White House won't get warrantless wiretapping

The administration's failure to obtain legal authorization for warrantless eavesdropping is significant on several levels.

Published September 27, 2006 12:28PM (EDT)

Following up on my War Room post from Tuesday night regarding the likelihood that Congress will run out of time to pass a warrantless eavesdropping bill (further analysis is here), there are several reports this morning that all but confirm no bill will be passed prior to Congress' adjournment on Friday.

The Washington Post reports that "a high-profile Republican effort to clarify the legality of President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program will almost certainly not pass before Congress recesses at week's end for the fall campaign, leaving the legislation in deep trouble, congressional leaders conceded yesterday." Similarly, the New York Times says that congressional leaders were "all but giving up hope of agreeing on a final bill to authorize the administration's eavesdropping program."

By all accounts, enacting legislation to provide legal cover for the president's plainly illegal warrantless eavesdropping program was one of the highest priorities for the White House this year. Both the president and the vice president personally negotiated their preferred bill with Sen. Arlen Specter. And the decision by federal District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor earlier this year underscored the very serious legal jeopardy to which administration officials could be subjected as a result of their deliberate, and ongoing, violations of the criminal law.

At a time when substantive victories in Washington are rare, the failure of Congress to enact legislation authorizing warrantless eavesdropping -- thereby ensuring the continuation of the National Security Agency scandal, enabling various lawsuits challenging the legality of the president's actions to proceed, and virtually assuring full-scale investigations if Democrats take over one or both houses -- is significant.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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