In the Arena

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Let the games begin.

As for FISA:

1. The bipartisan bill that was being negotiated by House Intelligence Committee members probably would have won a veto-proof majority, and would have included the most crucial civil liberties protections–the “minimization” (or blacking out) of communications from foreign terrorist targets to innocent U.S. civilians. It would also have included “basket warrants” that would force the U.S. intel services to explain to the FISA court annually their standards for selecting terrorist targets in the rest of the world. This is something Bush opposes, but would have to accept with a veto-proof majority. It would also have taken a middle path on immunity for telecoms–no blanket immunity (as is currently provided in the Senate draft), but selective immunity to those telecoms who can provide written proof that they were acting in response to a direct order from the government. That seems fair to me.

2. The current House legislation requires that every foreign terrorist target be passed through the FISA court because that target may potentially communicate with U.S. Citizens or resident aliens. It thereby, as I reported, obliquely gives foreign terrorists the same procedures as American citizens, if not the same rights…This will be very easily twisted by Republicans. Furthermore, and weirdly, I”m told that the Democratic bill actually limits the protections for U.S. resident aliens and illegal immigrants.

3. The House bill has no chance of being enacted into law. The partisan nature of it means–in practical political terms–that the expected bipartisan Senate measure will prevail in committee.

4. This is all a partisan waste of time, fodder for lawyers and civil liberties extremists. There is broad bipartisan agreement on the following principles:
–It is necessary to monitor the communications of foreign terrorist suspects.
–It is necessary to get a FISA warrant to monitor the communications of any U.S. citizen or resident alien who engages in suspicious exchanges with a foreign terrorist target.
–It is necessary to protect the identities of innocent U.S. citizens or resident aliens who are swept up in the data-mining of foreign terrorists’ communications.

You may disagree with those principles. I don’t. Most members of Congress don’t. Most people, I dare say, wouldn’t if they were interested enough to listen to the arguments. It is essential to pass a bill that combines legitimate national security and civil liberties concerns–but that isn’t happening because of blind, stupid partisan politics.

As I was saying: From Brother Lukasiak…

The bill requires court review ONLY if there is reason to suspect that a targetted person will be calling the US, or if after a targetted person has called the US and is expected to call here again.

That means, essentially, that every foreign target is subject to review by the FISA court. QED.