This just in: retroactive immunity, now in effect. (Well, not quite yet.)
After months of wrangling, Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress struck a deal on Thursday to overhaul the rules on the government’s wiretapping powers and provide what amounts to legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in President Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The deal, expanding the government’s powers in some key respects, would allow intelligence officials to use broad warrants to eavesdrop on foreign targets and conduct emergency wiretaps without court orders on American targets for a week if it is determined important national security information would be lost otherwise. If approved, as appears likely, it would be the most significant revision of surveillance law in 30 years.
It's Legacy time. Read the full text of the bill, courtesy of the majority leader.
WaPo offers this:
ACLU and some Democratic leaders have argued that the bill does not go far enough in protecting civil liberties. The proposal would give retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that can show the court that they received assurances from government officials that the program was legal and that they have "substantial evidence" in the form of classified letters from authorities to support their position.
To quote Condi Rice out of context:
“Obviously, in any compromise, there are compromises."
From the archive, a favorite:
About the failure everyone now agrees. But what was the problem? And what should be done to make us safe?
It wasn't respect for the Constitution that kept the NSA from reading the "Tomorrow is zero hour" message until the day after the disaster. It was lack of translators. To meet that kind of problem, the Comint professionals have a default solution: more. Not just more Arab linguists but more of everything -- more analysts, more polygraph examiners and security guards, more freedom to listen in on more people, more listening posts, more coverage, more secrecy.
Is more what we really need?
In my opinion not.
But running spies is not the NSA's job. Listening is, and more listening is what the NSA knows how to organize, more is what Congress is ready to support and fund, more is what the President wants, and more is what we are going to get.