Glenn Greenwald has the details on how House Democrats surrendered to the Bush Administration today, also reminding us why the Democratic-led Congress has a higher approval rating among Republicans than Democrats.
Under the proposal, the intelligence community will be able to issue broad orders to U.S. ISPs, phone companies and online communications services like Hotmail and Skype to turn over all communications that are reasonably believed to involve a non-American who is outside the country. The spy agencies will not have to name their targets or get prior court approval for the surveillance.
Under the longstanding rules of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the government was free to engage in dragnet wiretapping outside the United States, but in order to tap communications inside the country, the government needed court approval and individualized warrants if an American’s communications would be caught.
Additionally, the bill grants amnesty to the nation’s telecoms that are being sued for allegedly breaking federal wiretapping laws by turning over billions of Americans’ call records to government data-mining programs and giving the government access to internet and phone infrastructure inside the country. The bill strips the right of a federal district court to decide whether the companies violated federal laws prohibiting wiretapping without a court order.