07.08.08

CommentOn The Bingaman Amendment To The FISA Amendments Act Of 2008

I strongly oppose the immunity provisions contained in this bill, and I have supported every effort to strike them.  But if we cannot eliminate these ill-advised provisions, then I agree that Senator Bingaman’s amendment to delay a decision on immunity until after the Inspectors General have conducted their review of the warrantless surveillance program makes good sense. 

I worked hard to include the Inspectors General amendment as a part of this FISA bill.  For that provision to have its full effect, we should delay any grant of retroactive immunity until we know what the final report says.

Senator Bingaman’s amendment would stay all pending cases against the telecom companies related to the warrantless surveillance program and delay the effective date of the immunity provisions in Title II of the bill until 90 days after Congress receives the Inspectors General reports.

I have maintained throughout this debate that it makes little sense for Senators – many who have never been given the opportunity to view key documents relevant to the warrantless surveillance program – to cast an uninformed vote on retroactive immunity.  That is buying a pig in a poke.  To mix farm metaphors, the Bingaman amendment puts the horse back in front of the cart.

First, let’s get the facts.  And then, only after reviewing the relevant facts that the administration claims support granting retroactive immunity, determine whether Congress should attempt to legislatively determine the result of the 40 or so Federal cases alleging violations of fundamental rights of Americans.

Again, I believe the retroactive immunity provisions in this bill should be stripped entirely.  But if that cannot be accomplished, then I support Senator Bingaman’s amendment as a common sense way to ensure that the Senate makes a fully-informed decision on retroactive immunity.

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