01 Aug 2007

Democrats Reversing Course on Communications Surveillance

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James Risen, one of the two New York Times journalists who published the leaked story on Counter-Terrorism communications datamining in December of 2005, is in the interesting position this morning of reporting on democrats reversing course and hastening not only to authorize but even to expand the program democrats have been using as a political target since the time of Mr. Risen’s original article. A deliciously ironic development.

Under pressure from President Bush, Democratic leaders in Congress are scrambling to pass legislation this week to expand the government’s electronic wiretapping powers.

Democratic leaders have expressed a new willingness to work with the White House to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to make it easier for the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on some purely foreign telephone calls and e-mail. Such a step now requires court approval.

It would be the first change in the law since the Bush administration’s program of wiretapping without warrants became public in December 2005.

In the past few days, Mr. Bush and Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, have publicly called on Congress to make the change before its August recess, which could begin this weekend. Democrats appear to be worried that if they block such legislation, the White House will depict them as being weak on terrorism.

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