Sen. Rockefeller, chair of the Senate intelligence committee, has outlined what he would accept as a proposal to remedy what the administration calls an urgently needed fix to FISA. Not having seen what Director of National Intelligence McConnell presented to Rockefeller and his colleagues, it's impossible from the outside to determine if there is any kind of real threat looming out there that requires this fix, or if the administration is just trying to draw attention away from the increasingly sticky problem of Alberto Gonzales.
Speaking of whom, that's who the administration wants to oversee the expanded program. "When pigs fly," has been the utterly responsible approach of the Senate Dems. Senator Rockefeller:
"The Administration has offered a proposal that would instead permanently grant the Attorney General excessive surveillance powers by giving him sole authority to direct surveillance while completely removing the FISA Court from the process. That is simply unacceptable.
"The FISA Court must continue to play an essential role in authorizing surveillance and overseeing its execution. They are the trusted steward of FISA, and they can and must be a part of any new streamlined approach. The proposal we put forward maintains the essential role of the FISA Court while also giving our intelligence officials additional tools to strengthen their hand against terrorists. We need the Administration to act quickly if we are going to pass this critical piece of legislation in the next few days," Rockefeller said.
While it's important to hold the line against Gonzales gaining any more power over anything of any importance to the nation, particularly where our civil liberties are involved, there's still inadequate justification for this change to be rammed through. Even Rockefeller's limited fixes, which keep all surveillance authority with the FISA court, gives too much to the administration. While the administration is "targeting" the people overseas and incidentally listening to the Americans on the other end, there is most likely nothing in the legislation to make them stop and get a warrant when Americans are involved. Rockefeller's proposal again leaves it to administration guidelines to figure that out, in secrecy most likely, and we know what they do when no one is watching.
Hopefully the impasse over giving Gonzales control over the program will be enough to kill the entire proposal. FISA is and has been entirely adequate to answer the demands of legal surveillance. There is no need to give one inch to this administration on domestic wiretapping, of all things.
Stop this train before it wrecks completely.