Republican No Shows on FISA Negotiation

Let’s hope getting stood up teaches Jello Jay about Republican priorities:

In what should have been a bipartisan, bicameral meeting, staff members of the House and Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees met today to work in good faith to reach a compromise on FISA reform. As we have said, we are using this week to work on a compromise that strengthens our national security and protects Americans’ privacy. Unfortunately, we understand our Republican counterparts instructed their staffs not to attend this working meeting, therefore not allowing progress to be made in a bipartisan, bicameral way. While we are disappointed that today’s meeting could not reflect a bipartisan effort, we will continue to work and hope Republicans will join us to put our nation’s security first.

I guess immunity and all that isn’t so important after all…

36 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    As I’ve said previously, the Repugs are more interested in using the FISA Update debate to club the Democrats as soft of Terror (think baby seals) than they are in getting the legislation passed.

    Shorter Repugs:

    1. If our Retroactive Immunity bill passes, our Telco friends will hide the ball for Junya and Deadeye’s crimes.
    2. If our Retroactive Immunity bill doesn’t pass, we will still win ’cause we can smear Democrats as soft on Terror.

    Real shorter Repugs: “No matter what, we win!”

  2. itchyfish says:

    Hasn’t it occurred to the R’s that supporting retroactive immunity makes them Soft on Crime? Or that a growing number of Americans are numb to the incessant “terra, terra” chants?

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I hope choicer words were used among colleagues than this pablum for the press.

    Presumably, the GOP wanted to maximize the Dems’ embarrassment (”See, they can’t get anything done!”) simply by not showing up to the party. In reality, they showed once again that they put party before country and the taxpayer, who’s paying for these scheduled but unheld meetings, both directly and at the opportunity cost of other work not being done.

    The Dems mealy-mouthed press release insults both themselves and taxpayers, and makes no headway with the GOP. The Dems should do their homework and publish it, and when the GOP puts it in the litter box, make damn sure the public knows it’s the GOP that’s lying, stalling and wasting federal resources for partisan gain.

  4. MadDog says:

    More surreal Lockheed stuff:

    Lockheed Martin Orincon and Authentica to Develop Solution to Mitigate Insider Threats within Intelligence Community

    Lockheed Martin Orincon, a diversified systems integration and information technology company, and Authentica, a leading provider of content security software for enterprise messaging and document sharing environments, today announced that the Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) has contracted with them to protect the intelligence community from insider threats to information security.

    The companies will work together on a joint program, VOLTAIRE, a system that will provide next-generation protection against information attacks by insiders – specifically with respect to document access – by reasoning about insiders’ behavior…

    Leakers and Whistleblowers, look out!

    • BooRadley says:

      Great catch.

      Also, this completely contradicts the recommendations of the 9/11 commission regarding the compartmentalization of intelligence.

      • MadDog says:

        If we only really knew how much of our liberties have been eradicated by this Administration. The TSP is merely a small tip of an enormous iceberge.

    • GulfCoastPirate says:

      MadDog wrote: Leakers and Whistleblowers, look out!

      I’m thinking it’s more like the budget better look out. How much are they planning to spend on this nonsense?

  5. BooRadley says:


    Democrats have gotta continue to hammer on this. They simply cannot continue to cede “strong on national defense” to the GOP.

    I understand it’s an incredibly delicate communications issue, but imho, these stories will be absolutely critical insulation for the Democrats after the next attack.

    Unfortunately, it’s critical that the MSM pick this up.

  6. bmaz says:

    Crikey, I dunno. We may owe the Goopers a thank you bouquet; if they had shown up, Jello Jay probably would have maximally bent over to give them everything they want. The statement was lame and weak, like the Earl said @5. Maybe I am misreading this, but I can’t see any reason for much excitement here. Just more evidence on how eager Jello Jay is to screw us.

    • CTuttle says:

      I’m of the same opinion, I think it’s fabulous that they’re not there…! Maybe, Reyes can force Jello Jay to strip immunity out and reinstall minimization…!

    • Hugh says:

      It’s a really embarrassing situation for the Democrats. They are desperate to sell out to the Republicans and the Republicans won’t let them. I suppose Rockefeller will just have to grovel some more. I don’t expect him to see the light or realize how corrupt and criminal this Administration is. After all if he hasn’t done it by now, 7 years into this criminal enterprise of a Presidency and after even many inanimate objects have tumbled to its true nature, the Republicans could tattoo it on his chest and he still wouldn’t get it.

