Technology has made the old FISA bill obsolete. Back in the seventies when the original bill was written, FISA did not apply to listening over the air. The air was public domain and listening over the air was hard to make illegal. Most domestic conversations were then handled by land lines, and so to tap into a land line, requited a court order.

Since most foreign communications were handled by satalites and domestic communications were carried over wires, this bill was protective of Americans right to privacy.

Times change.

Today, most domestic conversations are airborne. And because of the internet, most foreign conversations follow the path of least resistance which usually brings them through the United States. Chances are good that a call from northwest Pakistan to southern Pakistan, will be routed through the continental United States.

This creates an interesting paradox. Under the old law, listening to Americans cell phone conversations is legal, but listening to foreign adversaries, whose conversations are within fiber optics, is not……

Obviously some changes need to be made. It is not good when American do not have privacy protected by our Constitution, and yet foreign entities do.

The House of Representatives has made a good bill that makes it illegal to listen to any American, even if they are on foreign soil. There is oversight within the bill to insure that our privacy is not violated and if it ever were, damages could be obtained.

If it were that simple, Congress would have passed it awhile ago.

The sticking point is with the Telecom immunity clause that the administration coupled to this new bill. The old bill passed last summer, did not have it. Amnesty for telecom companies is being sought for who violated or broke laws in the past when they chose to do what the president asked……even though all knew it was highly illegal.

The administration is so adamant on this clause that it is willing to postpone any of the critical elements needed, preventing us from listening to a group of Pakistanis who picked up throw away cell phones at the Bonn airport, on their arrival from an Al Qaeda camp in Pakistan. Under the old FISA, we need to first compile a probable cause brief and then find a judge in order to listen in. Because of backlog, where they are going, and what they plan to do, is lost to us forever.

That is why the House bill needs to be passed and not the Senate. Americans are currently and will continue to be at risk if Republicans continue their game of linking these two unrelated measures: Security and Amnesty

So why is the Amnesty Bill so important for Bush?…….Some say it will cost telecoms millions, or less than one thousandth of one percent. But that is not a very good reason to bind our intelligence service’s hands. One thousandth of one percent? No that cannot be the reason. Recently the administration has mumbled that the trial lawyer lobby (is there such a thing?) is pushing this clause to enrich themselves with lucrative lawsuits. But there has been no evidence of that. Most of the lawyers who are even involved are Constitutional lawyers, not trial lawyers. They work for peanuts compared to litigators defending large corporations. No…..that cannot be the reason.

The only reason that “sticks” is that this administration is petrafied that if these lawsuits come about, the public will find out the extent of what the did, and become outraged. That is the only plausible explanation for Republicans 1) voting to kill a stop gap extension that would keep the surveillance continuing under the new rules, and 2) not be willing to compromise on letting telecoms be considered under another bill so that this bill could pass and intelligence could continue in real time.

The administration is running scared. Its only protection is removing these cases from our court system where exploratory procedures can not happen. Apparently they are so scared that they are willing to play with our security, in order to make amnesty happen.

Make no mistake. Republicans are at fault on this. Democrats in the House need to send the bill without amnesty back to the Senate. America needs then pressure Senate republicans, forcing them to pass the House Bill now.

For the House bill has better security and better privacy protections than either the Senate version, or the old FISA bill which we are currently under now solely because of the stubbornness of the Republicans party. Passing the House Bill and forcing the President to veto or sign it, is the right way to go. Amnesty for those who knowingly did wrong……..is not.