October 23, 2007

Judiciary Showing Some Spine? Or Just Bellying Up To The Trough? [7:09 am]

Senators Say White House Cut Deal With Panel on FISApdf

Senate Judiciary Committee members yesterday angrily accused the White House of allowing the Senate Intelligence Committee to review documents on its warrantless surveillance program in return for agreeing that telecommunications companies should get immunity from lawsuits.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the ranking Republican, said any such agreement would be “unacceptable,” signaling that legislation granting immunity to certain telecom carriers could run into trouble. Leahy and Specter demanded that the documents, which were provided only to the Intelligence Committee, be turned over to the Judiciary Committee as well.

Sorry — until this becomes a public debate, I don’t see how this posturing by Judiciary makes much of a difference. I want to know what my government is doing.

For example, imagine what “amnesty” would have done in cases like this one (assuming, of course, that we can trust the testimony given now): Papers Contradict Nacchio’s Defense - pdf

The contract, valued at more than $2 billion and known as “Groundbreaker,” amounted to one of the most tantalizing aspects of Nacchio’s criminal defense. In essence, he argued that despite warning signals about waning demand for telecommunications services in 2001, he remained optimistic that Qwest would pick up millions of dollars in secret government contracts.

Those hopes were dashed, Nacchio contended, after he questioned the legality of an U.S. government plan in a February 2001 NSA meeting, he said in court papers.

Nacchio’s claims attracted substantial attention among privacy advocates and lawmakers as part of renewed debate over the boundaries of government eavesdropping and the possible financial liability of telecom companies that have been sued for their roles in the operations.

Arguments underlying Nacchio’s defense, with portions blacked out for security reasons, came into view this month. But the government responses only began to become public late yesterday.

“Qwest was not ‘left off’ the list of subcontractors for the Groundbreaker project,” prosecutors wrote.

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