February 25th, 2008
01:15 PM ET
15 years ago

McCain on FISA: Congress 'disgraceful'


Watch Sen. McCain speak Monday.

(CNN)—John McCain joined President Bush Monday in condemning Congress for its failure to renew legislation that would provide legal immunity for telecom companies that participate in warantless government wiretapping.

“[It’s] worse than embarrassing,” McCain said at a campaign event in Ohio, it’s “disgraceful” that Congress has not yet approved FISA renewal.

Opponents of the measure have said the government already possesses the necessary jurisdiction to monitor potential terrorist activity and it would provide the government with too much power.

Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both oppose giving retroactive immunity for telecoms, though when the matter came up earlier this month, only Obama made it to the Senate vote. Clinton was on a campaign trip in Texas.

Despite the gridlock between the White House and Congress over the new terrorism surveillance program, the telephone companies have agreed to continue cooperation with government wiretaps for now, according to a joint statement released Saturday by U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell.

President Bush said Monday that without this renewal it would not be possible to properly monitor terrorist communication. If a terrorist is calling the United States “we really need to know what they are saying, and we need to know what they are thinking, and we need to know who they are talking to,” said Bush.

He added, “Should companies who are believed to have helped us after 9/11 till today, get information necessary to protect the country be sued? My answer is absolutely not, they shouldn't be sued.”

–CNN’s Emily Sherman

Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Bob

    I really want to support McCain but everytime he does something like this, acting like a Dubya Pt. II, I'm less and less sure. The problem is warrantless wiretapping, not legal immunity for the phone companies that provide the "service".

    February 25, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. bridgette

    I like John McCain, and, he seems like an honorable guy. But he is going to have to put his foot down to the so called conservatist. You cannot just agree with everything they say for the sake of agreeing with them. Just like we know that every democrat is not going to agree on everything. I don't know what the Conservatist mean when they say our way of doing things and our policy. Aren't we all in the same country together. Don't we all want what is best for the country. I think they should explain themselves more. Because I don't get what they mean. No president is ever going to make gay marriage legal and no president is ever going to make abortion illegal. So what else are you talking about. Those two things will never change. And I beleive that if you don't believe in abortions then you shouldn't have one.

    February 25, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. Darth Vadik, CA



    February 25, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  4. KMAN

    Go for it McRelic ... you can't go wrong supporting GW Bush's position, after all ... when did he ever make a mistake?

    February 25, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  5. Changing times

    McCain is scary. Do we really want an extension of George W in the Whitehouse. I really don't believe he cares about anything in life other than war and picking fights; like that remark he made that he hopes Castro will die. We don't need another person posing as a tough guy and alienating us from the rest of the world.

    February 25, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. Joe

    Bob, I couldn't agree with you more. I've recently resigned myself to the fact that I will not be supporting McCain, but it was a difficult decision because in 2000 he was 100% my guy. I just feel that after getting so unfairly trampled in 2000 because he had the misfortune of going up against the "chosen one", the member of the Republican royal family GW, he has simply abandoned his position as the independent minded and genuinely honest and engaged "maverick" that he was in favor of a new version of himself – one that has seen what it takes to win, and emulates that in his own way.

    And as a Republican myself, this wiretapping is a HUGE issue for me. Where are the republicans who should be screaming bloody murder at the prospect of the big federal government granting full immunity to private corporations so as to have access to their networks and have the ability to spy on domestic phone conversations??

    Its appalling to me that people like you, who are able to set aside the talking points and think about these things rationally, are the minority. I love and miss my party, but this time around I'm either staying home (if Hillary wins nomination) or voting for Obama. Despite policy disagreements, I think his presidency has the potential to be the first push in a long series of steps required to return this country to normalcy, and to force my party back to its roots.

    February 25, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  7. River

    Sounds like Congress is really going to want to work with McCain...NOT.
    I hope Huckabee brokers the convention. That would be sweeeet!!!

    February 25, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  8. Ratgurl

    What a dummy! Does he think the American people are so stupid as to not see through the intentions of the Bush Administration with this FISA renewal? Let's just ALL give up our privacy!

    February 25, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  9. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    I'd consider retroactive immunity if Bush would tell us what legal opinions or political promises his people used to convince telecom CEOs that their complicity was legal. I can't believe that normally cautious executives and General Counsels didn't take a harder look at what many rational observers thought was clearly illegal conduct. No due diligence, no immunity.

    February 25, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  10. Matt

    I agree with Bob, I want to support McCain. However, why do we need warrantless spying of the American people? Better yet, why do we need to give telecom companies immunity for spying on the American people?

    What McCain needs to realize pronto is that, on issues like this, he is way out of step with the vast majority of the American people. People are jumping at the promise of "change" because they are sick of Bush policies like this: warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, Bush "signing statements" to ignore law, torture and ignoring Geneva conventions, etc....nobody wants this! We want to defend America while behaving honorably and in accordance with our constitution!

    February 25, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  11. DCBATL

    We have warrants for a reason. What happens if they listen in on a conversation that they think could be about terrorism, but it turns out to be another type of crime. Do they have the right/obligation to pursue this information even though it is not about terrorism?

