Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Government United States Politics

House Declines To Vote On Telecom Immunity 341

Posted by Soulskill
from the ain't-over-till-it's-over dept.
freedom_india alerts us to news that the House of Representatives declined to bring the surveillance reform bill to vote, prompting House Republicans to walk out in the middle of a session. The bill, recently passed by the Senate, includes retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies who assisted with illegal domestic wiretaps. The walk-out comes after a proposal was shot down on Wednesday that would have extended the current legislation for another three weeks.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

House Declines To Vote On Telecom Immunity

Comments Filter:
  • One can hope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kierthos (225954) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:25AM (#22433318) Homepage
    that the House doesn't end up bending over AGAIN for that sockpuppet masquerading as a President.

    The telecoms do not need immunity, and any existing wiretaps can continue for up to a year. But of course, President sockpuppet prefers not to mention that....
    • by CmdrGravy (645153) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:29AM (#22433374) Homepage
      I'm surprised he isn't able to torture those members of the house who dissent until they bend to his will, it is the security of the United States which is at risk here and any reasonable person would understand that all available measures must be employed to maintain that security.
    • Re:One can hope (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shining Celebi (853093) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:49AM (#22433564) Homepage

      But of course, President sockpuppet prefers not to mention that....

      The President himself doesn't feel the need to mention that. He was admonishing Congress yesterday, claiming that: [whitehouse.gov]

      Members of Congress knew all along that this deadline was approaching. They said it themselves. They've had more than six months to discuss and deliberate. And now they must act, and pass legislation that will ensure our intelligence professionals have the tools they need to keep us safe.

      Earlier this week the Senate did act, and passed a strong bill, and did so with a bipartisan majority. The Senate bill will ensure that we can effectively monitor those seeking to harm our people. The Senate bill will provide fair and just liability protection for companies that assisted in the efforts to protect America after the attacks of September the 11th. Without this protection, without this liability shield, we may not be able to secure the private sector's cooperation with our intelligence efforts. And that, of course, would put the American people at risk.

      Our government has no greater responsibility than getting this work done, and there really is no excuse for letting this critical legislation expire. I urge congressional leaders to let the will of the House and the American people prevail, and vote on the Senate bill before adjourning for their recess. , and could reopen dangerous gaps in our intelligence. Failure to act would also make the private sector less willing to help us protect the country, and this is unacceptable. The House should not leave Washington without passing the Senate bill.

      Of course, as you said, all previously authorized wiretaps under the expiring act go on, and as the House Intelligence Chair put it:

      First, NSA can use its authority under Executive Order 12333 to conduct surveillance abroad of any known or suspected terrorist. There is no requirement for a warrant. There is no requirement for probable cause. Most of NSA's collection occurs under this authority.

      Second, NSA can use its authority under the Protect America Act, enacted last August, to conduct surveillance here in the U.S of any foreign target. This authority does not "expire" on Saturday, as you have stated. Under the PAA, orders authorizing surveillance may last for one year - until at least August 2008. These orders may cover every terrorist group without limitation. If a new member of the group is identified, or if a new phone number or email address is identified, the NSA may add it to the existing orders, and surveillance can begin immediately. We will not "go dark."

      Third, in the remote possibility that a new terrorist organization emerges that we have never previously identified, the NSA could use existing authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor those communications. Since its establishment nearly 30 years ago, the FISA Court has approved nearly every application for a warrant from the Department of Justice. In an emergency, NSA or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may begin surveillance immediately, and a FISA Court order does not have to be obtained for three days. The former head of FISA operations for the Department of Justice has testified publicly that emergency authorization may be granted in a matter of minutes.

      In summary: There really doesn't seem to be a need for this law at all, let alone the provisions like telecom immunity.

      • Re:One can hope (Score:4, Insightful)

        by IdleTime (561841) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:37AM (#22434754) Journal
        The only threat to US security is the current administration which is comprised of a bunch of common criminals who should all be arrested and charged with a plethora of crimes. I'd like to see both Bush and Cheney hanged!
      • Kennedy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by kisak (524062) on Friday February 15, 2008 @02:09PM (#22436838) Homepage Journal

        Ted Kennedy on FISA:

        Think about what we've been hearing from the White House in this debate. The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no new FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he is willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies. The President's insistence on immunity as a precondition for any FISA reform is yet another example of his disrespect for honest dialogue and for the rule of law.

        It's painfully clear what the President's request for retroactive immunity is really about. It's a self-serving attempt to avoid legal and political accountability and keep the American public in the dark about this whole shameful episode. Like the CIA's destruction of videotapes showing potentially criminal conduct, it's a desperate attempt to erase the past.

        Kennedy on YouTube [youtube.com].

    • Re:One can hope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mmalove (919245) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:38AM (#22434772)
      I agree. If the telecoms have immunity, then they have no reason to maintain their records proving that our government mandated their cooperation - they can simply sit back and wave the immunity flag and sit smug.

