January 23rd, 2008
12:30 PM ET
12 years ago

Cheney warns Congress of need for new surveillance law

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vice President Dick Cheney warned Congress Wednesday that a "day of reckoning" is near if it doesn't soon pass a bill to replace an expiring law that expanded the government's ability to conduct warrantless surveillance of suspected terrorists.

In a speech before the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, Cheney called on lawmakers to make permanent the temporary changes that helped close a gap in the intelligence community's ability to gather information important to national security.

Last August, Congress hurriedly passed the Protect America Act (PAA) after the Director of National Intelligence told the lawmakers that technology changes had hampered the ability to collect intelligence against terrorists. The law expires February 1.

The vice president also pushed Congress to give immunity to telecommunications companies who assist the government in the warrantless eavesdropping on terrorists believed to be overseas even if those calls should involve conversations with people in the United States.

Cheney said telecommunications companies are facing dozens of lawsuits and they "should not be punished" for helping the government track al Qaeda terrorists. Without immunity, Cheney warned, the private sector "might be extremely reluctant to comply with future requests from the government even if necessary to protect American lives," a risk he called "unacceptable."

Congress had been divided over whether to provide immunity. The Senate is set to begin debate Wednesday night on the controversial bill, which does include immunity for the telecommunications companies. The legislation faces a number of amendments including one to strip the immunity provision. The House has already passed a version of the bill without immunity.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, wanted to extend the PAA for a month to give Congress more time to pass the legislation, but Republicans and the White House are opposed.

–CNN National Security Producer Pam Benson

Filed under: Congress • Dick Cheney
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Jim Kansas

    Having grown up in the greatest nation in the world, a nation respected for its courts and freedoms, I say who cares what the Cheney says. He and his type have made this nation a nation that now finds its self on a list warning countries that individuals may be tortured. We are no longer respected but despised, a human rights violater and a nation that 20 years ago we would not do trade with due to human right violations.

    We do not need new legislation surveillance of suspected terrorists, we need to start following our Constitution and laws that are correct and on the books in dealing with crimminals. Terrorists are nothing special, they are crimminals and to treat them any other way falls right into line with what they want.

    Franklin said it best when he warned the Congress that they had better beware of what rights and freedoms they were willing to give up to ensure security, or they would awaken and find that they had no rights or security.

    A great American Dick Cheney, more than willing to send our soldiers off to war, after all he had six draft deferments, because he had more important things to do than defend our nation. Impeach Cheney.

    January 24, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  2. Nick, Denham Springs, LA

    And we were all duped in believing George W Bush is for small/limited government.. Republicans have big government, they want to put Democracy every place in the world, bigger military, bigger investment in the military industrial complex; we want to go and solve every problem in every dictatorship in the world. That's bigger government. That's more government involvement. That's big tax payer spending. And that's what the Republicans have wanted to do

    January 24, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  3. Pickles, Monaca, PA

    If a Republican is elected to the White House, next year's headline will read "Vice President warns Congress of need for new Constitution."

    January 24, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  4. Karen

    Yes, he should be in the Hague for war crimes. Cheney is one of the worst terrorists in existence. By creating and acting on a plan for world dominance using military force, Cheney via Bush has created a horrifying position for Americans.

    Do not believe that because he only has 300+ days left, that they cannot make things worse. Cheney and company will use all the hype and attention with the presidential campaigns to slide more illegal acts past us. Keep on top of it. Do not let the media storm take your eyes off this man.

    Remember Nixon and his illegal wiretapping of opponents and theft of documents from the Democratic Party offices? By using warrantless surveillance of suspected terrorists, imagine what Cheney could do for the Republican Party in this election. Remember, this surveillance is used on all phone calls and internet usage, not just on a targeted few. It has been reported that the government has an office at the AT&T headquarters so they can monitor all calls.

    Keep in touch with your Congress members. Keep pressing them to do away with this surveillance. We cannot afford to allow this administration any more open and easy access into our lives via phone calls and internet usage. Tell your Congress members to stand up for our constitutional rights. Stand up for us.

    January 24, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. Paul Slinde

    All the candidates in the presidential primary races have their own plan to solve the problem of national health care. They proudly proclaim that when they are elected president, national health care will be one of their priorities. My question is ,why aren't the candidates, who are in congress, proposing legislation now to address this problem using their plan? Why are they wasting time to be elected and sworn in as president? People are suffering and sometimes dying because of the lack of health care!! Here is a chance to show us they mean what they say TODAY, not a year from now.

    January 24, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  6. Executive Contact

    We've been doing this for decades, before and after the break up of AT&T this was seen as the Telecom's role and duty. This is not new, especially to those with long tenures at high levels within the Bell System.

    January 24, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  7. caesar

    Cheney warns of a need for new surveillance law...
    Otherwise what? If we don't, and we get attacked, it will be our fault?

    January 24, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
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