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August, 1st 2007

Dems offer up compromise on eavesdropping-- I mean, surveillance

– Liz Mair

According to the WaPo, Democrats have come up with a compromise, aimed at allowing the administration to continue its supposedly high value eavesdropping-- crap, did it again, I mean surveillance-- program.

The proposal, according to House and Senate Democrats, would permit a secret court to issue broad orders approving eavesdropping of communications involving suspects overseas and other people, who may be in the United States. That order would not be linked to an individual target but, rather, would be based on guidelines that detail how the government determined whether a target is overseas. The plan would have to be revisited by Congress in six months.

[...]

A Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations said that if communications are determined to involve U.S. persons, then their names would be removed before any transcript is disseminated unless they were relevant to a foreign terrorism investigation.

If further investigation were needed, "individualized warrants for Americans" would be required, according to a proposal by conservative House Democrats led by Reps. Robert E. "Bud" Cramer (Ala.) and Jane Harman (Calif.). It is unclear what would specifically trigger that requirement.


I'm inclined to think this compromise sounds fair. Yes, from what I can tell, it's not absolutely perfect-- amongst other things, before anyone signs off on this, they'd better figure out just what triggers the requirement for individualized warrants for Americans, and it better not be some gut feeling on Michael Chertoff's part, or that someone checked the Koran out of their local library, or whatever.

But, it's a darned sight better than the Attorney General making a decision, all on his own, to authorize wiretapping (which from what the Post says, sounds like it was the administration's preferred option). And, though it pains me to say it a little, I think this is a more civil-liberties-friendly suggestion than what Heather Wilson has put forward previously-- which still was a vast improvement on the administration's preferred method, but might have been prone to a little more running roughshod than this.

Final slight point: since when is Jane Harman actually a conservative Democrat?

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