      For some reason I just can't see giving companies like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc immunity to prosecution for failure to take proper care of my privacy with information they collect. Maybe it's the completely dishonest PR I've seen out of Comcast recently with relation to P2P trafficing. Maybe it's the anti-competitive buyouts of AT&T. Maybe it's just a general mistrust of anyone worth over a million dollars.

      So yea - if there are breaches of my privacy, someone should be held accountable. If it's the government mandating it unjustly, they need publicly defamed and removed from office. If there's no public official - then let the suing of large private information collecting giants like the telecom industries serve as a lesson that maybe, just maybe, they should stop tracking everytime I sneeze.

      • Re:One can hope (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TheWizardTim (599546) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:20PM (#22436162) Journal
        The companies don't need immunity, Bush needs it. The second that a lawsuit gets approved, then the depositions start. The first thing that the companies will say is, "Bush made us do it. Our lawyers said this was breaking the law, and we did not want to, but Bush held a gun to our heads." That puts Bush and staff in the court room, then in jail.

        It's funny, but the job of president only has one task:

        "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

        That's his/her only job. It's not a lot to ask for. So breaking that oath is a big deal, and should come with some jail time.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pugugly (152978)
          Yet this is a President that reportedly exploded at people yelling 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper' [capitolhillblue.com].

          Which, as much as I consider Capital Hill Blue an untrustworthy resource (Call it a left-wing Drudge Report. At one time they were known to single source things, though they told you when they did.), they've had way too much of a tendency to be ahead of the curve on stuff for me to assume they're wrong on anything.

          Pug
    • Re:One can hope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Thuktun (221615) on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:04PM (#22435048) Homepage Journal
      Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, was interviewed on NPR this morning. [npr.org]

      Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, told Renee Montagne the main issue is liability protection for the private sector.

      "We can't do this mission without their help," he said. "Currently there is no retroactive liability protection for them. They're being sued for billions of dollars."

      He said the lawsuits are causing them to be less cooperative and that their actions are not illegal.
      If the actions are to comply with legal government activities, then why would they need immunity? IANAL, but shouldn't that be a slam-dunk against such a lawsuit?
      • Re:One can hope (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Fjandr (66656) on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:48PM (#22435694) Homepage Journal
        Yes, it should be. Either they acted legally, or at least in good faith, or they did not. This is a matter that should be easily resolvable to find whether they are culpable or not, but that would require the release of information that the Bush administration does not want to release in their defense. He'd rather axe the legitimate method of determining the truth of the matter with legislation than to actually give up any information on his secret programs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      FTFA:

      Republicans want the House to simply pass the Senate bill, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said yesterday his chamber is "not a lap dog of the president or the United States Senate any more than they are of us."
    • Re:One can hope (Score:4, Insightful)

      by moeinvt (851793) on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:43PM (#22435622)
      I heard Mike McConnell (Director of National Intelligence) on NPR this morning stating that the Senate had determined that the telecom companies hadn't done anything wrong . . .

      Unfortunately the reporter didn't ask the obvious follow up question . . .

      "If they've done nothing wrong, why do they need a law granting them immunity?"
  • Wow (Score:4, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmail.cFREEBSDom minus bsd> on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:25AM (#22433326) Homepage Journal
    That's a one-sided report. What I heard on the radio yesterday is that the Republicans were upset that the democrats were wasting time on the vote to hold Bush Officials in contempt of Congress. The Republican senators claimed that they were in support of the investigation, but felt that President and adviser communications should have some degree of privilege. They wanted to move on to the business for the day (which happened to be the surveillance bill) and called for a walk-out when the Democrats were insistent on worrying about the (probably impotent anyway) contempt vote.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by dreamt (14798) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:38AM (#22433442)
      Ok, so the article didn't mention the important part that the House wants to hold the president accountable for his actions. Its not one-sided, its taking it easy on idiot-boy's insistence that his people have to follow the law. Stating both of these actions make the House look even better!

      Now, its just up to the House to enforce the contempt of Congress charges themselves, as the Justice Department isn't going to do its job in enforcing them (I read _somewhere_ that Congress does have some sort of enforcement capabilities for cases like this when Justice won't do their job).
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmail.cFREEBSDom minus bsd> on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:45AM (#22433510) Homepage Journal
        No, it is one sides. It puts a completely different spin on the report, effectively providing the reader with no option but to believe that the Republicans all were pissed off that the Telecom immunity bill didn't pass. In fact, the immunity bill may have had nothing to do with the events at the Capital. Spinning the story like that is simply irresponsible.

        As for the charges, it's just political maneuvering. According to the news report, the President invoked executive powers to keep his aides from talking. Congress can hold those aides in contempt all they want, but the Judicial Branch is unlikely to enforce the contempt charge. As a result, it accomplishes nothing more than grandstanding to look like they're doing something about Bush's policies.

        IMHO, start the impeachment process or don't. All this pussyfooting around is 100% impotent and accomplishes nothing more than a lot of publicity to make voters feel warm and fuzzy.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          No, it is one sides. It puts a completely different spin on the report, effectively providing the reader with no option but to believe that the Republicans all were pissed off that the Telecom immunity bill didn't pass.

