Compromise needed on surveillance bill
On surveillance measure, compromise instead of caterwauls
Shut out the caterwauling and the U.S. House's refusal to vote on renewal of a broad surveillance bill emerges as a prudent move that will allow disagreements with the administration to be settled.
Despite President Bush's frenzied warnings that by failing to give him the law he wants, Congress places the country at peril, there is no need to rush the measure through, particularly since the rights of American citizens are at issue.
The measure would have extended a law that makes it easier for spy agencies to monitor foreign telecommunications that pass through the United States. The Senate -- with Hawaii's Daniel Inouye voting in favor and Daniel Akaka against -- approved the bill. However the House opposes a provision giving retroactive legal immunity to phone companies that helped the government in warrantless wiretaps outside of court authority. In addition, it compels the companies to comply with wiretap orders while protecting them from future legal jeopardy.
The House is correct in pointing to the need to balance civil liberties while providing the government enough leeway to conduct legitimate surveillance and in resisting fear-mongering.
The authorization, which expired Saturday, allows current warrantless surveillance to continue until August and new targets to be added quickly, if need be. Moreover, longstanding law remains in place to require compliance with legal warrants.
As evidence that no imminent crisis is at hand, Bush departed Friday on a week's tour of Africa as scheduled. When the House returns from its week-long recess, cooler heads should seek compromise.
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