  7. rkilowatt says:

    re Jello Jay and other royalty as lawgivers:

    What did you expect?

    For a headstart in understanding global politics or the homily “democrats”, simply take the case of the Senator Jay Rockefeller.

    Have you no knowledge of the clan R-O-C-K-E-F-E-L-L-E-R ?

    For a few days, read varied histories of John Davison Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Trusts. Ida Tarbell’s History of the Standard Oil Co is one of the best.
    Then scan thru the next 100 years and perhaps you will discern the presence of Rockefellers among the greatest of movers and shakers. Perhaps even their viewpoint can be postulated to the extent their actions become predictable.

    What else could you possibly expect?

  8. bmaz says:

    Well, I guess this rounds out the equation:
    President Bush on Thursday stood by his demand for legal protection for phone companies that help the government eavesdrop on suspected terrorists, saying he sees no prospect of a compromise with congressional Democrats on the subject.

    Asked about a potential deal with Democrats, Bush said, ”I would just tell you there’s no compromise on whether these phone companies get liability protection.” The administration says it needs the help of the phone companies for its post Sept. 11, 2001, surveillance.

    Bush said his strategy for breaking the deadlock on the surveillance bill will be to keep talking about why it should be passed on his terms. ”The American people understand we need to be listening to the enemy,” he said.

    • sojourner says:

      You know, I just don’t understand the issue. We can avoid a lot of screaming and hollering at each other if he would just let Congress pass what it wants, and then override it all with a signing statement.

      Personally, I find it hysterically funny in a way… He so casually issues his signing statements to circumvent what Congress enacts. He has had all of these bad legal opinions issued to state that he can do various things that, on their face, are patently illegal. He pretends, as does his BFF Dick, that it is all within the law…

      But the importance and focus they are bringing to bear on the immunity provision just seems to point out how afraid they are…. And maybe they should be. I would love to see these two hung out to dry!

      • sailmaker says:

        I don’t think they wish to try the legality of signing statements in front of the SOTUS. Putting a signing statement on a bill with no telcom immunity would MAYBE get the Dems wound up enough to bring signing statements before the courtl. Better to just bully congress.

    • Hugh says:

      I made an update and extension to my FISA entry in my scandals list based on some of your ideas. This is what I have added.

      On January 29, 2008, a 15 day extension (to February 15, 2008) was agreed to by voice vote in the House and by Unanimous Consent in the Senate. An agreement was made to consider amendments to the PAA in return for a cloture vote. All of the amendments were rejected by Republicans voting as a bloc and conservative Democrats voting as weasels.

      SA 3915 (Feingold): stoppage of surveillance of an American upon finding of FISA court and minimization of information so acquired. Rejected: 40-56

      SA 3913 (Feingold): No reverse targeting of Americans. Rejected: 38-57

      SA 3910 (Feinstein): Exclusivity (surveillance must be conducted under FISA). Rejected: 57-41 (Needed 60)

      SA 3979 (Feingold): Segregation and audit of communications involving Americans. Rejected: 35-63

      SA 3907 (Dodd): No retroactive immunity for telecoms. Rejected: 31-67

      SA 3912 (Feingold): No bulk surveillance. Rejected: 37-60

      SA 3927 (Specter): Substitution of US for telecoms in civil suits. Rejected: 37-60

      SA 3919 (Feinstein): Transferal of civil suits to FISA court (with an eye to dismiss). Rejected: 41-57 (Needed 60)

      The first two were defeated on February 7. The others on February 12, 2008. Cloture was invoked, and the bill passed in the Senate 68-29. Senate Republicans timed their votes close to the February 15 expiration date in an effort to force the House to drop consideration of its own bill and accept the Senate version without revision. Instead the Democratic House leadership played for time and sought a further 21 day extension to the PAA. On February 13, 2008, this action was defeated by House Republicans along with a small group of liberal Democrats 191-229. In effect, the liberal Democrats called the Republicans and Bush Administration’s bluff. The deadline passed, the country did not collapse, as right wing commentators ominously predicted. A few Democrats showed some backbone although the vast majority of them continued to punt or enable. Somewhat lost in all the kabuki was the real object of the exercise: to grant immunity for the telecoms. DNI Mike McConnell touched on this in a February 15, 2008 NPR interview:

      The issue is liability protection for the private sector. We can’t do this mission without their help.

