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. JAB

    Who cares what Dick Cheney thinks or says? I mean, we can really believe him can't we? How many more days – about 362? Can't wait for that day!

    January 23, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  2. Mike

    Right out of the worse fascist playbook. Use fear and intimidation to remove civil liberties and through protection of companies allow them to abide by the government's iron grip on information, privacy and communication.

    Sometimes I think Dick Cheney had the grandfather who was a Nazi supporter, not President Bush, because Dick is learning well from what the Germans used in 1933 and the Soviets used in 1917.

    January 23, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  3. Jim, Burlington

    Seems the the Dick and Bush frat boy party isn't above one last raping of the constitution.

    Were was this concern for security when you bozo's chose to ignore the briefing on Osama' plan to crash aircraft into US buildings.

    And for all you koolaide drinkers – yeah we know there hasn't been any attacks since 9/11 – but Clinton went 8 years and out after the first Twin Towers attack and he caught the purp within 6 months...

    January 23, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. Tom Masters

    We SHOULD have this surveillance.

    What is everyone so afraid of?!

    January 23, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  5. AS

    Keep yer filthy oil-stained hands off my Constitution. Go work for Putin, you can spy on whomever you want then.

    January 23, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  6. another_turrist

    A "day of reckoning" he's already planned?

    January 23, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. demwit

    This is America. Terrorists should feel free to plan and execute their violent actions anywhere, anytime..

    January 23, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  8. Darren

    The country refuses to secure itself, get control of immigration, wants to give drivers licenses to illegals, has info that terrorists have already crossed our border, makes me take my shoes off at the airport.... Cheney's solution is to give agencies that refuse to work together access to more info. I really like the new proposal to prevent an cybernet attack by sweeping all internet searches and e-mails. That little tidbit warms the cockles of my heart. By the way, immunity for companies that have broken the law makes me feel safer already. Whew! That's a loud off my mind.

    Anyone want to bet the Dems will cave again?

    January 23, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  9. Gardner Waterberry

    Does dick cheney have any credibility left? There is a story out today about how many times the bush administration lied in the lead up to the Iraq War - literally hundreds of times. Now, why in the world should we believe cheney? He has not uttered anything rational and truthful in nearly 8 years. This administration needs to be censured - actually, bush and cheney need to be impeached. Remember: it wasn't American citizens that caused 9/11, so why does the government have to spy on us???

    January 23, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  10. Todd C.

    oh yeah, I forgot Dick Cheney was the Vice President!!

    When did he wake up??

    January 23, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  11. Becky

    After watching Cheney's Law on Public Television he should be in jail not asking lawmakers to give him free reign again!!!!

    January 23, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. Steve, Huntington Beach CA

    What a surprise. Aren't we all glad that the white house has been fighting for the American value of FREEDOM for the last 7 years?

    January 23, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  13. Dave

    this madman just kills me. he wants to contimue to destroy the Constitution. we can't get rid of him soon enough.

    January 23, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. Daniel Kane

    The political pornography never stops. This guy needs to be impeached, he's the face of evil.

    January 23, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |

    War criminal, send him to the Hague.

    January 23, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  16. Gorbashov, Long Beach, Ca.

    A yes, it's the 'politics of fear' once again. Been there done that! 'Shooter' is about as credible as Flip Romney's stance on abortion................this week!

    The Federal Gov't. already had the powers to protect us prior to 9/11, but they simply didn't communicate the information they had. There was no reason to go 'Big Brother' on us and to start shredding the Constitution for their own political purposes. Shame on these fascists!

    Oh and by all means. don't forget to let our corporate overlords off the hook for trampling our civil liberties! Pathetic priorities!

    How does anyone take these deceitful neo-cons seriously?

    January 23, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  17. Bill, Albany, NY

    No business deserves government protection, I belive in free market. If a company pisses off its customers than they must face them not beg congress like children to protect them.

    January 23, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  18. Lou

    Can't wait for our stalwart guardians of our liberties (what we used to call the press) asks those seeking the highest office what they think of president cheney's comments.

    January 23, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  19. Mike, Cleveland, OH

    The more I think about it, the Darth Vader nickname really is appropriate for Cheney. All he does any more is to try to instill fear in the American Public. What a Jerk

    January 23, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  20. khoa, san francisco, ca

    cheney (and his vice president bush) are so irrelevant nowadays anyway that i doubt this message will matter much. the only disconcerting thing is why cnn cares enough to broadcast him.

    January 23, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  21. Deb

    This dude is still walking around free ?

    January 23, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  22. Conan

    You just knew this story would bring the nut jobs out of the woodworks. Please go read history about the Nazis and Soviets to see what a Big Brother state truly is before you guys spout out your ignorance. Just look at present day Russia and China for a real live example.

    January 23, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  23. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    In the past Cheney and Bush never asked permission to conduct these warrantless survellances, they just did them. Is the one they are using now legal?

    January 23, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. Eric

    What defines a "suspected terrorist" I would rather be protected from the governing body then a from a "terrorist." Let us not give up freedom in the name of safety or we may find our selves with none.

    January 23, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  25. John K

    Interesting point on why the telecommunications companies shared the information in the first place. Normally I don't suppose they would ever risk violating the privacy of so many of their customers. Unfortunately for us, 2.6 million federal employees need phone service. And when your biggest customer asks you to do some spying, you listen.

    January 23, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
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