Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fourth Amendment to be Thrown Out With Trash

House Democratic Leadership unveiled, this afternoon, a compromise version of the FISA Bill, and scheduled a vote on it for tomorrow (leaving members less than 24 hours to read and consider the 114 page document). The bill can be found here, on Steny Hoyer's website.

The compromise that the House leaders have come up with can be charitably described as an abomination. Title VIII authorizes the Executive Branch, by means of an in camera and ex parte process, to compel the Judicial Branch to dismiss any lawsuit against a telecom company alleging illegal eavesdropping. The courts are further barred from stating the grounds for such dismissals or disclosing them to adverse parties. In other words, there will come a day--presumably right soon--when a United States District Judge dismisses, without comment, every lawsuit against the telecom companies alleging that they helped the government to illegally spy on American citizens in violation of their rights under the Fourth Amendment (there are quite a few of these suits). Though we'll never be told this, these dismissals will be the unavoidable result of a secret meeting the District Judge held with an administration official at which the official will provide certain secret documents that legally compel the judge to throw the whole matter out of court and never say why. Liberty.

In any case, barring a major intervention by a presidential campaign (nudge nudge), this legislation will be passed tomorrow and will drop down the Friday afternoon memory hole.

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