November 15th, 2007
12:44 PM ET
7 years ago

Judiciary Committee approves bill to update surveillance

Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – In a strict party-line vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved a proposal permanently updating the nation's electronic laws despite opposition from the Bush administration.

The bill would mean the nation's intelligence services do not need to request a court warrant to monitor foreign-to-foreign communications involving suspected terrorists.

Administration officials had been lobbying for a permanent change to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) after an intelligence court ruled earlier this year warrants were needed for those communications. Congress in August passed a temporary change and now is considering various bills to make it permanent.

The committee is expected to vote later in the day on a controversial question of whether to grant retroactive immunity to the telecommunication companies that cooperated with the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program. Several of the companies are facing lawsuits over their involvement. The White House is pushing for approval of the immunity provision, but many Democrats on the panel are opposed to it.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell wrote to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, Wednesday saying they would recommend a veto of this bill if it is presented to the president.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has already passed a bill to update the surveillance laws that does include an immunity clause. The versions passed by the Intelligence and Judiciary panels would have to be reconciled into one bill that would then go to the Senate floor for consideration.

Approval of the proposal by the Democrats was assured after late changes were made in several provisions to satisfy Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI. Republicans objected to the effort to push through a complicated FISA modernization plan on which they had not been consulted. One of the key changes approved by the committee would make clear the FISA law is the exclusive authority for approving warrants for electronic surveillance.

The House of Representatives, which has not included the immunity provision, is expected to consider its version of the electronic surveillance bill later Thursday.

– CNN's Terry Frieden and Kevin Bohn

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. jw, canadian,ok

    Man o'Man, are you Repubs gonna hate the next eight years under a REAL attoney general during the Clinton administration.

    November 15, 2007 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  2. Tom, ALBUQUERQUE, NM

    Please stand your ground Senator Leahy. The Democrats must stand solidly together in opposition to Bush and gang. Also please don't grant any retroactive immunity to the telecoms. We have a constitutional expectation of certain privacies. Show some spine and intestinal fortitude...

    November 15, 2007 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. Dennis A. Rice,

    November 15, 2007

    Americans are well aware that the leadership of the Democratic party, via the approval of its leadership, has now guaranteed that there will be no worthwhile investigations of illegal telecom spying on Americans, nor anyone held rresponsible for the fiasco of the iraq war, what led up to it, nor the war crimes committed in the name of the American people.

    When all is said and done, protecting the wrong doings of the Bush administration and the leadership of both political parties was what Mukasey's appointment was all about in the first place.

    If another nation tried to impose on us what our won government is imposing, we would all go to war.

    November 15, 2007 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  4. KEITH JAMES LOUTTIT

    "The Senate Intelligence Committee" a contradictory term if ever I saw one...

    Will they also do surveillance on how much money is wasted by themselves and how much time they spend on doing absolutely nothing besides griping and moaning about their political opponents? Maybe they should start worrying less about Mr. Bush's apparent lack of success and start looking at their own lack of success with this term of Congress. Ms. Pelosi, are you listening? You made many promises, unfulfilled, unkept.

    November 15, 2007 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  5. Committee watcher

    Actually, this article isn't correct. The Judiciary Committee did not approve the bill. It merely passed a package of amendments to the underlying bill that the Senate Intel Committee passed a couple of weeks ago. The committee is currently in recess and will reconvene later today to take up additional amendments. Then, the committee would have to take a final vote to pass the bill out of committee. This article just isn't right.

    November 15, 2007 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  6. Lambert Strether, Philadelphia, PA

    If the telcos get retroactive immunity for past lawbreaking - when we don't even know what they did! - the other big corporations are going to be standing in line for THEIR "Get out of jail free" cards.

    Please, Democrats, don't let Bush destroy the rule of law and the Constitution completely!

    November 15, 2007 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  7. Matt, Boston, MA

    This issue of granting telecom companies amnesty (let's call it for what it is) for colluding in gov't spying on American citizens is easily one of the single most important points of contention facing Congress today.

    To grant the amnesty would mean tacit approval for the gov't to spy on you without having to show cause, and for private companies to hand over your personal information at the gov't's sole discretion. It would slam shut the only door remaining open for us (or even Congress for that matter) to seek a judicial ruling on whether Bush's domestic spying programs are illegal and unconsitutional, as they almost certainly are.

