The legislation, which is expected to go before the House today, would expand the government's authority to intercept without a court order the phone calls and e-mails of people in the United States who are communicating with people overseas.
As currently written, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act already gives U.S. spies broad leeway to monitor the communications of foreign terrorism suspects, but the 30-year-old statute requires a warrant to monitor calls intercepted in the United States, regardless of where the calls begin or end.
Note that 16 Democrats and Joe Lieberman voted for this bill. Details will be forthcoming as to who the Democrats were.
It won't surprise many people to know that I am skeptical of what was passed. While I do feel that Congress needed to do something on the issue of surveillance before heading off on holiday, I had thought the proposal put forward by some Democrats last week sounded better in terms of protecting civil liberties, while still allowing the executive branch to collect valuable intelligence via surveillance. As I understand it, what was passed last night does depart from that proposal quite a bit. The good news? Apparently, a six month sunset provision was built into the bill passed last night. So, at least any trampling of civil liberties won't be going on for years and years-- unless Congress decides to approve legislation like this again in 2008, that is.
UPDATE: Painful though it is for me to cite Kos, here's the Dkos list of the Dems who voted for this:Evan Bayh (Indiana); Tom Carper (Delaware); Bob Casey (Pennsylvania); Kent Conrad (North Dakota); Dianne Feinstein (California); Daniel Inouye (Hawaii); Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota); Mary Landrieu (Louisiana); Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas); Claire McCaskill (Missouri); Barbara Mikulski (Maryland); Bill Nelson (Florida); Ben Nelson (Nebraska); Mark Pryor (Arkansas); Ken Salazar (Colorado); Jim Webb (Virginia).
Wait for the Kossacks to start complaining about centrist Democrats, ad nauseum, again. Not that I'm sold on this legislation at all... www.lizmair.com