FISA Fizzle

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The Senate caved yesterday, but the House Democrats forced a showdown on FISA today and came out winners:

The Protect America Act, a temporary but expansive warrantless spying bill passed by Congress last summer, will likely expire Friday at midnight, a casualty of a battle between President Bush and House Democrats over amnesty for phone companies that aided his secret, warrantless spying program and how much of that program should be legalized. The House leadership announced there will be no more votes before the long President's Day legislative break.

The bill's expiration is largely symbolic, but demonstrates that House Democrats are willing to fight Bush on anti-terrorism policies, where fear-mongering rhetoric had previously cowed their opposition.

Though Republicans charge that the expiration will endanger national security, no wiretaps or dragnets will be forced to stop and the government will retain longstanding surveillance powers. 

Republicans defeated a three-week extension but walked out of the House today when it became clear the Democrats would let the act expire. The stunt won them the headline, but it won't win them anything else.

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  1. Kudos to the Democrats, knowing that they’ve still got some balls on the national security issues is good to know.

    I was under the impression that the Protect America Bill, aka Spy on Anyone you Want without Oversight Bill, was about to be railroaded into permanence.

  2. Who knows?

    …the class action lawyers might actually turn out to be good for something.

  3. Good for the Demo’s this time around.

    Since 1950, there have been about 900,000 home grown homicides in the U.S. with somewhere around 150,000 – 200,000 being unsolved. So we have far more home grown murderers walking around than foreign terrorists. This national eavesdropping stuff is overrated in its effectiveness. It’s a great way, however for companies who specialize in eavsdropping technology to get rich at the already strapped taxpayers’ expense.

  4. I can’t think of a more ominous title for a law than “The Protect America Act”.

  5. A big bravo. Let it be known that this is probably not a vote winner for the Dems, they just did the right thing here (I think it may have a lot to do with how they feel the White House was trying to ram this thing through, but hey, they deserve credit here).

    So much for the “both parties are equally bad on this” meme. Not in this specific instance.

  6. I admit, I’m a cynic. I still can’t help but fear that some time in the next few months they’ll get a conference committee to send through a wiretap bill with retroactive immunity and provisions for warrantless domestic surveillance.

    I hope I’m wrong. I really hope I’m wrong. I’d love nothing more than to eat a hearty plateful of crow.

  7. joe, hold your head up this weekend. I didn’t think your guys had it in them.

  8. Eh, I see thoreau beat me to the cynical point I was going to make, so ditto what he said.

    I’d love nothing more than to eat a hearty plateful of crow.

    Really, it’s not so bad deep-fried.

  9. I keep telling you, Pelosi’s O.K. It’s Reid that’s dragging her down.

    Let’s not forget, Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi delivered a huge Democratic Nay majority to the AUMF back in September 2002. Do you remember what the political discourse in this country was like one year after NineElevenChangedEverything?

    I don’t find it remotely surprising that this is happening – let’s not forget the Democrats passing a bill requiring the CIA and all other federal agencies to follow the Army Fiend Manual regulations on the treatment of captives – as the primaries make a Democratic landslide look more and more likely. Republicans take away our freedom because it’s what they believe in; Democrats go along with it out of fear of looking weak. The stronger the Democrats’ political position, the better they will be on civil rights.

  10. Oh, btw, the AUMF bill in the House had Dick Gephardt’s name on it, when Nancy Pelosi delivered that landslide Nay.

    She’s got some stones, that one.

  11. joe-

    I can’t forget that in August she rushed through a wiretap bill at the last minute, rather than putting it off until after recess.

    I hope you’re right about her. I really hope you’re right. And I really hope that her caucus in the House holds firm despite the fuckwits in the Senate.

    If at 11:59 am on Jan. 20, 2009 there’s still no retroactive immunity for telecoms that handed over info to the Ministerium f?r Staatssicherheit, I will gladly eat a grilled crow.

  12. It’s about time they grew some balls. Too bad it took so long.

  13. Are there going to be any good lawsuits coming up to hurt this legislation? That is what we really need to sway opinion. I really would like to know why the about face from the Dems. I don’t trust their bullshit. Most of them don’t give a damn about civil liberties.

  14. In August, thoreau, she would have lost the vote and seen the Republican version of the bill pass. She judged that six months would produce a more favorable atmosphere, and she was right.

  15. I hope you’re right about this, joe. I really hope you’re right.

    I’m willing to eat whatever good crow recipes you have, if there’s no retroactive immunity on Jan. 20, 2009.

  16. Who knows what will happen, thoreau.

    My point has never been to deny that the Democrats in Congress have often acted like wussies and rolled over on issues like this; I’ve just been explaining how that works, and what can be done about it.

  17. Politics — when showing some cojones involves doing nothing at all.

    Now if they could rack up a longer string of doing nothing at all, the Iraq war would be over.

  18. Totally OT, but I hate Michael Leone. Cocksucker registered both http://www.presidentcunt.com and http://www.hillarycunt.com a year ago, way before I thought of that awesome idea. Fuck you Michael Leone.

  19. Whenever the next big primary is, that’s when they’ll push it through. The Senate was smart by doing it during the Potomac Primary, nobody was talking about it. To pass these you have to play the news cycles.

    Many idiots don’t know or give a shit either way and vote, many will get angry if it makes headlines but not notice if not and vote, and many are partisan enough that they will excuse it and vote. Us angry people pulled out of the system a while ago, we are one of the smarter groups, so we are rewarded by seeing the eternal downward spiral earlier than most, and many will never see it. Many also never saw it.

  20. Why don’t they make Dodd the majority leader in the Senate?

  21. You want cynical?

    I’m still trying to figure out why the White House cares about this bill when they’ve argued that they could circumvent FISA based upon AUMF.

    If I got it straight…
    FISA authorization wasn’t necessary, because AUMF allows any action in order to protect us from the terrorists…
    but retroactive immunity, though it’s argued that there was nothing illegal, and FISA authorization are necessary or the bad guys win….

    Is that right?

  22. The Democrats don’t fuck something up even worse, for once, and joe damned near breaks his arm patting himself on the back.

    Holy Buddha’s low-dangling dangling testicle, people. The Democrats make one pathetic and insignificant stand on an issue and you’re ready to throw a ticker-tape parade.

  23. “Holy Buddha’s low-dangling dangling testicle, people. The Democrats make one pathetic and insignificant stand on an issue and you’re ready to throw a ticker-tape parade.”

    What do you expect after the last 7 years?

  24. In an ideal world?

    The Dems would have either STFU and allowed the war to be won, or cut off the funding and ended the whole debacle.

    The Dems repealing the PATRIOT Act.

    The Dems actually standing up for science and pushing through funding for stem cell research.

    The Dems working to liberalize pot laws, and, I don’t know, maybe at least releasing a harshly worded press release in response to the DOJ’s treatment of Tommy Chong.

    Need I continue?

  25. Thank god “Not Gettin’ Laid Day” is over.

    Oh shit! It happens again tomorrow?

    This calendar sucks!

  26. The Dems would have either STFU and allowed the war to be won…

    so the Dems’ speech somehow preventing winning the war?

  27. No.

    But their constant anti-war mewling minus any sort of action to curtail what is obviously a war started under false pretenses is political pandering of the most offensive and despicable sort.

  28. THIS IS SHAMEFUL I AM UPSET AND DISGUSTED BEYOND COMPREHENSION THAT OUR GOVERNMENT IS DECIDING TO FORGET ABOUT THE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN THE WORLD THAT NEED WATCHING INCLUDING YOU AND ME BECAUSE AT ANY MOMENT ANY ONE OF US COULD CHANGE OUR MINDS AND BECOME ANTI WESTERN CIVILIZATIONALISTS AND THEREFORE THROUGH PURE EXISTENCE THREATEN THE LIVES AND NOT TO MENTION CHILDREN OF EVERY PEACE LOVING AMERICAN ON EARTH THIS DAY WILL BE REMEMBERED IN INFAMY WHEN THE FIRST MEXICAN BLOWS HIMSELF UP IN FRONT OF THE NEXT AMERICAN IDOL JUST YOU WAIT

  29. Word!!!! Looks like some democrats reached down their pants and found something ffs. I hope they keep up with this.

  30. Huzzah!
    I was seriously worried we’d have FISA forever.

  31. The majority of the Democrats are yellow bellied tratiors, just like some of the people on this forum

  32. …Army Fiend Manual…

    Great typo 🙂

  33. This may be the first thing this Congress has done that I actually agree with. Although, like t, my money is on something very like the Senate bill sneaking through a conference committee before all is said and done.

  34. I have enjoyed Talk Radio’s outrage that this bill was left to stew:

    AMERICA’S INTELLIGENCE GATHERING IS EFFECTIVELY SHUT DOWN!

    Not that I believe much of the AM Radio crowd, but they have been tolerable lately with the Anti-McCain rhetoric, and almost worth a listen. Then they repeat this Sept. 12 mantra.

    Sorry boys, not gonna float anymore…

  35. AMERICA’S INTELLIGENCE GATHERING IS EFFECTIVELY SHUT DOWN!

    There is a difference between “intelligence gathering” and snooping into what is none of the government?s business.

    I have no problem with the former. The Patriot Act and its various spawn serve the latter purpose.

  36. You lucky bastard. I wanna be in Spain.

  37. Aresen, where in Spain are you?

    My question is: does Pelosi deserve credit for this, or the rank-and-file Dem House members? I’m a bit skeptical about praise for Pelosi.

  38. Enjoy the delay pitched as a victory.

    Betcha the Bush league eventually gets the retroactive immunity for scofflaw telecoms that they so badly need in order to insure future illegal assistance from scofflaw telecoms.

  39. Betcha the Bush league eventually gets the retroactive immunity for scofflaw telecoms that they so badly need in order to insure future illegal assistance from scofflaw telecoms.

    I have a feeling this has less to do with illegal assistance and more to do with protecting potential witnesses who might squawk when you’re not in power anymore…

  40. Aw, mediageek doesn’t get to whine about the EEEEEEVVVVIIIIILLLLLL Democrats for once. Oh, wait, yes he does.

    Taktix, that’s it exactly; this is about shutting down the discovery portion of the civil suits and keeping the administration’s dirty deeds undercover.

    wayne, what typo? You remember the Army Fiend Manual, it came out right between the MM2 and Unearthed Arcana.

  41. joe with the D&D reference. Props. But joe, they don’t have a class for “city planner” in D&D, even in 3rd edition rules. What did you play? Paladin? Druid?

  42. alisa,

    FISA is still in place. The bill that just lapsed was the Protect America Act, which was an update to FISA. Its lapse means that we go back to the 1979 version of FISA.

  43. Episiarch,

    I had a halfling fighter, and a half-elf ranger, when I played.

  44. I only had full-human or full-elf characters because I despise miscegenation. Purity of blood is paramount.

  45. I might, might, be for immunity if, and only if, it requires the telcos to admit everything they did. Immunity for full disclosure. If they can’t or are prevented from doing so by Bush and Co, no deal.

    Discovery to determine if Bush is really spying as he says, or spying on Americans maybe more important than punishing the telcos for their crimes.

  46. Wow, yesterday was a good day for the House.

    They also approved contempt citations against Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton for ignoring subpoenas on the US Attorneys investigations.

    No more torture of captives. No retroactive immunity.

    mediagee, you’re pathetic. After 7 years, we actually get some good news on the civil liberties front, and your biggest concern is that people not be too happy, because the Democrats did it.

    Nice bit about the Democrats “STFU and let the war be won.” I think you just showed your hand.

  47. TrickyVic, I think the telecoms shout be granted immunity.

    By the Special Prosecutor.

    In exchange for their testimony against high government officials.

  48. “I think there is probably joy throughout the terrorist cells throughout the world that the United States Congress did not do its duty today,” said Representative Ted Poe, Republican of Texas.

    On top of everything else, we should be celebrating the fact that this craven, dishonest argument, which more or less defined our politics for six years, is finally losing its potency.

    That bullying is how we ended up in Iraq. It’s how the USA PATRIOT Act passed. It’s how George Bush got reelected. It’s how torture was (almost?) embraced as an appropriate course of action for the government.

    Second-hand Terrorism from the American Right
    b. September 12, 2001
    d. February 14, 2008
    RIP

  49. That’s one way joe. I don’t know if I trust the government on this one, even with a special prosecutor. I might be for testifying in an open session Congress if they are the source of the immunity.

    When do we ever give immunity without something in return?

  50. “”””I think there is probably joy throughout the terrorist cells throughout the world that the United States Congress did not do its duty today,” said Representative Ted Poe, Republican of Texas.”””

    It never ceases to amaze me how stupid members of a party become when they get in power. If this president was a democrat, Mr. Poe would be claiming the impasse is the president’s fault.

    I pretty damn sure that it’s NOT the duty of Congress to give immunity to possible criminal acts without having them testify in front of Congress. If it’s considered a duty at all.

  51. joe and Episiarch,
    Very good D&D reference joe. Lawful Good Half-Orc Fighter was my best one.

    …and I bring the thread back to “not gettin’ laid day”.

    ugh.

  52. The Dems actually standing up for science and pushing through funding for stem cell research.

    Yes, because science is terribly threatened by lack of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Anyway, I thought we were against Congress doing things that aren’t covered by Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution…or is that trumped by the opportunity to oppose pro-lifers?

  53. I think it was trumped by the knowledge that “ban on funding for embryonic stem cell research” actually meant “a ban on using any beaker, lab table, or graduate assistant paid for with federal money, if someone else on the same campus is doing embryonic stem cell research.”

  54. “””Second-hand Terrorism from the American Right
    b. September 12, 2001
    d. February 14, 2008
    RIP
    “”””

    I didn’t hear the fat lady sing. This is long from over. The desire within the government for total information awarness is strong.

  55. There are few pro-lifers in this country. Many are anti-abortion. They are not the same. A pro-life believes life begins and ends by God’s hand. A pro-lifer must be against all actions by man to end anothers life.

    I find it ironic that many so-called pro-lifers believes it’s ok for the government to take a life when they see fit to do so, but no one else.

  56. A pro-life believes life begins and ends by God’s hand. A pro-lifer must be against all actions by man to end anothers life.

    That is silly. Must pro-choicers oppose all forms of coercion, even coercion of rapists and murderers in the form of prison sentences?

  57. joe,

    The Constitution doesn’t authorize Congress to pay for a single beaker or lab bench for scientific research. I know you don’t care about that concern, but many of the folks who trumpet their support for federal funding of ESCR are the same ones who think federal drug laws, for example, are unconstitutional because Congress isn’t authorized to ban drugs in A1S8. I’m just wondering how they reconcile the two positions.

  58. Sure it does, Chris. INTERSTATE COMMERCE! INTERSTATE COMMERCE! Booga Booga.

    But, if you’ve forgotten, the argument you made, and that I responded to, was not about Constitutionalism, but about a threat to science.

    You made the statement, phrased in a sarcastic negative, that science would not be threatened by this funding ban. And I responded that, yes, it would, because not only would this ban forbid funding for that particular field, but the use of any federal dollars for a facility or organization that does such research.

    And if you haven’t figured it out by now, those two positions are very easily reconciled by the 95% of the public who disagree with you that collecting taxes and throwing people in jail for smoking pot represent comparable levels of coercion. You might as well ask how anyone can oppose the drug war and still want the DPW to fill potholes.

  59. joe,

    Er, ESCR hasn’t been federally funded for almost seven years now…has scientific research shut down in this country, and I’m the last to find out? My fellowship might be in danger if that’s the case.

    I know you don’t want to wear out your mouse’s scroll wheel or anything, but a quick glance at my original post would reveal I pointed out the cafeteria-Constitutionalism of many libertarians in these parts.

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