FISA's b-a-a-a-ck

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water … 

It seems like just a week ago we were talking happily about how Congress seemed to have gotten its priorities straight and moved on to more important issues (the ECONOMY, TAXES, FORECLOSURES), leaving its battle over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and telco immunity on the back burner until our communal national interests were taken care of.

Nope. Led by Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.), House GOP members began circulating what's known as a "discharge" petition that can force Dem leaders to schedule a vote on the version passed by the Senate in February. That version wipes out pending lawsuits against AT&T and other phone companies accused of illegal cooperation with the National Security Agency. They need 218 signatures to force the vote and, for the moment, that looks like a long row to hoe.

Telcos should never have caved to NSA demands to allow it access to databases with private phone info; after all, there're reams of court decisions that bar warrant-less wiretapping. But, is it AT&T's fault that it cooperated with the government? Ethically, perhaps, but that's another argument. 

In a nutshell: Telcos shouldn't be facing lawsuits, of course they should have immunity. It's the government agencies and politicians who've supported the illegal spying on U.S. citizens who should be help accountable.

It's time for this FISA brouhaha to be put to an end. Of course, that'll require Democrats and Republicans to work together for a better bill than the Senate version.

Likely to happen? Maybe. There's a voting booth waiting to be filled in just a couple of months. We'll see then how Americans feel about having their emails and phone calls shared against their will.--Jim 

For more:
-Read the story in eWeek, PC Magazine, or on cnet