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Where Democrats stand on surveillance

Posted by Richard on July 11, 2008

President Bush today signed legislation expanding intelligence agencies' powers to monitor communications involving foreign terrorist suspects.

If you're planning on contacting a bin Laden-backed, Taliban-supported Deobandi madrassa in Pakistan to see if the sons you sent there to be radicalized have been turned into jihadis and are ready to come home to continue the struggle, consider yourself warned.

The bill was passed by the Senate Wednesday 69-28. Twenty-two Democrats voted for the bill, including Senators Bayh, Casey, Feinstein, Inouye, Landrieu, both Nelsons, Rockefeller, Salazar, and Webb. Oh, yeah, and Sen. Obama, who had pledged during the primary campaign to filibuster the bill.

It was another significant victory by the purportedly incompetent and unpopular lame duck:

Even as his political stature has waned, Mr. Bush has managed to maintain his dominance on national security issues in a Democratic-led Congress. He has beat back efforts to cut troops and financing in Iraq, and he has won important victories on issues like interrogation tactics and military tribunals in the fight against terrorism.

Debate over the surveillance law was the one area where Democrats had held firm in opposition. House Democrats went so far as to allow a temporary surveillance measure to expire in February, leading to a five-month impasse and prompting accusations from Mr. Bush that the nation’s defenses against another strike by Al Qaeda had been weakened.

But in the end Mr. Bush won out, as administration officials helped forge a deal between Republican and Democratic leaders that included almost all the major elements the White House wanted. The measure gives the executive branch broader latitude in eavesdropping on people abroad and at home who it believes are tied to terrorism, and it reduces the role of a secret intelligence court in overseeing some operations.

The bill also made it clear just where many leading Democrats — including the presumptive presidential nominee — stand on this "privacy rights" issue: They're unalterably opposed to any compromise on communications privacy, even for foreign terrorists, and even if their opposition threatens national security and the safety of Americans … but not if it threatens their political future. 

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