          You're right. If it were written properly it would show that the Republicans got all pissy when the House Democrats made it a point to show that the executive branch is not above the law. Although something tells me you wouldn't be pleased with that either. Somehow you need to pin it all o
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by somersault (912633)
            This makes me think.. has anyone ever done 'democrats' vs 'republican' skins for CS? With all the inane political banter that goes on about both sides (and I severely doubt that just because someone is a member of some political party means you can stereotype them in the way that seems to go on allllllllll the freaking time), I think that all you pseudo-political nutjobs would get a real kick out of it! :)
            • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

              by The Redster! (874352) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:54AM (#22434276)
              Most good skins are ones where you can tell one side from the other.
              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by Jesus_666 (702802)
                I'm not a US American, but from what I've gathered the Democrats are essentially a cross-breed between hippies and communists while the Republicans are essentially nazis on Exxon Mobil's payroll. So just give the Dems flowerchild garments, furry hats and AK47s and the Reps brown shirts, flamethrowers and corporate logos as spray tags.

                I think that reflects the political situation in the USA, as seen on Slashdot, quite well.
        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Shining Celebi (853093) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:07AM (#22433790) Homepage

          As for the charges, it's just political maneuvering. According to the news report, the President invoked executive powers to keep his aides from talking. Congress can hold those aides in contempt all they want, but the Judicial Branch is unlikely to enforce the contempt charge. As a result, it accomplishes nothing more than grandstanding to look like they're doing something about Bush's policies.

          I'm curious why you think the judicial branch would uphold his claims of executive privilege. That's not a Constitutional privilege. If Presidential aides break the law, should they be immune from investigation as long as the President invokes executive privilege? The real issue is that the Justice Department has said they won't investigate and bring charges, meaning it wouldn't go to court in the first place -- seems a bit of an odd choice if the court wouldn't do something about it. But Congress still has its own power to enforce the citation. And how can you impeach if you don't have any evidence to go on? That's the entire point of calling the aids to TESTIFY, which they refused to do.

          And this is related to the FISA bill. Boehner was mad they weren't going to get straight to the spy bill like the President wanted.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by funwithBSD (245349)
            The papers of any branch of government, Judicial, Executive or Legislative are considered protected if it is the sole responsiblity of that branch. That is implied by "Separation of Powers"

            The first test case was Washington:

            "In 1796, President George Washington refused to comply with a request by the House of Representatives for documents which were relating to the negotiation of the then-recently adopted Jay Treaty with Great Britain. The Senate alone plays a role in the ratification of treaties, Washingto
            • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

              by ROU Nuisance Value (253171) on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:18PM (#22435256) Homepage
              That's a completely disingenous take on both issues in the congress, as well as the constitutional powers involved, and the Washington case:
              1. In addition to separation of powers, the constitution confers on Congress both the authority and the *duty* to conduct oversight on the operations of the executive. The executive has no comparable duty with respect to Congress. The powers conferred on congress by the constitution includes otherwise-judicial powers, including service of subpoenas and the right of enforcement of said subpoenas.
              2. In the Washington case, Congress was exercising that authority. Washington *did* comply by providing the papers requested to the Congressional body with authority to oversee his actions: the Senate. He did not stonewall congress on this.
              3. Congress is now attempting to exercise this same authority with respect to allegations of political manipulation of the Justice Department. The executive has denied access not only to papers and documents, but gagged witnesses Harriet Meirs and Josh Bolton, telling them that they may not testify to congress in any form. This is completely outside the scope of executive privilege, and congress has allowed the executive to get away with this stonewalling for over a year.
              4. Congress has (finally) gotten around to voting on a contempt of congress resolution, which is the first step to enforcing those subpoenas. We will indeed have a court test of this, and fairly soon -- but the idea that the courts are "unlikely" to support congress' privileges in this is pretty silly.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by HTH NE1 (675604)

            If Presidential aides break the law, should they be immune from investigation as long as the President invokes executive privilege? The real issue is that the Justice Department has said they won't investigate and bring charges, meaning it wouldn't go to court in the first place -- seems a bit of an odd choice if the court wouldn't do something about it.

            Going after his aides won't get the aides. The President will still Pardon or Commute sentences for them like he did for Libby. But he won't want Pardon them until he leaves office at the end of his term. To Pardon them now leaves them no recourse for refusing to testify. Claim privilege and he can keep them silent (or amnesiac) until his departure and avoid investigation, impeachment, and removal from office. Then he can resign at the very end, swear in Cheney, and have Cheney Pardon him (as Ford did Nixo

        • by WindBourne (631190) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:38AM (#22434770) Journal
          the truth. Neither do I. We have absolutely NO idea why they walked out. You also have NO idea of what the media was told. For all you know, the reporters heard exactly what they reported. Calling it spin makes you just as guilty of what you are accusing the media of doing. That is talking and making accusations before you have all the facts.

          Normally, I have respect on your opinions, but on this, I do not. Bush has NO capabilities to invoke executive powers on them WRT this. The reason is that ALL have claimed that they had no dealings with Bush on the very matters that congress wants to see them on. If they had dealings, well, then maybe. But bush and the others have all claimed that they did not. Or are they all liars?

