Patriot Act

Congress Has Enough Time to Keep Spying on You, Forever


The resemblance is uncanny

Good morning, misgoverned nation! You will be utterly unsurprised to learn that the same United States Senate that hasn't passed a (legally required) budget resolution since 2009, that legislates via perpetual self-made crises and lards nearly all laws with brazenly fictitious sunset provisions and distant spending cuts, has managed to fit into its busy schedule of anti-gun press conferences and drunk-driving arrests an "unusual special session" to reauthorize the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 before the law turns into a pumpkin on Jan. 1.

The Act, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) had attempted to re-authorize without debate, allows for the federal government to spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant, without probable cause, and without even informing the allegedly relevant oversight bodies in Congress as to the number of Americans being spied on.

The Senate re-authorization debate yesterday lasted seven hours, and resulted in the shooting down of three sensible amendments. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) attempted to cut the proposed extension from five years to three; that lost 52-38. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) proposed requiring the attorney general to disclose "significant" FISA court interpretations of surveillance law; that lost 54-37. And Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) proposed extending Fourth Amendment protections to electronic communications. Paul's amendment was routed:

"Why is a phone call more deserving of privacy protection than an e-mail?" Paul asked on the Senate floor.

Paul's amendment, co-sponsored by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, was voted down 79 to 12.

Watch Rand Paul's speech about the degraded Fourth Amendment here:

A fourth and final amendment, by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), calling for intelligence-agency estimates for the number of Americans spied on, will likely die on the Senate floor today, clearing the final obstruction to passage. Some nauseating passages from The Hill:

The anti-Feinstein

"I think, when you talk about oversight, and you can't even get a rough estimate of how many law-abiding Americans had their communications swept up by this law… the idea of robust oversight, really ought to be called toothless oversight if you don't have that kind of information," Wyden said on the floor Thursday morning.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said those incidences have been "few" and "inadvertent." She urged her colleagues not to support any of the amendments because she said the bill would then have to be reconsidered by the House. She said unless the House version passed, surveillance would halt after Dec. 31, posing a threat to national security.

"Without Senate action these authorities expire in four days and that's the reason the House bill is before us," Feinstein said before the amendment votes Thursday. […]

"There is a view of some that this country no longer needs to fear attacks — I don't share that view."

The persistence of such low demagoguery a dozen years after Sept. 11 suggests a truism that covers both the National Security State and the Fiscal Cliff: Congress, and the Leviathan it nurtures, requires constant crisis like a whale requires krill. As ever, the Senate needs more Rand Pauls and Ron Wydens, fewer Dianne Feinsteins and other Dick Cheney wannabees.

NEXT: Big Blue Madness

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  1. What’s really depressing is how no one cares.

    It’s funny, in high school they make you read all these books about totalitarian dystopian states, like Brave New World and 1984 and yet none of books really cover how much people are so apathetic to a police state. Eager, really.

    1. Meh…, I doubt it’ll pass the house. Call me “eager,” but I’d like to see presidential appointees have zero privacy. I like my privacy though.

      1. “””She said unless the House version passed, surveillance would halt after Dec. 31, posing a threat to national security.””‘

        This is the House version.

      2. Call me “eager,”

        Beats calling you maybe.

        1. I just call all of you Shirley

          1. Shirley you joust.

          2. And you do it with a funny antipodean accent to boot.

    2. This is exactly the problem. We’re past the point that anybody – republican, democrat, whatever – gives a shit now. The two teams have gotten the country to believe in their own caricatures and to ignore any content at all.

      We are totally fucked.

      1. Actually, it appears that both a few republicans and a few democrats give a shit.

        Far too few, but a few.

    3. in high school they make you read all these books about totalitarian dystopian states

      Some think they’re a warning, others think they’re a plan

      1. The only required book I can recall from my high school courses was Wuthering Heights, which I suppose was a warning that youthful romance inevitably turns into dreary bitter tragedy.

      2. operating manual

  2. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said those incidences have been “few” and “inadvertent.”

    How the fuck does she know? But by all means pass the bill without alteration for the expediency. We would hate for Congress to have to put any more time into this than necessary, so that the terrorists don’t have even a single day to hide behind the United States Constitution.

    1. “””How the fuck does she know?””‘

      They probably allow her access to the juicy stuff about her political opponents. Hillary got access to the FBI confidential records of her opponents when she was just First Lady, I bet that a senior Senator would at least get the same access.

      Of course they don’t show her the files on herself or her supporters so that is why she thinks that misuse is “few” and “inadvertent.”

      1. So the question is, is she so stupid not to realize that they have a file on her too, or did they show her, her own file and she is scared to object to anything they ask for?

      2. Remember, they think the law doesn’t apply to them, or right-thinking people like David Gregory.

    2. DiFi undoubtedly knows all about it. Senate Intelligence Committee members have access to all the classified stuff, I believe. They get regular briefings from the spooks.

      Basically, they realize that most Americans don’t know about the FISA and probably wouldn’t care even if they did know. Eventually, there will be some sort of Wikileaks-style revelation about the extent of domestic spying, and perhaps that will wake people the fuck up.

      1. It won’t…

  3. From the gun control link:

    “The Australian ‘outlaw and repurchase’ option is one approach. But if Congress balks at banning certain weapons entirely, it could make gun owners an offer they can’t refuse. Instead of $200 a gun, Uncle Sam might offer $500.”

