U.S. President or Lawbreaker-in-Chief?
He is giving or gave corporations and others retroactive immunity for illegal wiretapping and domestic spying.
* * * *
President Bush, Democrats Trade Barbs on Stalled Wiretap Law
By Holly Rosenkrantz and Bob Willis
Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush chastised Congress for refusing to pass wiretapping legislation, saying it had made Americans more vulnerable to terrorists, while a Democratic lawmaker accused him of ``political gamesmanship.''
``At this moment, somewhere in the world, terrorists are planning a new attack on America,'' Bush said today in his weekly radio address. ``Because Congress failed to act, it will be harder for our government to keep you safe from terrorist attack.''
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has balked at passing a Bush-backed bill that would give telecommunications companies such as AT&T Inc. protection from privacy lawsuits for helping the Administration conduct wiretapping without warrants. Bush has threatened to veto a temporary extension of legislation that expires today, demanding the House adopt the Senate version of the bill.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, said in his party's weekly radio address that Bush and the Republicans should work together with the Democrats to reach a compromise on the bill.
``Negotiations should take place immediately,'' he said. ``We know this president dislikes compromise, but this time he has taken his stubborn approach too far.''
House Democratic leaders argue that surveillance of suspected terrorists can still take place under existing wiretapping legislation, which requires court warrants.
``My administration will take every step within our power to minimize the damage caused'' because Congress didn't pass the bill, Bush said today. Leaders in the Democratic-controlled Congress ``chose politics over protecting the country,'' Bush said.
Whitehouse said it was Bush who ``chose political gamesmanship'' and, ``instead of working with Congress in a calm, constructive way, the president, unfortunately, has chosen to manufacture a sudden and unnecessary confrontation.''
The Senate-passed eavesdropping measure -- unlike the earlier House-passed bill -- gives telecommunications companies protection from privacy lawsuits. Companies face almost 40 lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in damages.
House Democratic leaders yesterday said they were working on a compromise with the Senate that would curtail some Senate- backed immunity provisions for the telecommunications companies.
Bush, in his radio address, said companies will be reluctant to cooperate with intelligence agencies ``because of their uncertainty about the law and fear of being sued by class- action trial lawyers.''
Some House Democrats say the law that Bush wants renewed goes beyond what the country needs to protect its citizens. Bush should help the Democrats ``make sure that privacy protections for Americans aren't left in the dust,'' Whitehouse said.
Bush had urged Congress to pass a law this week before its President's Day recess. The House reconvenes on Feb. 25.
To contact the reporter on this story: Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington at* * * * Bob Willis in Washington at
* * * *