          As to impeachment, there is zero doubt in my mind that W and his cronies belong in prison. But it will never happen. The reason is that dems do not control congress and I think that even if they get control of congress on the next go, they will give W and his entire staff a pass because they are afraid that it will come back to haunt them. I am not sure which is worse. The fact that so many of these GD pubs have been as illegal and corrupt as they have been or that the dems have appeared to join them in that they do not go after where the real evidence is; Sibel Edmunds. If the dems REALLY wanted to bring down bush, all that would have to happen is that they would ungag sib edmunds, which is in their powers. Yet, waxman and others who PROMISED her that they would do this, will not even take her calls.
        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

          by RingDev (879105) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:41AM (#22434806) Homepage Journal
          Now Batman, I'm usually well aligned with your views. And even in this I can see your point, but I think it is a bit naive to claim that the reason for the walk out was not related to the tel-com vote. Pitching a fit over the contempt charges was just a scape goat.

          By walking out at that point they achieve 3 political goals:
          1) They prevent the contempt issue from being settled.
          2) They spare themselves the popular heat of voting for immunity.
          3) They continue the perception that the democratically lead congress is unable to take action.

          Many congressmen are behind impeachment, but unfortunately the majority leader has taken it off the table and quashes any movements for it. So they are taking what actions they can. It is the responsibility of the legislative branch to maintain the balance of power with the Executive and Judicial branch. If the option of impeachment is not available, they must use what ever powers they do have to attempt to do so. If that means censures and contempt charges, so be it.

          Sure, it may be grandstanding, but it is grandstanding that the people, the congressmen's constituents are demanding. If the representatives are getting pressure from their State, from the people that they are there to represent, to pursue contempt charges, then their actions seem to be right on the mark.

          And besides, I didn't hear any complaints from the Republican party (at least not on this scale) when the congress was wasting days on steroids in baseball hearings. Talk about a waste of tax payer resources. Who gives a flying f' if some sports star was juicing. Let the league handle it, and if there was a criminal act, let the judicial branch handle it. There is no reason for us to be paying these over-aged pasty white guys to sit around talking about baseball.

          -Rick
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:51AM (#22433588)
        Yes, the House can enforce the contempt citation without the aid of the Justice Department. Under the rules for inherent contempt, after the citation is passed, the cited party would be arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House and brought to the floor to answer charges. However, the statutory procedure, which is the one that involves the Justice Department, has been used more often since its inception in 1857, and the inherent procedure hasn't been used since 1934.
      • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Brad Eleven (165911) <brad.eleven@gmail.com> on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:01PM (#22435022) Homepage Journal

        I read _somewhere_ that Congress does have some sort of enforcement capabilities for cases like this when Justice won't do their job


        I have, too, but all I find is the Department of Justice asserting in a 2005 opinion that they don't: IMPERMISSIBILITY OF DEPUTIZING THE HOUSE SERGEANT AT ARMS AS A SPECIAL DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL [usdoj.gov]. Rather pre-emptive, isn't it?

        IMHO, this is either going to turn out like Iran/Contra or Watergate. My guess is that it's not so much public opinion and approval ratings as it is media mogul opinion and Nielsen ratings.

        Or it could turn out like the 2000 Presidential election, i.e., the Supreme Court rules, and that's that.

        Is it just me, or does anyone else keep hearing this message that We the People don't really have any say?
    • FYI, the report has been updated to point out the missing information.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by JediN8 (941637) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:56AM (#22433646)
      Contempt of Congress...WTF! I hold nothing but contempt for Congress, guess i better start packing.
    • Correction.... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by raehl (609729)
      but felt that REPUBLICAN President and adviser communications should have some degree of privilege.

      Remember that the amount of executive authority the President should have is based on the political party of who you're asking.

      Were it a Democratic President who was stomping all over our civil liberties, the situation in Congress would be reversed.
      • Re:Correction.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:20AM (#22433938)

        Were it a Democratic President who was stomping all over our civil liberties, the situation in Congress would be reversed.

        Are you saying that if the President was a Democrat, the republican congressmen would go so far as to impeach him for something as trivial as a blowjob?

    • by Hatta (162192)
      What I heard on the radio yesterday is that the Republicans were upset that the democrats were wasting time on the vote to hold Bush Officials in contempt of Congress.

      I agree, the democrats should stop wasting time and hold Bush officials in contempt of congress already.
  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:26AM (#22433338) Homepage Journal

    "The House should not leave Washington without passing the Senate bill," Bush said, adding that not doing so would "put the American people at risk."
    *sigh* I'm soooo tired of these scare tactics and I'm sure the rest of America is, too. Look, we're no better off than we were before 9/11 with regards to 'safety' from terrorists, and in many ways, we're worse off.

    Read my lips, Bush: We ain't skeered of no terrorists.
    • *sigh* I'm soooo tired of these scare tactics and I'm sure the rest of America is, too

      Don't be so sure, my sister in law once said that she is actually glad for all the checkpoints and inspections at public events, as it makes her feel safer.
      For myself though, I put my faith in my safety-rock. We haven't been attacked ever since I started keeping it in my front yard.

