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Unfortunately I believe that we are limited in what we can focus on. I think that if we proceed with the partisan sideshow of prosecuting Bush admin. officials, healthcare will get lost in the brouhaha.
— Posted by denamom, Obama's Quandary...

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Wiretap Program Leaps Hurdle

POSTED: 11:19 AM ET, 06/20/2008 by Derek Kravitz

A deal to extend the Bush administration's controversial wiretap program through at least 2012 was brokered yesterday in Congress -- a significant victory for a program that saw widespread criticism when it was first uncovered in 2005.

The agreement extends the government's ability to eavesdrop on espionage and terrorism suspects -- and effectively provides a legal escape hatch for AT&T, Verizon Communications and other telecom firms, The Post's Dan Eggen and Paul Kane report.

Aside from granting a type of legal immunity to the telecom companies, the agreement allows the government to conduct "emergency wiretaps" without court orders on Americans for up to week if the information is sensitive, fleeting and in the interest of national security.

If the agreement is approved, observers say it could count as the most radical change in the country's surveillance law in decades.

A number of telecom companies already face more than 40 lawsuits that allege they violated customers' privacy rights by helping the government conduct a "warrantless" spying program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Yesterday's agreement makes many of those lawsuits a moot point: telecom companies will be granted immunity between Sept. 11, 2001, and Jan. 17, 2007, when the surveillance program was brought under the authority of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The New York Times first reported in December 2005 that the National Security Agency was authorized by the Bush administration to monitor the international telephone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens and residents without court-approved warrants.

Bush first issued a secret order in October 2001 authorizing the NSA to monitor telephone calls and e-mail between the United States and overseas if one party was thought to be linked to al-Qaeda or related groups.

The news of the domestic spying program set off a firestorm of criticism from lawmakers and civil liberties advocates and contributed to the administration's failure to persuade Congress to pass a renewed version of the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law.

By Derek Kravitz |  June 20, 2008; 11:19 AM ET
Previous: How Abramoff Pulled White House Strings | Next: GSA Report Notes Criminal Prosecutions, Omits Doan


Please email us to report offensive comments.

It's hard to believe Democrats are capitulating on the the Protect AT&T Act. I don't understand why they can't let this slide until the next president is in office. NO to telecom immunity!

Posted by: Ed | June 20, 2008 12:25 PM

I am not surprised the Demos are caving in to Bush on the Shred the Constitution Act. The Demos are surrender monkeys. They are spineless and gonadless. Bush will praise them for giving him (Haliburton and Blackwater) more billions for the war. Bush will praise Congress for this "compromise." Shouldn't they be suspicious? If Bush praises you, you must be doing something wrong. What does he have on Reid and Pelosi? Has the Spy on Americans Without a Warrant Act provided him with enough blackmail material to get whatever he wants out of Congress? Maybe he threatened them with the I Can Arrest Anyone I Want and Torture Them Act.

Did you know that 100 detainees of the Bush administration have died (homocide) during "rough" interrogations (war crimes)?

Posted by: lorax2 | June 20, 2008 1:51 PM

Where is Barak Obama? We are waiting to see if he really is an agent of change. His silence indicates that he is just the lesser of two evils.

Dreams die hard. It would have been better for him not to have raised our hopes for a better future.

Posted by: Vancouver, Canada | June 20, 2008 2:29 PM

That the Democrats voted for this abomination reveals how little they truly care about citizen's rights. They can talk the talk, but are not as proficient at walking the walk. It appears that they turn into wimps with amnesia.

Posted by: Jack Straw | June 20, 2008 6:53 PM

Wait a minute. I'm sorry: was this a WaPo investigation? Corruption and complicity.

Posted by: artforhumans | June 20, 2008 11:54 PM

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