Apparently, in the last 48 hours, the Bush administration has launched a full-court press to re-write the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to further expand the administration’s powers to engage in domestic surveillance with minimal judicial scrutiny. EFF says that the Democrats’ alternative to the Bush administration’s bill is a “sham compromise that poses a grave danger to Americans’ privacy.” Even if they’re wrong about that, Congress certainly shouldn’t pass legislation this important with this little time for public scrutiny and debate. Apparently, the Senate passed the legislation yesterday, and the House has been debating it today.
I have to say I find this just baffling:
With time running out before a scheduled monthlong break and the Senate already in recess, House Democrats confronted the choice of accepting the administration’s bill or letting it die. If it died, that would leave Democratic lawmakers, who have long been anxious about appearing weak on national security issues, facing an August fending off charges from Mr. Bush and Republicans that they left Americans exposed to terror threats.
There was no indication that lawmakers were responding to new intelligence warnings. Rather, Democrats were responding to administration pleas that a recent secret court ruling had created a legal obstacle in monitoring foreign communications relayed over the Internet. They also appeared worried about the political repercussions of being perceived as interfering with intelligence gathering. But the disputes were significant enough that they were likely to resurface before the end of the year.
The Bush administration’s approval ratings are in the low 30s, Alberto Gonzales is widely recognized as an embarrassment, and Congress won’t be up for re-election for more than a year. So what, exactly, is the Democratic leadership afraid of? The people who are likely to be taken in by the administration’s smears on this issue are going to almost all be either partisan Republicans or so clueless that they will have long since forgotten about this argument by the time they go to the polls next year.