      • by radja (58949)
        safety-rocks not only work against terrorism, they also keep you safe from tiger attacks and the re-entry from satellites in the athmosphere!
        • by elrous0 (869638) *
          Don't forget the bear patrol. Sure, it cost us a lot of money, but there hasn't been a single bear attack in New York City since they started it!
    • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:08AM (#22433802)
      and in many ways, we're worse off.
      How can you say this? The terrorists hate us because of our freedoms. We have systematically been eliminating their reasons for hating us! In just a few short years, I am sure they will love us again!
  • Matters Instead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by techpawn (969834) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:28AM (#22433360) Journal
    Turned to contempt of congress charges against Bush aides who did not testify when subpoenas. This outraged some republicans because they thought that the FISA was more important...

    A bill that would give the president more power is more important than maintaining checks and balances?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      A bill that would give the president more power is more important than maintaining checks and balances?
      Yes. It's much easier to build a theocratic state when you only have to control the President and you don't have to worry about any pesky liberals in the Legislature.

      • by techpawn (969834)

        It's much easier to build a theocratic state when you only have to control the President
        Huh... I guess then we wouldn't want impeachment then. We'd need excommunication?
    • Re:Matters Instead (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmail.cFREEBSDom minus bsd> on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:39AM (#22433448) Homepage Journal
      Trying to charge the White House aides is an interesting tactic, as it was Bush himself who invoked executive powers to keep them from testifying. Yet they know they can't charge the President himself (short of impeachment, they can't touch him) so the House chose to chase down the aides instead.
      • Re:Matters Instead (Score:5, Insightful)

        by raehl (609729) <raehl311.yahoo@com> on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:17AM (#22433908) Homepage
        as it was Bush himself who invoked executive powers to keep them from testifying.

        1) Bush doesn't have those powers. He's just pretending he does.
        2) Following orders isn't an excuse. The aides are in contempt of Congress if they refuse to testify, whether someone else told them not to testify or not.

        Separation of powers means the executive branch can't legislate and the legislative branch can't ... uh ... execute. It doesn't mean that the Executive branch isn't subject to the lawful acts of Congress.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          2) Following orders isn't an excuse. The aides are in contempt of Congress if they refuse to testify, whether someone else told them not to testify or not.

          Following orders can be an excuse. Personally, I would be fine with the aides saying "I have been ordered not to testify," getting off scotfree, and having the person who gave them the order take their place in the hotseat. Repeat as necessary until someone is responsible.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      You have to give it to Republicans. When it comes to matters of evil, those guys are remarkably disciplined. I just wish Democrats could learn to be equally disciplined in defense of good; instead of being wishy-washy, weak, and all over the map.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by techpawn (969834)

        When it comes to matters of evil, those guys are remarkably disciplined.
        True republicans exist only two at a time, with a master and an apprentice...
  • I'm confused... (Score:5, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:29AM (#22433372)
    I thought the Republican walk-out was staged in response to the Dems daring to bring contempt citations against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former counsel Harriet Miers [rawstory.com].

    Was this a different walk-out?
  • by funnyguy (28876) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:37AM (#22433434)
    The republicans walked out in protest of a vote to cite two former white house officials (Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten) with contempt of Congress. House Minority Leader John Boehner argued that the House should instead be voting on an extension of the FISA bill which expires Saturday.

    The /. teaser seemed to indicate that the walk out was due to a refusal to vote on the FISA bill. That is not correct.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:41AM (#22433472)
    For anyone paying attention, the Democrats have just shown Bush to be the Lying Fascist he is.

    How? Bush said that people would Die, the Tarrraaarrusts would win if the bill isn't signed.
    However, he'd veto the bill without Telecom immunity

    So, let's see. It's more important to protect the Telecoms than to "Stop the Tarraa"

    Come on. Fascism isn't any clearer than that. We'll let terrorists kill people (if you believe
    you need one a bill at all, which you don't) instead of passing one without support for
    the Corporate Sponsors.

    Got Fascism? Yup. Damn, now you've even got proof.
  • by Sleeping Kirby (919817) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:42AM (#22433484)
    In related news. Bush vows to hold his breath until his face turns blue in protest of the house not being bipartisan by giving him exactly what he wants.

    I haven't been in American that long (only almost 20 years). Has there been a worse president than this guy?
    • by belthize (990217)
      Not yet but give us time; we've only been around for 200+ years.

          I'm sure that in another 100-200 years we can find somebody less
      competent as President but more adept at demagoguery and hyperbole.

      Belthize
    • by sethstorm (512897) *
      Reagan the Enabler.
  • No Immunity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PaK_Phoenix (445224) <darin3NO@SPAMcox.net> on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:49AM (#22433566)
    There should be no retroactive immunity for the telcos. They broke the law, they knew they were breaking the law when they did it. They should now be open to civil litigation, now that their actions are out in the open.