    If you give the slightest whit for your own civil rights, you should contact your senators and express strong objection to granting this amnesty.

    And if you're a right-wing type getting ready to comment on how we should be happy to give up our Fourth Amendment rights so that Big Brother gov't can keep us "safe", pretend that the gov't was attacking your Second Amendment rights instead, and apply your customary rage and bluster to the problem. This is just as important.

    November 15, 2007 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  8. Phil Chicago, Ill

    Man o'Man, are you Repubs gonna hate the next eight years under a REAL attoney general during the Clinton administration.

    Posted By jw, canadian,ok : November 15, 2007 1:10 pm

    ------

    You mean like Janet Reno?? LMAO

    November 15, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. James, Phoenix AZ

    SIT...

    LAY...

    ROLLOVER...

    Gooood boy! Here's your treat now run along Nancy and Harry.

    November 15, 2007 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  10. J.Crobuzon

    When this is investigated, we'll find plenty of Democrats had their wires tapped, but very few Republicans.

    November 15, 2007 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  11. Danny Casolaro Martinsburg, WV

    Only an America-hating fool would not willing see the Consitution completely destroyed in exchange for protection from the people who want to hurt us.
    The Constitution was not written with 9/11 in mind, and we need to rewrite it, or destroy it completely.
    Rights are not important when we are under attack.
    Anyone who disagrees with the President and this administration should be immediately jailed.
    This is America, land of the free!
    We cannot tolerate these politicians who want warrants to keep terrorists (who are absolutely EVERYWHERE at EVERY MOMENT) roaming the country freely.
    Our rights must be taken away immediately!

    November 15, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  12. Will, Boca Raton FL

    No WONDER WHY WE KEEP ON LOSING TO REPUBLICAN. YOU ARE TOO STUPID!

    PLEASE STAND UP AGAINST THAT Mr. BUSH. OH!I FORGOT THERE IS ONLY BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT.

    November 15, 2007 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  13. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    No immunity for telecoms, who were well-advised that their too-willing cooperation with the Gonzo Gang was illegal.

    November 15, 2007 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  14. Rhonda, Boston MA

    Thank you, Committee watcher, for the clarification. I thought this article didn't quite make sense.

    November 15, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  15. Angela, Cleveland, OH

    Yes like Janet Reno. After the Davidian (sp) disaster in Texas, she said the buck stops here. Not I do not remember, I can't recall, but took responsiblity for her actions. Wow would that be a breath of fresh and clean air.

    November 15, 2007 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. Michael Cambridge, MA

    Leahy will stand his ground as he has done in the past, it is Feinstein we have to worry about...

    November 15, 2007 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  17. Danny

    Leahy has no other job so is going after the new attorney general now. God help us to face these vermont liberals.

    November 15, 2007 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  18. Steve, Portland, OR

    Once agian, welcome to the land of the unaccountable.

    November 15, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  19. Frank J. Ranelli Columbus, Ohio

    “Only an America-hating fool would not willing see the Consitution completely destroyed in exchange for protection from the people who want to hurt us.
    The Constitution was not written with 9/11 in mind, and we need to rewrite it, or destroy it completely.
    Rights are not important when we are under attack.
    Anyone who disagrees with the President and this administration should be immediately jailed.
    This is America, land of the free!
    We cannot tolerate these politicians who want warrants to keep terrorists (who are absolutely EVERYWHERE at EVERY MOMENT) roaming the country freely.
    Our rights must be taken away immediately!”

    Glaring grammar and spelling mistakes not withstanding, Mr. Danny Casolaro of WV appears to have torn out pages of George Orwell’s “1984” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”, and neatly juxtaposed them together in a how-to manual for blind authoritarians and uncritical-thinkers.

    The hypocrisy and contradictions in this obtuse diatribe are steep. The paranoia is more than palpable – a level that would have made Joe McCarthy very proud.

    Yes Danny, destroy the Constitution, take away our unalienable rights, and lock up every person with a dissenting view; a view that now encompasses nearly three-quarters of the American people. Bully!