    Holy shit. The level of ignorance these people display still stuns me sometimes. My AR’s cost me at least a thousand dollars already, not including magazines, and I haven’t even finished it.

    1. Ah, but say some enterprising fellow or gal, such as me, was to come into possession of those weapons without incurring a cost? This could be a valuable and remunerative opportunity!

      1. The fatal shooting of a 40-year-old man Thursday night on the West Side appears to have pushed Chicago’s 2012 homicide toll to 500, the first time the city has had that many killings in four years.

        This is what happens when you relax gun laws. We must redouble our efforts to get these killing machines off the streets!!!

        1. Does Michael Moore know? Maybe those really scared of black men are other

  4. She urged her colleagues not to support any of the amendments because she said the bill would then have to be reconsidered by the House.

    Liberty does not stop and start at your convenience, you miserable piece of shit.

    1. Oh my, Fist isn’t even close to being first on a thread. 🙂

    2. “Liberty does not stop and start at your convenience”

      That’s probably one of the best statements I’ve heard in a long time. Is that original, or a quote.

      In any event, the point is very well made!

      1. Follow the link and you will see where I stole it.

  5. FWIW, I think we should get links to the voting record on stories like this.


    Paul’s vote is the next vote 00234, but can’t link due to spam restrictions (AFAIK).

    1. They’ll probably put the links in 24/7.

      1. I thought the only purpose of 24/7 was to obscure the story sources for AM/PM links..

    2. Thanks. I can see that my Senators (Ohio) are useless. Brown (the goddamn Democrat) is apparently not even showing up and Portman (the fucking Republican) voted Nay on each one.

      1. I called Portman’s DC and Columbus offices to complain. Staffer at DC was an a-hole. Lady at Cbus office was very pleasant and receptive. Upon asking, she informed me that I was the first to call about these votes. (Ugh!)

        Consider S.Amdt 3436: “To ensure adquate protection of the rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States”

        How could you vote Nay on that? WTF

        Good to know that Sherrod Brown doesn’t even show up for work.

    3. Paul:…

      YEAs —12
      Baucus (D-MT)
      Begich (D-AK)
      Cantwell (D-WA)
      Heller (R-NV)
      Lee (R-UT)
      Merkley (D-OR)
      Paul (R-KY)
      Stabenow (D-MI)
      Tester (D-MT)
      Udall (D-NM)
      Webb (D-VA)
      Wyden (D-OR)

  6. …like a whale requires krill…

    MARLIN: He might be hungry.
    DORY: Oh don’t worry. Whales don’t eat clownfish. They eat krill.
    KRILL: Swim away!
    DORY: Oh look – krill!

    1. Awesome connection there. What a great metaphor for what is inevitably occurring.

  7. C’mon Matt! Only fifteen links in one post? You can do better than that!

    1. This from the poster furiously reading the Daily Mail in order to add a bunch of “I’d fap to that!” comments to the Morning Links thread. :-p

      1. Furiously? No, I am quite relaxed as I peruse the British tabloids.

  8. United States Senate that hasn’t passed a (legally required) budget resolution since 2009,

    Actually Matt, they have passed resolutions, what they haven’t passed are actual budgets, as required.

  9. “Why is a phone call more deserving of privacy protection than an e-mail?” Paul asked on the Senate floor.

    Too bad he didn’t bother to answer his own question. It’d be great to have “Fuck you, that’s why” in the Congressional Record.

  10. From the 24/7 linky:

    the suspected shooter has been shot and killed.

    I hope he was more than just “suspected” if they killed him.

    1. Oh, alright — “*allegedly* suspected”.

    2. The suspected shooter has allegedly been shot and killed.

      1. We suspect that the alleged shooter has been shot and killed?

  11. At least we have Mitch McConnell going to bat for us.

    1. He voted NAY on all 3 amendments.

      Paul needs to select someone to primary challenge him in 2014. Im pretty sure fear of that is what led Mitch to hire Paul’s campaign manager as his own.

      But fuck that, it still needs to happen.

  12. I’m amazed when people claim the Dems are great protectors of Civil Rights. They just have a better PR machine than the Republicans, who’d get blamed even if they did manage to do the right thing.

    1. In the vote on Paul’s amendment, 9/12 were Democrats. Doesn’t mean much, but it does seem on these kind of things there tends to be a slightly better civil libertarian streak on Team Blue.

      1. 38-40-1 (D-R-I, with the I being Lieberman) for Nay.

        So, very slight D advantage there too.

        4-4-1 not voting.

        As you said, doesnt mean much. For the supposed party of civil liberties, having only a small edge is pretty pathetic.

    2. The partisan differences in the Senate are not as wide as in the House. Apart from a few mavericks, the Senate is a shitty little backslapping club devoted to perks, power and easy reelection.

  13. Can you say “banana republic”?

  14. Final vote 73-23

    NAYs —23
    Brown (D-OH)
    Coons (D-DE)
    Paul (R-KY)

  15. This silence once again proves that lefties don’t give a shit about civil liberties (and dead brown people), despite their howls of protest when the evil Boooosh was Pres.

  16. Merry Christmas,NBA ,NFL 2012

  17. 1984.

    1. Big Brother didn’t have nearly the surveillance resources as Uncle Sam.

      For example, Smith and Julia could go to the countryside without fear of telescreen surveillance, but Uncle Sam has drones for that contingency.

      Fact is that the USG has more information on your communications, travels, and transactions than the East German Stasi had on dissidents during the 1960s.

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