    To pass a bill granting retroactive immunity, would set a precedent I'm not comfortable with. The government(executive branch) violated citizens rights (wether or not they had a 'good' reason), and are now looking to protect their cohorts in crime.

    What's next? Retroactive immunity for Microsoft, for installing a back door in windows, to help us catch terrorists?

    I'm just afraid that immunity will send the message, that it's okay to violate civil rights, if the government asks you to. The government is the last people you should want violating your rights, it says so right in the constitution.
    • by glindsey (73730)

      What's next? Retroactive immunity for Microsoft, for installing a back door in windows, to help us catch terrorists?
      YES.

      But I'm waiting for the bill that grants retroactive immunity to assassins who take out anybody deemed to be anti-patriotic and/or subversive.
    • by Xelios (822510)

      There should be no retroactive immunity for the telcos. They broke the law, they knew they were breaking the law when they did it. They should now be open to civil litigation, now that their actions are out in the open.

      I agree with you 100%, but I imagine the conversation went something like this:

      Bush: "Alright here's the deal telcos. We need wiretaps, lots of em. LOTS. Warrants would take too long, cause we just have so many phones to tap. We need you to go ahead without them."
      Telco: "Hold up. You nee

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:53AM (#22433612)
    Most vocal Slashdot'ers, including myself, feel that in the balance between (effective counter-terrorism) and (personal freedom, open government), Bush and Congress err far too much in the (effective counter-terrorism) direction.

    Are most private citizens like us in this regard, and it's an authoritarian-vs.-population issue? Or are we /.'ers different from most citizens, and if so, why?
    • by blindd0t (855876) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:08AM (#22433808)

      Or are we /.'ers different from most citizens, and if so, why?

      Voluntary Response is the answer to your question. Those who do care voluntarily voice their opinion in various ways, such as posting /. comments. ^_^ Many if not most citizens don't appear care enough to even follow what's going on with government. They're too preoccupied with their own little worlds, and until those bubbles are burst, they will continue living their lives in deliberate and blissful ignorance. Mod me as flamebait/troll for saying it for all I care, but when Britney Spears requiring medical treatment makes front page news, yet Russia resuming cold war patrol flights and threatening to point missiles at Ukraine (I'll refrain from writing a book of my opinions on that matter) is seemingly nowhere to be found (on the larger, more popular American news web sites), I'd say it's pretty difficult to deny this sad truth.

    • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:19AM (#22433928) Journal

      Or are we /.'ers different from most citizens, and if so, why?

      Several reasons, actually:

      • Many of us realize that the choice isn't between liberty and effective counter-terrorism. The choice is between liberty and a security illusion meant to make people feel safer.
      • Knowing that we aren't actually becoming safer, it is much easier for us to realize how scary it is to be placing these kinds of powers in the hands of people who are already blatantly corrupt and whose interests clearly lie contrary to the public's.
      • There is a fair amount of skepticism that anything beyond simply locking cockpit doors on airplanes is a necessary response to 9/11. Even if you could convince us that we are actually more secure, it could still be a hard sell that the additional security is worth the cost in liberty.
      • There are many other causes of death in our country besides terrorism that vastly outweigh the losses suffered on 9/11... on a yearly basis. Why haven't we taken any steps to solve those? Why is a single event where 3,000 people died cause to go batshit insane protective give-up-our-liberties mode, when Heart Disease [cdc.gov] causes over 200 times that many deaths on a yearly basis, and we can't convince ourselves to hit up a gym?
    • "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

      -Ben Franklin
    • by splutty (43475)

      Most vocal Slashdot'ers, including myself, feel that in the balance between (ineffective counter-terrorism) and (personal freedom, open government), Bush and Congress err far too much in the (ineffective counter-terrorism) direction.

      There. Fixed that for you.
  • A Republican representative, I forget who, was giving a speech, and basically said: "I'm tired of the democrat's grandstanding, I call on my fellow Republicans, and any Democrats who wish to join me, I'm leaving." The idea behind doing this was to make a big fuss so that what was going on in Congress yesterday would be covered by the news. Essentially, they felt that by making sure they got on CNN saying the Democrat's were busy sticking their tongues out at the Bush administration, when there was an import
    • The Repub you're referring to was John Boehner.

      From the Raw Story article [rawstory.com]:

      "We will not stand here and watch this floor be abused for pure political grandstanding at the expense of our national security. ... Let's just get up and leave," Republican Leader John Boehner advised his colleagues as they dramatically left the floor Thursday afternoon.

    • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:59AM (#22433704)
      The idea behind doing this was to make a big fuss so that what was going on in Congress yesterday would be covered by the news.

      Yes, that much becomes glaringly obvious when the ostensibly "spontaneous" walk-out ends in front of a bunch of microphones and cameras conveniently set up on the House steps.
    • by EllisDees (268037) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:17AM (#22433912)
      >I think its fine, don't punish companies for doing what the NSA asks them to do, corporations are not responsible for upholding the rights of individuals.

      But they are responsible for following the law, as Quest did by refusing their request. Fact is, the telecos broke the law by following those orders and should be held responsible just like anyone else.
  • by webword (82711) on Friday February 15, 2008 @09:55AM (#22433632) Homepage
    How did YOUR representative vote?

