A Bad "Compromise"
Our policy director, Jim Dempsey testified today before the House Intelligence Committee on warrantless domestic wiretapping and a proposed "compromise" between Vice President Cheney and Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) on the issue. We're a bit mystified as to why the Cheney-Specter proposal is being called a compromise at all. If passed, it would be an outright capitulation by Congress, giving the administration free reign to conduct wiretaps inside the United States without warrants or judicial review. Contrary to press reports, Cheney-Specter would not subject the warrantless surveillance program to judicial review. If Congress wants to ensure judicial review of the current warrantless surveillance program, it should facilitate challenges by those who were targeted or harmed by the surveillance instead of allowing the President to use his claims of inherent power to avoid ever seeking judicial approval and ever notifying Congress. Furthermore, it is absolutely premature at this point for Congress to be granting the White House broad new surveillance powers, when most lawmakers and the American people remain completely in the dark as to the nature of the administration's domestic spying programs, and what, if any, steps are being taken to ensure that innocent Americans aren't inadvertently targeted. We joined with a broad coalition of groups, representing views from across the political spectrum to issue a statement opposing rash changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which governs domestic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes.