FISA Liveblog

Reid is on the floor talking about what votes we’ll have tomorrow:


Argh. This means we won’t have 60 there for exclusivity.

Reid and Mitch McConnell had some back and forth on the stimulus package.

Kit Bond:

Thank colleagues for agreeing to a way forward on this bill. Hehehe, it would do no good to pass a good that is good for politics, but does not do what those who protect our country need. With these fixes we’ll have a bill the President will sign.

Shorter Kit: this is very very technical and so we’ve decided to just do away with Congressional review and, while we’re at it, privacy. What Mike McConnell wants, Mike McConnell gets.


In this debate about revising FISA and cleaning up the damage done by the President’s warrantless wiretap program, the Administration expends all its rhetorical focus on what we agree on.

On what terms will this Administration spy on Americans?

The privacy of Americans from government surveillance.

Both Chairmen–Leahy and Rockefeller–have given it their blessing.

As former AG and USA, I oversaw wiretaps, and I learned that with any electronic surveillance, information about Americans is intercepted incidentally.

In domestic law enforcement, clear ways to minimize information about Americans. Prospect of judicial review is an important part of protecting Americans. Bond and Rockefeller have already put into the bill that the authority to review the minimization if the target is an American inside the US. But as will often be the case, the target will often be outside the US. An American could just as easily be intercepted in these situations. This protection (review of minimization) should apply when the intercepted It makes no sense to strip a court based on the identity of the target. It may be that if there’s litigation that a court will decide that it is implied. The mere prospect of judicial review has a salutary effect. The opposite is true as well, when executive officials are ensured that a Court is forbidden to police enforcement, then they are more apt to ignore compliance. Both here, where the FISA bill creates an unheard of limit on Court powers, and in the immunity debate, where we intercede to choose winners and losers. Bad precedent for separation of powers. Those of you who are Federalist Society members should be concerned about this absence of separation of powers. Read more

Reid Thanks Christy and McJoan on FISA

I’m at a schmoozy event at the Senate today–Harry Reid gave an opening speech focusing on the areas where progressive loud mouths have really helped out the Senate.

He spoke for a bit about FISA–repeating what he has said publicly (that if the Republicans won’t accept a PAA extension, then it will expire). But at the very start of his speech he named some of the people who had helped most on the FISA bill. McJoan (from DailyKos) and FDL’s own Christy were the first two people he mentioned.

Bush Would Forgo New FISA Programs to Make Sure Dick Gets Immunity

Bush says he wants a new FISA bill, and he wants it now

The White House told Democratic congressional leaders Saturday that President Bush opposes a 30-day extension of an expiring eavesdropping law and instead wants an expanded version to be passed by Friday.

“The president would veto a 30-day extension,” a senior administration official said. “They’re just kicking the can down the road. They need the heat of the current law lapsing to get this done.” 

To which Reid appropriately pinned any blame on Bush.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called the veto threat "shamefully irresponsible" and "simply posturing in advance of Monday’s State of the Union address."

"There will be no terrorism intelligence collection gap," Reid said. "But if there is any problem, the blame will clearly and unequivocally fall where it belongs: on President Bush and his allies in Congress."

Reid’s response is useful. But he needs to say one more thing. If Bush vetos a 30-day extension, he will be doing so for one reason and one reason only: because the existing legislationg, PAA, doesn’t offer immunity to telecoms–and with it, to Dick Cheney and everyone else in this Administration who pushed the telecoms to continue their spying even after the acting AG, Jim Comey, refused to certify the program for a period in 2004.

Bush is willing to forgo implementing new FISA programs (all the existing ones will continue for at least six months) all because he wants Dick to get his immunity … now. This is about Bush putting Dick’s interests–and his own–above the security of the country.

Reid on FISA: It’s Up to the President

Harry and Nancy had some SOTU pre-buttal fun at the Press Club today. And while there, Reid made it very clear that the President will be responsible if PAA lapses next week.

The president has to make a decision. He’s either going to extend the law, or he will…which is temporary in nature, or there will be no wiretapping.

We have worked very hard to try to come up with a way to proceed on this but it’s up to the President.

The amendments that were offered in the Senate … they would have passed. The majority of the senate favored these amendments.

They refused to allow us to vote on what we call "Title 1′ which is a procedural aspect of this, and then they never even dreamed of our going to the second part, which is the retroactive immunity. Which is…there is real controversy over that and there should be a vote in the United States senate as to whether or not there should be retroactive immunity. They won’t give us one.

So again, it’s up to the president. He can either continue the present law for an extended period of time, we would agree to two weeks, we would agree to a month, and we would agree to a longer period of time than that.

But it is up to the president. Does he want the law? It’s up to him.

If it fails, he can give all the speeches he wants, including the State of the Union, about how we’ve stopped things, if he does that, it’s disingenuous, and it’s not true.

I’m intrigued by this for two reasons.

First, it suggests Reid has done some vote-counting and has some degree of confidence that the cloture vote will fail on Monday. Also note that Reid claims that some of the amendments would have passed–I’m curious if he has whip counts on the amendments, too?

But this is also an important first step in messaging this issue. With the nearly unprecedented obstructionism of the Republicans on this issue, we should be able to win the messaging battle. But we’re going to have to work hard at it.

It’d help if everyone followed Feingold’s lead and called the Republicans out for their shameless conduct.

Reid: The President and the Republicans Want Failure

One of the things we’re fighting for now on FISA is to make sure the Republicans get pinned as the obstructionists here. Here was Reid’s first shot at doing so (a rough transcript of his speech, via email):

We want, if necessary, within the confines of the law, to do wiretapping of these bad people. But, Mr. President, Having said that we want to do it within the confines of our Law and our constitution. We want to make sure that this wire tapping does not include innocent Americans who just happen to be part of what they’re collecting. That’s what the American People expect us to do.

So I again say Mr. President, no one can question our patriotism, our willingness to keep our homeland safe. We have tried to move forward on this legislation. We have tried in many different ways. What we have been doing today and yesterday is moving forward on this legislation just as the distinguished Senator from California said. There are amendments that will make this legislation better. Now that’s in the eye of the beholder. We all understand that. But shouldn’t the Senate have the ability to vote on those amendments?

No matter what we do as a Senate it has to have a conference with the house. They have already passed their legislation. But we have been stalled every step of the way. Read more

What Ever Happened to “Upperdown Votes”?

Say what you will about Senator Reid. But right now, he’s in a giant showdown with Mitch McConnell (and, disgustingly, Jello Jay Rockefeller), and I guarantee you’d rather have Reid win than McConnell.

The Republicans have refused to allow an "upperdown" vote on any amendment since the Leahy substitution amendment went through. They’ve called for a cloture vote to vote on the SSCI bill, with just one minor amendment. Which means, if cloture passes, we’ll get screwed by Jello Jay, and Bush will get his wet dream of a spying bill.

Reid, on the other hand, wants a fair hearing for the amendments being offered–including immunity, but also things like oversight on minimization and restrictions on wiretaps of Americans overseas. He basically wants the Senate to have a chance to improve on the work of the SSCI. And though he’s not saying it, several of these amendments, though they propose something the Administration has said would be okay, would really cause Bush to veto the bill.

The idea is cloture allows Bush to conduct his spying as he wants to, with Congressional approval. Whereas Reid wants to deliver what Bush has said he needs, rather than what he really wants but won’t admit to.

The cloture vote is scheduled for 4:30 on Monday. We’ve got three and a half days to get at least three of the following people to flip their votes from the vote on the Leahy substitution:

Bayh (202) 224-5623
Carper (202) 224-2441
Inouye (202) 224-3934
Johnson (202) 224-5842
Landrieu (202)224-5824
McCaskill (202) 224-6154
Mikulski (202) 224-4654
Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274
Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551
Pryor (202) 224-2353
Salazar (202) 224-5852
Specter (202) 224-4254 (What the hell–he had an amendment ignored today, too)

And to convince those Senators who want to be President that this is a vote they need to be present for. (This assumes Rockefeller won’t flip, since he’s co-sponsoring the bill with Bond.) It’s probably also a good idea to touch base with Senators DiFi (202-224-3841) and Whitehouse (202-224-2921) to make sure they remain on the side of the good.

Several years ago, when they were on the wrong side of a close Senate, Republicans insisted on the sanctity of an "upperdown vote." But now, they want to refuse that right to any legislative action save the one Bush supports.

We can win this one. And boy, Read more

Why Did Reid Pull the Bill?

This rather snotty article from the WaPo says that Reid didn’t pull the FISA bill yesterday because of Dodd’s efforts.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the decision had nothing to do with the efforts of Dodd and his allies. Indeed, for most of yesterday, Dodd appeared to be fighting a losing battle. His initial filibuster effort was steamrolled when the Senate voted 76 to 10 to take up the measure at noon.

Manley is, of course, full of shit. At the very least, Reid did the math to see that Dodd could filibuster this issue until the Christmas break, and since Reid intended to get funding done before the break, he was faced with postponing the break or punting the appropriations bills to the next year. So whatever else caused Reid to pull the bill, Dodd’s demonstration that he was willing to hold the Senate floor was one factor (apparently, Dodd only left the floor once during yesterday’s debate).

Snotty article also points to the amendments as one of the reasons Reid pulled the bill.

But in the face of more than a dozen amendments to the bill and guerrilla tactics from its opponents, Reid surprised his colleagues when he announced there would not be enough time to finish the job.

Now, best as I can count, I think I know of at least five amendments:

  1. Dodd’s amendment to pull immunity from the bill
  2. DiFi’s amendment to declare FISA the exclusive means of electronic tapping
  3. DiFi’s amendment to have the FISA Court review the authorizations the telecoms got before they received immunity
  4. [I think] A Whitehouse amendment to prohibit wiretapping of US Persons abroad
  5. [I think] A Whitehouse amendment to provide oversight of minimization
  6. Update: Beth Meacham says Leahy’s amendment–to substitute the SJC bill–came up just before Reid pulled the bill (thanks Beth).

I’ll try to clarify these later today. In addition, I’m sure there were going to be Republican amendments seeking to allow Bush to wiretap each and every Dirty Fucking Hippie and similar authoritarian fun.

Read more