    As a reminder, that pesky First Amendment - the right to free speech - which you so vociferously laud as a danger to our existence, will be part-and-parcel to the extinction of our rule of law you are so in favor of perpetrating.

    Ergo, you will no longer have the privilege of posting such inane double-speak that you thoughtlessly attempted to propagate here.

    November 15, 2007 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  20. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    To all those howling about lost rights...

    Name ONE citizen indicted, prosecuted, or even QUESTIONED as a result of the administration's FISA program?

    Your complaints are akin to being upset about speed limits in school zones and enforcing those speed limits!

    Oh their watching me!!!! It's my right to go 100mph (It's my right to call terrorists overseas).

    November 15, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  21. clifwest, Golden, CO

    Illegal warrantless searches threaten the integrity and viability of free elections and political protest, and clearly violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Illegal warrantless searches also threaten many of the foundations of our commerce and society, including attorney- client, physician- patient and clergy- parishioner privilege. Patented trade secrets, unpublished scientific and pharmaceutical research and reporters anonymous sources are also threatened by illegal warrantless searches.

    The business and professional community are severely threatened by warrantless searches and should be vigorously opposing telecom immunity.

    Please uphold the Constitution by not interfereing with the Judicial branch, as Federal Courts determine if laws were violated and what penalties should be assessed.

    November 15, 2007 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  22. Ryan, New York, Ny

    Only an America-hating fool would not willing see the Consitution completely destroyed in exchange for protection from the people who want to hurt us.
    The Constitution was not written with 9/11 in mind, and we need to rewrite it, or destroy it completely.
    Rights are not important when we are under attack.
    Anyone who disagrees with the President and this administration should be immediately jailed.
    This is America, land of the free!
    We cannot tolerate these politicians who want warrants to keep terrorists (who are absolutely EVERYWHERE at EVERY MOMENT) roaming the country freely.
    Our rights must be taken away immediately!

    Posted By Danny Casolaro Martinsburg, WV : November 15, 2007 2:01 pm
    Thank you for illustrating the sort of stupidity that is really pushing me from wanting to protect everyone.

    To be completely, 100%, without a doubt honest, people like you scare me more than Al Qaeda. Their actions may kill me and some others, but your desired actions will do far more to cripple this once great nation than they ever will. I really want to know how you justify taking freedoms in the name of safety, yet call this the land of the free. Obviously that's not what you want.

    You would be much better off living in a totalitarian regime, please move to one instead of trying to destroy the most basic laws that govern this country. Better yet, just lock yourself into a bunker. You'll be safe there and at least won't do any damage to the rest of our lives and freedoms.

    November 15, 2007 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  23. jw, canadian,ok

    Reno supervised the following Department of Justice actions:

    Branch Davidian complex April 19, 1993, the day of the ATF's final assaultThe month-long standoff and ensuing deaths of more than 80 men, women, and children–the Branch Davidians–in Waco, Texas. This was the deadliest government action taken against American citizens on U.S. soil since the Civil War.
    Bringing suit against the software company Microsoft for violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
    Prosecution resulting in the conviction of 21 of the Montana Freemen after an 81 day armed standoff.
    Capture and conviction of Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber.
    Capture and conviction of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols for the Oklahoma City bombing.
    Capture and conviction of those who conducted the World Trade Center bombing (resulting in life-sentences of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and 4 conspirators)
    Leak to the news media regarding Richard Jewell that led to the widespread and incorrect presumption of his guilt in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. She later apologized, saying "I'm very sorry it happened. I think we owe him an apology. I regret the leak." [1]
    Identification of the correct suspect (Eric Rudolph) in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing and other bombings, who remained a fugitive throughout her tenure.
    Capture and conviction of Mir Aimal Kasi for the CIA headquarters shootings.
    Armed seizure of six-year-old Elián González and his return to his surviving parent in Cuba.
    From Wikipedia.

    For those of you who may have forgotten what Janet Reno did.

    November 15, 2007 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  24. jw, canadian,ok

    BTW – My first post was in reference to the 'next' Clinton adiministration.

    November 15, 2007 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  25. Jed in Texas

    Im starting to think a mental apptitude test should be given to vote after seeing Danny Casolaro comment above.

    November 15, 2007 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
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