      But even this admission is heavily spun. The telecoms have substantial protection from liability under existing law and their exposure to large payouts is minimal. The government and telecoms are intimately intertwined, and this relationship will not be changed by a failure to grant immunity to them. Further the telecoms can not duck future cooperation with the government (even if they were so inclined) if that cooperation is accompanied by a court order. No, immunity is not about protecting the telecoms (they don’t need it) but rather squelching civil lawsuits which if allowed to proceed could expose the extent of this government’s spying on its own citizens. This isn’t about national security. It is about CYA.

  9. JimWhite says:

    I’m suggesting a program of targeting Rockefeller if amnesty is signed into law. I think we need to pressure him to hold hearing to get to the bottom of the lawbreaking that he is trying to cover up. Since he will be personally responsible for granting amnesty, he should take the responsibility to find out what really happened. For more on this thought, click my name.

    I welcome suggestions on how we could make this happen.

    • Minnesotachuck says:

      I just checked the site and he is in Class II, which means he’s up for reelection this year. Maybe we can convince Christy to run against him! She’s from West Virginia. She’d make one hell of a lot better senator.

      Whenever I’ve seen him posturing pontificating on C-Span I’m usually struck by the thought that the distance between the ripply surface and the sandy bottom of the corner of the gene pool from whence he was dredged must be measured in millimeters.…

      • JimWhite says:

        I’d think about a really big investment in whomever we could find to run against him in a primary, but I’d also really like to tighten the screws on him right away if amnesty passes. I don’t want this to be allowed to fade away.

  10. wkwf says:

    I’m surprised no one has understood why the Republicans took the recess time off to go back home: so they could defend their seat in November, stay in power, and continue to protect America! Wasn’t that obvious?!

  11. WaitinginTexas says:

    In the last couple of weeks, there have been two stories in the news: one is about the spy satellite that was shot down and the other was about the telecom cables that were cut.

    Recently while looking for something to read, I had a dusty copy of “State of War,” by James Risen sitting on the shelf.

    Just thought it odd that on page 50-51 of the book, it says the following:
    ” If the NSA could gain access to the American switches, it could easily monitor millions of foreign telephone calls, and do so much more consistently and effectively than it could overseas, where it had to rely on spy satellites and listening stations to try and vacum up telecommunications signals as they bounced through the air. Of course that would mean NSA would also have direct access to the domestic telephone network as well.”

    “according to government officials, some of the most critical switches are in the New York area, a key intersection between the domestic and international telecommunications networks. Switching facilities in the region feed out to telecommunications cables that dive into the Atlanric Ocean bound for Europe and beyond. The NSA now apparently has access into those switches, allowing it to monitor telecommunications traffic as it enters and leaves the United States.”

    Hmmm….and listening to the Pentagons briefing this afternoon about the fact that the downed satellite could contain intelligence, but they had made arrangements for that and the fact that the cables were cut recently, makes one wonder. Is someone trying to get rid of evidence?

  12. cboldt says:

    No Senator Specter.

    Well, stopping the Congressional immunity deal would take real hardball. I don’t see the numbers, not 40 Senators (that ship already sailed), and not a majority in the House.

    It’s over, but for the crying in the bier.

      • cboldt says:

        Yes, House leadership can stall the bill by never bringing it to the floor. Not much procedure necessary, no tricks necessary. Just keep H.R.3773, which now contains the Senate language, off the floor.

        The House could, in theory, take the Senate passed bill, but without the retroactive immunity, and offer that for a vote. But the Senate could stall that with 41 Senators objecting to taking it up, even if it passed the House.

  13. ticktock says:

    To work for any telco you have to be smart….

    I knew people who had worked for telecos. They are just like you and me, have families to support and bills to pay. Because of this fact and the apparent improprieties that were applied to this warrantless wiretapping they, just like the general public, are vulnerable too. We all live under the same umbrella.

    If anyone would know the broad implications regarding this specific subject it would be people who are involved in the telecommunications industry. So why would smart people let this happen?

    Could it be that smart people can make mistakes just like everybody else, is it possible this incident be considered a prime example?

    Even though I have read an argument (Empty Wheel – “Don’t Cry For The Telcos – Bush & Cheney Are The Only Ones That Are Dying For Immunity” By bmaz 02/18/08 Monday 5:19 pm – very good article) regarding the possibility of “indemnification agreements” and/or “good faith reliance” in respect to protecting this specific industry from any possible litigation regarding warrantless wiretapping there is still the fact they are just as potentially vulnerable as any ordinary citizen on other very specific levels.