    "To strike the provisions providing immunity from civil liability to electronic communication service providers for certain assistance provided to the Government."

    FIND OUT! [senate.gov]

    McCain (R-AZ), Nay
    Obama (D-IL), Yea
    Clinton (D-NY), Not
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      A perfect illustration of why I am supporting Obama and despise Clinton. The though of another Republican in office makes me want to puke, but I also sure as Hell don't want another 8 years of an opportunistic Clinton selling out their party and blowing wherever the political winds of the moment take them. If that bitch sleazes her way into the nomination using superdelegates, Florida, and Michigan it will be the LAST victory she has this year.
  • by Zuato (1024033)
    I wish I could walk out of my job and still keep it AND get paid when I don't agree with something...Man, I could be at home asleep right now and getting paid for it if that were the case!
  • Partially Correct (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ranger (1783) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:03AM (#22433750) Homepage
    Yeah, as some other commenters have noted, the Republicans walked out because of the contempt vote. They were upset the House chose not to vote over telecom immunity. I'm pleased to see the Democrats finally showing they have a spine. It's only a baby step compared to what they should be doing, but after having let their spine atrophy for so long I guess it'll take a while before they actually do anything meaningful. I won't be holding my breath though.

    If the Dems don't capitulate again, and that's a BIG IF, and Protect America Act expires tomorrow, we are still protected under the old FISA law. Not only that, had the Bush Administration used the old FISA law, the telecoms could have gotten immunity easily. So why didn't they? Oversight, which seems to be anathema to this administration.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:09AM (#22433822) Homepage Journal
    I know, it's certainly not news that "Republicans Are Lying About FISA". But it's still important, because they're getting away with it. And as geeks (and probably as nerds), we're the most likely to have something we care about spied on.

    The lie I'm talking about is "FISA will expire right away". That's a moronic lie:

    Section 2 of the Protect America Act:

    `ADDITIONAL PROCEDURE FOR AUTHORIZING CERTAIN ACQUISITIONS CONCERNING PERSONS LOCATED OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

    `Sec. 105B. (a) Notwithstanding any other law, the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General, may for periods of up to one year authorize the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States


    Even the "sunset" provisions that Republicans are lying about making the PAA expire don't actually apply:
    Section 6(c) of the Protect America Act:

    (c) Sunset- Except as provided in subsection (d), sections 2, 3, 4, and 5 of this Act, and the amendments made by this Act, shall cease to have effect 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.


    The PAA that Republicans are clamoring to replace "because it sunsets" was passed late last Summer. It's got another six months left for spying, even if that spying is un-Constitutional.

    Every single thing about this spying not only violates the Constitution, but it's being forced on us with the worst kinds of lies. (Hi, Dick!)

    That's why you sould sign the petition to pressure the House to stand up for keeping amnesty out of the final bill [firedoglake.com]. It's your last chance to say something publicly to the government on a voluntary basis.
  • I have faith (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EllisDees (268037) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:10AM (#22433832)
    That our ever brave Democratic congresspeople will cave at some point today and give the Bush administration everything they want. Wouldn't want people to think you're "soft on terror", even if that means allowing anyone that has Bush's approval to break whatever laws he says are necessary.
  • Impeachment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Phoenix666 (184391) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:32AM (#22434060)
    If Republicans are angry with Democrats for pursuing the matter of contempt citations against Bolton and Miers instead of voting to condone the telecom's crimes, then I'm angry with the Congress for holding hearing after hearing on steroids in baseball instead of holding hearings on impeaching Bush and Cheney for repeatedly breaking the law and violating the Constitution.

    For those out there who oppose Constitutional checks and balances, and oppose impeachment of the Pres. and VP for running roughshod over our rights, consider what will happen if Hillary Clinton gets into office with that impunity and immunity and absolute power established by Bush's precedent. That should make you shudder. I know it does me.
  • our hero (Score:5, Informative)

    by jt418-93 (450715) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:38AM (#22434118)
    Silvestre Reyes is the hero of this. here is a link to the letter he sent the bushenfurer, and the last paragraph (the best imho). we need more ppl like him that understand the constitution is not just a 'goddamn piece of paper'. personally, i think anyone dismissing the constitution like that is guilty of treason, and we know how to deal with that. (grandpa simpson voice)That's a hangin'
    http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Intel_chair_to_Bush_on_FISA_0214.html [rawstory.com]

    I, for one, do not intend to back down - not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a President, who wants Americans to cower in fear. We are a strong nation. We cannot allow ourselves to be scared into suspending the Constitution. If we do that, we might as well call the terrorists and tell them that they have won. Sincerely,
    Silvestre Reyes
    Member of Congress
    Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:48AM (#22434192) Homepage

    If you were watching MSNBC last night Olbermann ripped Bush and the Republicans over telecomm immunity and this staged walk out. They were showing clips of the "spontaneous" walk out to a place where there just happened to be cameras and a podium rigged with microphones. As if there are podiums and broadcast crews stationed all over in case any of our Congress critters suddenly decide to storm out of chambers in protest.

