Nov 13, 2006

No Lame Duck Approval Of "CATCH-ALL" Forthcoming

Bush still hopes to get ex post facto approval of his extra-legal NSA warrantless surveillance program.

His desire to retroactively legalize his actions in implementing the "CATCH-ALL" program will likely result in disappointment.

Legislation aimed at President Bush's once-secret program for wiretapping U.S.-foreign phone calls and computer traffic of suspected terrorists without warrants shows all the signs of not moving ahead, notwithstanding President Bush's request this week that a lame-duck Congress give it to him.

Senate Democrats, emboldened by Election Day wins that put them in control of Congress as of January, say they would rather wait until next year to look at the issue. "I can't say that we won't do it, but there's no guarantee that we're going spend a lot of time on controversial measures," Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois said Thursday.

In Senate parlance, that means no.

"We have been asked to make sweeping and fundamental changes in law for reasons that we do not know and in order to legalize secret, unlawful actions that the administration has refused to fully divulge," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record) of Vermont, the next Judiciary Committee chairman. ...

The Bush administration has a backup plan. In speeches over the next few weeks, the Justice Department will launch a new campaign for the legislation by casting the choice as one between supporting the program or dropping it altogether -- and appearing soft on al-Qaida.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will make the eavesdropping program the focus of a Nov. 18 speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for the national security, will make a similar pitch Wednesday to the American Bar Association.

Leahy said that monitoring communications of suspected terrorists is essential but that "it needs to be done lawfully and with adequate checks and balances to prevent abuses of Americans' rights and Americans' privacy."

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