Leahy Rips Reported Compromise On FISA: Intel Committee Is ‘Caving’ To White House Pressure

This morning’s New York Times and Washington Post reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee had reached an agreement with the White House on FISA reform legislation. That agreement reportedly “would give telephone carriers legal immunity for any role they played in the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program approved by President Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”

At this afternoon’s Judiciary Committee hearings, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) openly criticized the Intelligence Committee, calling it a “cave” to White House pressure:

I think the fact that [the administration is] bringing so much pressure on the Intelligence Committtee — and if the press is to be believed, the Intelligence Committee is about to cave on this and bring pressure on this committee to immunize past illegal conduct — is because they know that it was illegal conduct.

Watch it:


Leahy indicated the Judiciary Committee will not be so amenable to “immunizing illegal conduct.” Indeed, as Glenn Greenwald notes, federal judge Vaughn Walker ruled against AT&T in Aug. 2006, specifically citing the fact that the company was not operating in “good faith” when it participated in the warrantless wiretapping program. Judge Walker wrote:

AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal.

Greg Sargent reports that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) will “put a hold” on the Senate Intel Committee’s FISA bill because it grants unconditional retroactive immunity to telecom companies. Also, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) have indicated their opposition to going along with immunity.

UPDATE: Matt Stoller has more.