    He called Bush and incompetent liar and fascist...in so many words.

    Telcos have been dealing with wiretap law for decades, they knew what they were doing was wrong. If they're so certain their behavior was so lofty and patriotic, then let them take their chances with a jury.

    We want companies to think twice before cooperating with an illegal enterprise, regardless of the perceived threats. The FISA court is a joke, they've never turned down a request. So, how is that virtual rubber stamp impeding terrorist investigations? Or is it that they're really afraid the FISA court won't authorize wholesale spying on the American public?

  • by jrifkin (100192) on Friday February 15, 2008 @10:51AM (#22434226)
    If you want to learn more about this issue, Glen Greenwald [salon.com] has been covering it well for a long time.

    Today he posted an item called FISA 101 [salon.com] which is a good place to start.

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday February 15, 2008 @11:48AM (#22434888) Homepage

    There has to be something really embarrassing for Bush that will come out unless "telecom immunity" passes. The political push for this from the White House doesn't make sense otherwise. Bush has limited political capital left, and he's spending it on the "telecom immunity" issue. Not the surveillance issue, which might actually have something to do with terrorism, but the immunity issue.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Friday February 15, 2008 @12:31PM (#22435466) Journal
    I'm going to call my representative right now and tell them how pleased that I am that the House sided against the Senate and with the American people. Give your Congress-critters some positive feedback people.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:00PM (#22435870) Journal
    A part of what I will say, was said here on January 31st.

    Unfortunately it is both sadder and truer now, than it was, then.

    "Who's to blame?" Mr. Bush also said this afternoon, "Look, these folks in Congress passed a good bill late last summer... The problem is, they let the bill expire. My attitude is: if the bill was good enough then, why not pass the bill again?"

    You know, like The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

    Or Executive Order 90-66.

    Or The Alien and Sedition Acts.

    Or Slavery.

    Mr. Bush, you say that our ability to track terrorist threats will be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger. Yet you have weakened that ability! You have subjected us, your citizens, to that greater danger!

    This, Mr. Bush, is simple enough even for you to understand.

    For the moment, at least, thanks to some true patriots in the House, and your own stubbornness, you have tabled telecom immunity, and the FISA act. You. By your own terms and your definitions -- you have just sided with the terrorists.

    You got to have this law or we're all going to die.

    But practically speaking, you vetoed this law.

    It is bad enough, sir, that you were demanding an Ex Post Facto law, which could still clear the AT&Ts and the Verizons from responsibility for their systematic, aggressive, and blatant collaboration with your illegal and unjustified spying on Americans under this flimsy guise of looking for any terrorists who are stupid enough to make a collect call or send a mass e-mail. But when you demanded it again during the State of the Union address, you wouldn't even confirm that they actually did anything for which they deserved to be cleared.

    "The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America."

    Believed?

    Don't you know?

    Don't you even have the guts Dick Cheney showed in admitting they did collaborate with you?

    Does this endless presidency of loopholes and fine print extend even here?

    If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business -- come out and say it! There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend. Fascism.

    You're a fascist -- get them to print you a t-shirt with "fascist" on it!

    What else is this but fascism?

    Did you see Mark Klein on this newscast last November?

    Mark Klein was the AT&T Whistleblower, the one who explained in the placid, dull terms of your local neighborhood I-T desk, how he personally attached all AT&T circuits -- everything -- carrying every one of your phone calls, every one of your e-mails, every bit of your web browsing into a secure room, room number 641-A at the Folsom Street facility in San Francisco, where it was all copied so the government could look at it. Not some of it, not just the international part of it, certainly not just the stuff some spy -- a spy both patriotic and telepathic -- might able to divine had been sent or spoken by -- or to -- a terrorist. Everything!

    Every time you looked at a naked picture.

    Every time you bid on eBay.

    Every time you phoned in a donation to a Democrat.

    "My thought was," Mr. Klein told us last November, "George Orwell's 1984. And here I am, forced to connect the big brother machine."

    And if there's one thing we know about Big Brother, Mr. Bush, is that he is -- you are -- a liar.

    "This Saturday at midnight," you said today, "legislation authorizing intelligence professionals to quickly and effectively monitor terrorist communications will expire. If Congress does not act by that time, our ability to find out who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they are planning, will be compromised... You said that "the lives of countless Americans depend" on you getting your way.

    This is crap.

    And you sling it, with an audacity and a speed un

  • what Bush said (Score:5, Insightful)

    by juan2074 (312848) on Friday February 15, 2008 @01:01PM (#22435900)
    [Bush said,] "The House's failure to pass the bipartisan Senate bill would jeopardize the security of our citizens."

    How does this bill jeopardize the security of any citizens? Is he serious?

    Secrecy in his administration is a more serious threat to the citizens. Why doesn't his administration reveal its e-mail, telephone, and written communications to the people? Executive branch secrecy jeopardizes our security.

    Why can't we have an open government? We pay the bills. Or stop using our taxes to pay for the executive branch.

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_

Working...