So the debate is on. Should telcom companies get legal immunity for assisting America's intelligence apparatus with warrantless wiretaps, or not? The Senate took up the question Wednesday and veep Dick Cheney was on hand to make the administration's vociferous argument, The Washington Post reports.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told the White House the Senate needs another month to study the issue and that "the legislative process on this critical issue should neither be rushed, nor tainted by political gamesmanship."
But Cheney was at the Heritage Foundation to say that Congress "must act now."
"Those who assist the government in tracking terrorists should not be punished with lawsuits," Cheney said.
The surveillance law - passed temporarily in August and due to expire on Feb. 1 - effectively legalized the administration's prior eavesdropping activities approved by President Bush, the Post reported.
The new, permanent law the White House wants would not only make those powers permanent, it would add telecom immunity to the mix. (Warning: Crap opinion:) Consider this just one more example of Cheney's crusade to permanently increase presidential power beyond all previous limits. First they did as they pleased under the theory that they had inherent right to do so; then, they convince Congress to validate their actions after the fact; finally, as the administration winds down, they seek to enshrine the activities in legitimate, Congress-passed law.</crap opinion.>
Will the Democrats stand up to this? Sen. Christoper Dodd (D-CT) is threatening another filibuster. But one John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate intel committee is backing the White House. The ALCU says Reid is pussyfooting around the issue and ought to stand up and fight.
"We would very much like Senator Reid to have a fight with the White House, to move forward with a bill that's stronger on civil liberties and has no immunity," Caroline Fredrickson, Washington legislative director for the ACLU, said. "If a bill doesn't pass, it's on the president's head."