Mukasey Starts Service as AG By Opposing Civil Liberties Reforms in Surveillance

The Democratic plan for improving civil liberties protections in national security surveillance programs has been criticized as facially weak, but it appears too much protection for Michael Mukasey. In his first major decision as AG, Mukasey has informed Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy that he will encourage the President to veto the plan. Once again, many are looking to Senators Feinstein and Schumer and Specter who are responsible for saving Mukasey’s nomination. The “better than the alternatives” candidate of Feinstein and Schumer now seems pretty darn bad. here

2 thoughts on “Mukasey Starts Service as AG By Opposing Civil Liberties Reforms in Surveillance”

  1. Immunity/No Immunity – Tough Call… NOT

    During the hearings yesterday, Arlen Specter, whose reasoning I didn’t quite follow, was calling to have two (2) judges rule on any potential stay of a wiretap order.

    That presumes (paraphrasing) any Executive Order to wiretap is, by virtue, valid and expected to proceed without challenge. And IF challenged, any such attempt should be quashed, because of possible dire time constraints and no one judge should be allowed so much power as to hold up the federal government. That is, if I understand what I think I heard.

    Why do we have a Judicial Branch, again? And might two judges ruling at the same time, possibly cancel each other out? What about the Appeals process – too time consuming?

    What was “the 1978 case where the judge was right” that DiFi referred to?
    US Senate Panel Causes Confusion With Action Over FISA
    Dow Jones
    November 15, 2007: 06:56 PM EST

    WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee approved 10-to-9 Thursday a bill authorizing the federal government’s warrantless wiretapping program without a clause offering immunity to telephone companies that may have cooperated with the program.

    Just minutes before the vote, the committee had voted 11-to-8 in favor of immunity for the phone companies.

    Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Cal., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., voted with the nine Republicans on the panel in favor of preserving the immunity clause.

    But in a strange twist that left many wondering what had happened, just minutes after this vote, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, called for a separate vote to approve the bill without the section of the legislation with the immunity provisions.

    The committee approved Leahy’s call 10-9, along party lines.

    This decision came as the committee was in danger of losing its quorum and not having sufficient numbers to deal with the contentious issue of immunity.

    Several members on the panel indicted they wanted to continue discussions with each other on the immunity question.

    Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., had been in the process of introducing an amendment which would allow civil lawsuits over the wiretapping issue to proceed, but would call for the federal government to be substituted in place of the phone companies as defendants.

    Leahy’s call for a vote didn’t allow lawmakers to consider Specter’s amendment.

    Civil liberties groups were celebrating what they interpreted as a victory as a result of the Judiciary Committee’s actions.

    “We are ecstatic that the Democrats were able to strip this measure out of the Judiciary Bill,” said Michelle Richardson, a legislative consultant at the American Civil Liberties Union.

    Lobbyists and committee aides said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is now left with the decision of what version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, will proceed to the floor of the Senate for a debate and vote; the version approved by the Judiciary panel Thursday, or the one approved by the Intelligence Committee last month.

    The Intelligence Committee bill includes an immunity clause. Sens. Feinstein and Whitehouse sit on the committee and voted in favor of telephone immunity there, too.

    Reid does have the prerogative of reconciling the two versions of the bill before it reaches the floor, they said.

    If it is the version approved by the Judiciary Committee, then Republicans and the handful of Democrats known to favor giving the telephone companies immunity could have to introduce an amendment to the legislation on the floor of the Senate.

    Reid would decide whether such an amendment would require a normal cloture vote of 60 votes or a straight majority of 51 votes to be reattached to the legislation, lobbyists said.

    Meanwhile, the House is expected to approve its version of the legislation sometime late on Thursday night, which doesn’t have an immunity provision attached.

    The Bush administration has publicly confirmed the existence of a warrantless wiretapping program in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, but officials have never confirmed the participation of the phone companies.

    For their part, phone companies such as AT&T Inc. (T), Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Qwest Communications International Inc. (Q) have never commented publicly about the program. It has been reported that Qwest declined a government request to participate in the program.

    -By Corey Boles and John Godfrey; Dow Jones Newswires;

  2. Schumer, Feinstein, and Specter were willing to take the “credit”
    -they must be equally willing to take the blame.

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