Democrats retreat again on intercepts of enemy communications

NY Times:

Two months after vowing to roll back broad new wiretapping powers won by the Bush administration, Congressional Democrats appear ready to make concessions that could extend some of the key powers granted to the National Security Agency.

Bush administration officials say they are confident they will win approval of the broadened wiretapping authority that they secured temporarily in August as Congress rushed toward recess, and some Democratic officials admit that they may not come up with the votes to rein in the administration.

As the debate over the N.S.A.’s wiretapping powers begins anew this week, the emerging legislation reflects the political reality confronting the Democrats. While they are willing to oppose the White House on the conduct of the war in Iraq, they remain nervous that they will be labeled as soft on terrorism if they insist on strict curbs on intelligence gathering.

A Democratic bill to be proposed Tuesday in the House would maintain for several years the type of broad, blanket authority for N.S.A. wiretapping that the administration secured in August for just six months. But in an acknowledgment of civil liberties concerns, the measure would also require a more active role by the special foreign intelligence court that oversees the N.S.A.’s interception of foreign-based communications.

A competing proposal in the Senate, still being drafted, may be even closer in line with the administration’s demands, with the possibility of including retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that took part in the N.S.A.’s once-secret program to wiretap without court warrants.

No one is willing to predict with certainty how the issue will play out. But some Congressional officials and others monitoring the debate over the legislation said the final result may not be much different than it was two months ago, despite Democrats’ insistence that they would not let stand the August extension of the N.S.A.’s powers.


It would be nice if it were wisdom rather than cowardice that led the Democrats to do the right thing on the enemy intercept authority, but that is probably too much from this lot. The Democrats' opposition to the measure was always unreasonable in the extreme in war time. It was very likely responsible for the delay in the hunt for the kidnapped US troops in Iraq

That real life fiasco caused by their insistence in jumping through hoops to monitor enemy communications would have been compounded even further if American troops had been murdered in Germany because we were not permitted to intercept the plans of the terrorist this summer. Then there is their real fear of another attack on US soil that could have been thwarted with intercepts.

The importance of intercepting enemy communications with their operatives in this country is such that it is still amazing to me that the NY Times and the Democrats have sought to through ridiculous obstacles in the path of doing so.


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