    February 25, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  12. Gary in CT

    Someone needs to tell the Senator that, most of the time, Congress goes with what their constuents want.

    February 25, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. Patrick

    Speaking of pandering...

    Meet your new GOP presidental nominee: George W. Bu... Er John McCain!

    I liked you better when you thought for yourself McCain.

    February 25, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. ED FL

    No more disgraceful then a Senator with the morals of an alley cat, who dumped his first wife and reportedly cheats on his second wife while playing footsie with lobbyist's and crokked dealings while trying to convince the american people that he is one of Washingtons good and honorable elected officials. Your type has been hand fed your whole life while getting you through the naval academy, flight school and the sleaze of political ventures. It appears you have excelled in every aspect of bad and suspect at each level .Try honesty John you might like it.

    February 25, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. TheLeftNut

    We need some serious oversight of these War Mongers.

    Our precious constitution has been comprimised.

    What Baby Bush should have "stayed the course" on is the beliefs that our constitution hold dear and sets our democracy apart from others and makes our consititution the model for all other democratic constitutions.

    Instead Bush/Cheney/Rove has raped our constitution and brought shame on our country.

    February 25, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  16. andrew jones

    I thought McCain was a man of principles when he stood:
    -against water boarding
    -against george dubya tax cut
    -against lobbyist and special interest (so I thought before ms. Iseman news came out)
    -for green cards for illegal immigrant

    But overnight, he is now a turn-coat; standing for all and everything george dubya! I have zero respect for any man who cannot stand for what he believes in and changes his mind overnight just to win an election!
    I have lost my respect for you JOHN McCAIN!

    GO OBAMA!!!

    February 25, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  17. Liz, Atlanta

    Telcoms have nothing to fear now – or regarding their past actions – if they cooperate with a lawful request from the government. Lawful being the operative word.

    The fact that the admin is so adamant about providing retro-active immunity (even to the point of delaying renewal of critical program operations) says a great deal, however, about the legality of their cooperation in the past.

    Of course, it is not suprising that McCain strongly supports telcom immunity – he's the #1 recipient of telecom lobbyist donations.

    February 25, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  18. W B in Las Vegas

    the fight over FISA is NOT a fight over the safety of America like Bush, McCain and the NeoCons are trying to spin it. it's about the telecoms AND the current administration BREAKING the LAW. the ONLY reason Bush want's that blanket immunity is to SAVE his OWN criminal HIDE after he leaves office.

    February 25, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  19. retruntocommonsense

    People\companies need to be held accountable for breaking the law even at the behest of our government. The telecommunication companies should have said no when asked.

    The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests. – Patrick Henry

    February 25, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  20. KathieTX

    I agree with "The LeftNut"

    The Bush/Cheney/Rove have seriously compromised our constitution and destroyed our reputation around the world.

    Its a shame that these "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" are not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If you can impeach a president for lieing about a BJ, surely you have the stones to impeach this whole administration for its High Crimes and Misdemeanors.....

    February 25, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. AaronK

    I'd like this guy much more if he were just honest enough to admit that he doesn't want us to have the Constitution, that it's an old relic that doesn't matter anymore, and would get rid of it. If he admitted than, then he would just be crazy, but as it stands he's a crazy liar.

    February 25, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. Jenny

    Yeah... they did something that was illegal, it was a violation of our constitutional rights, they should not be given immunity. Sometimes it feels like George W. Bush is running for office all over again...

    February 25, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  23. Leslie - OBAMA Decided in OHio

    What is wrong with Hilary? She goes from I'm proud of Obama to Shame on you Obama in less than 24 hours. She is flip flopping and I am very concerned about a person that can not control their emotions. She is hot-headed just like our current President and that is not a Leadership quality that we need in the White House at this time. She is trying to show that she is tough and it is not working. Strength and self-control is a form of toughness. Imagine her in the White House when things are not going her way.
    She needs to re-visit President Roosevelt's speech on "Walking softly and carrying a big stick".

    February 25, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  24. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Let's just throw away the Constitution and let John McCain like Bush/Cheney do whatever they want to do and just shut up.

    February 25, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. GSOresident

    I would not vote for John McCain for anything. If I am correct I believe that Congress has requested specific documentation about the issues of illegal wiretapping and they have been refused those documents. I think that Congress wants to know who these telecommunication companies were eavesdropping on an if they had suficient evidence that they were possible terrorists which in handing over copies of their conversations would tellimmediately whether or not these were legitmate wiretapps on possible terrorists or if the BUSH administration had wiretapps on lines to promote their own agenda. I agree with Congress (DEMOCRATS) on this one. They need to hand over those documents for Congress to review before they vote on this issue. I think president Bush was misleading those telecom companies for his own personal agenda and wants to ge them immunity before they hand over their documents to CONGRESS. I DON'T THINK SO BUSH!!!! Maybe he needs to be IMPEACHED for wrongdoing!!!! Illegal wiretapping is much worse than Clinton cheating on his wife!!! WAY BIGGER ISSUE!

    February 25, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |