Monday, February 18, 2008
Flap over Warrantless Wiretapping
I wrote to my friend that I had seen a rather thorough account of the matter on PBS. According to my information, there were two versions of the bill. One, passed earlier by the House, did not provide immunity to telecommunication firms that had cooperated with the government in carrying out the warrantless wire taps. The Senate had that bill and also another one. The other one did include the immunity. Republicans in the Senate and the President wanted the bill that provided the immunity. The House refused to go along with the Senate version of the bill. Some lengthy negotiation would be needed to reach a compromise. In the mean time, both Houses agreed to extend the existing law for another three weeks while they argued and ironed out the differences between the two bills. The President and the Senate Republicans demanded either the Senate version or nothing. They were not interested in an extension. As a result, the President got nothing.
Actually, nothing was probably what he wanted. With nothing he could go to the public and point out that those damned Democrats had refused to enact a bill that would enable our fearless intelligence agencies to continue listening in on conversations that might provide leads to another terrorist plot. The Democrats are not to be trusted on defense. Vote Republican this fall.
To me it seems clear that if the President were convinced that he really, really needed this law to enable the warrantless wire taps to continue and that the nation would be in danger without it, he would have happily agreed to another extension of the existing law.