Right now there are two “FISA bills”, one that has passed in the Senate, and one that has passed in the House. The one in the House is considered to be a better compromise (i.e., worse for the White House). However, both grant retroactive civil suit immunity to the telcos which were complicit with the Bush administration in warrantless wiretapping of US citizens.
The proposal — particularly the immunity provision — represents a major victory for the White House after months of dispute. “I think the White House got a better deal than they even they had hoped to get,” said Senator Christopher Bond, the Missouri Republican who led the negotiations.
Obama (source unknown transcription via TPM):
But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.
It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.
We’ll see if Obama follows through with attempting to remove the provision from the bill when it comes through the Senate, and if he votes against the bill if he fails to do so.
But, judging from Obama’s adoration of the current compromise bill, we can’t imagine that he’s going to put up much of a fight.
To be fair, going from a warrantless wiretapping system, to establishing oversight which ensures that checks and balances are executed (checks and balances for the checks and balances…) it extremely important.
But creating a law, which grants retroactive immunity to massive corporations, for colluding with government agencies which were breaking laws themselves?
That’s not just compromise. It’s corruption.
White House wins again? We’ll see…
More info on the house bill here.