    Why would “smart people” still continue to be a part of a program that has absolutely no government oversight, no protection for anyone including themselves, their families, their friends?

    I wondered about this, because apparently the white house has appeared to have taken no specific steps to correct this constitutional issue, only to promote the same agenda, no oversight, and no protection for ordinary citizens regarding warrantless wiretapping.

    Because of these obvious implications I would think that the telecommunications industry would halt any such intrusive program. Especially if you take into consideration their specialized profession and alleged cooperation with this questionable warrantless wiretapping effort would essentially make them a potentially preferred eavesdropping target.

    So how do we get out of this mess, anyway?

    The clearest answer is to table any proposed provisions made to FISA until the rule of law and the constitution is applied to any future adjusted requirements to protect all citizen’s rights.

    That would be the “smart” thing to do.

    Note: I am no advocate of retroactive immunity for the telecoms and I have indicated quite clearly in the past my opposition to this very subject. It strikes at the very foundation of what I believe our country should stand for.

    Actually this whole incident has gotten me more curious as to why the telecoms would promote retroactive immunity if “indemnification agreements” and/or “good faith reliance” would be considered adequate protection in this legal quagmire.

    Especially since the telecoms have nothing to gain except the loss of their own liberties more so than the general public for the reasons mentioned above if warrantless wiretapping (without government oversight) was promoted.

    • cboldt says:

      So how do we get out of this mess, anyway?

      Dispel a couple of fictions.

      One fiction being that the government “protects” privacy. Another being that the government “trusts” the public, and another being that Congressional laws mean what they say.

      The government needs to get back from the public, what the government holds toward the public — contempt.

      • ticktock says:

        So if what you say is true doesn’t it make these telcoms just as vulnerable if not more so than the general public…

        What would the dynamics of the relationship of the telecoms & the government be?..

        • cboldt says:

          What would the dynamics of the relationship of the telecoms & the government be?

          Symbiotic. They each benefit from the other, and for the most part, their goals and limitations are exactly the same. Each wants the other to succeed, and the telecoms obtain revenue for snooping — the more they snoop, the more they get paid.

          The only way I know of to shrink a “centralizing” entity, one that facilitates and encourages long distance connections, to the point that society DEPENDS on those long distance connections, is to develop social units that function without using those connections. I think it’s impossible by now, to effectively assert privacy against the government.

    • bmaz says:

      Actually this whole incident has gotten me more curious as to why the telecoms would promote retroactive immunity if “indemnification agreements” and/or “good faith reliance” would be considered adequate protection in this legal quagmire.

      Well, thats pretty easy to answer. I didn’t, and don’t, argue that the telcos don’t have some stake in getting immunity. They do. First off, even if they are recompensed, litigating this crap for the next few years, maybe up to ten years with appeals and remands, is a hassle and keeps your corporate name in a negative light. Also, generally, indemnification agreements require the party being indemnified, in this case the telcos, to provide all assistance and best efforts requested and possible to the party supplying the indemnity, in this case the Administration. So, they have a stake in getting immunity, just not the desperate one the Bushies are peddling, and they have no risk of going belly up; that is what I am saying. In a nutshell, they have a reason to want immunity (hey who wants to be sued?); but it sure as hell isn’t compelling enough to give it to them and cover up the crimes of the Bush Administration in the process.

  14. cboldt says:

    I’d add that the telecom companies aren’t interested in protecting privacy either, nor are banks, doctors, etc.

    “Resistance is futile” Either join the Borg, or be shunned.

  15. cboldt says:

    Links to yesterday’s statements from the various players. Where President Bush says “How do you compromise on something like granting liability …,” I take it as just a statement of truth, that there is no middle ground between “liability” and “no liability.” I’d mentioned some time ago, if one chamber says “liability,” and the other says “no liability,” that a conference committee to negotiate a compromise makes no sense. One chamber or the other has to capitulate in order to break the deadlock. That conclusion can be reached with out discussing a range of “in between” options, as is typical in more complex horse-trading and negotiations, e.g., the typical action on appropriations.

    House and Senate Chairmen Continue Work on FISA Reform
    FISA Documents Now Available to Full Judiciary Committee

    Roundtable Interview with President and Laura Bush

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