. That is, they will be relieved of the potential billions in liability they (and their shareholders and customers) faced in scores of lawsuits.

The telecoms were sued by the ACLU and other privacy eccentrics because they cooperated in the NSA’s warrantless surveillance of suspected international terrorist communications that crossed U.S. borders — a program the legality of which is richly supported by precedent. Consequently, the American people will be relieved of the vulnerability they would face if industry’s top information technology experts were disincentivized from assisting in our security. (While I have long been a critic of our surveillance laws, I note once again, in the interest of full disclosure, that my wife works for Verizon.)

Contrary to the sky-is-falling hysteria we are likely to hear in the coming days, this immunity is not “blanket.” It benefits only private actors. That is as it should be. This controversy involves the executive and legislative branches of government fighting over ultimate control of surveillance authority. Private actors who merely complied with ostensibly lawful requests should never have been pawns in that political battle. And only those private actors who can show, by “substantial evidence” that they were complying with a written request from government will be afforded immunity.

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Categories: FISA

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