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5:00 PM Memorial Day Weekend FISA post

OK, 6:00PM. OMB Watch:

CQ ($$) reports that, "Republicans unveiled their latest compromise offer Thursday to rewrite electronic surveillance rules, saying they can make no more concessions to Democrats."

Translation: They can make more concessions.

This latest proposal would establish FISA as the "exclusive means" of conducting electronic surveillance after recent news of a declassified 2001 Justice Department legal opinion.

And gawd knows what else is classified still.

Despite language in the 1978 FISA law that cites FISA as the exclusive authority governing domestic wiretapping, the 2001 opinion determined that Congress actually did not want to restrict the president's authority to conduct warrantless surveillance for national security purposes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), is now insisting on tight language in any rewrite of the FISA law to establish the statute as the "exclusive means" for conducting domestic electronic surveillance.

Good for Pelosi. (Except "establish" is wrong. FISA was always the exclusive means.)

The proposal would also allow an inspector general investigation of the warrantless wiretapping program, and allow the secret FISA court to review in advance the procedures....

Wrong. That's bulk (so-called "basket") warrants. Might as well write a blank check to whoever's writing the algorithm.

... the administration would use to conduct surveillance of international calls where one party is in the U.S. to ensure privacy and civil liberties are protected. The compromise would also give the FISA court the authority to decide whether to grant retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications companies that are being sued for assisting the administration with the program.

According to CQ, Senator Christopher Bond? (R-MO), "said the proposal has been vetted with the administration and intelligence community."

Do I hear screams of pain? No. That means we haven't cut into anything important. So what does Steny say?

And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, "We are reviewing it carefully and look forward to resolving remaining differences in the near future."

If Steny were Japanese, "reviewing it carefully" translates to "when hell freezes over." For good or ill, Steny is not Japanese. Can anyone else translate?

Except for that little matter of giving the telcos immunity in secret, the bill is not obviously insane.

Unfortunately, that is insane. Which major corporate sector colludes in breaking the law and then gets to go before a secret court to get well next?

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amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

and making that the law? Pelosi speaking of any rewrite of FISA is already giving in entirely. FISA is the law, and is still being ignored.

and if the FISA court is responsible for bestowing immunity they're gonna do it automatically--they've approved every single thing brought to them, and all of those required the cooperation of phone companies to actually happen.

and basket warrants are already how they're doing it now--also illegally.

this is just bad acting and posturing on all sides--they've already caved, i bet. On this, there's only one side, and it's pro-abuse, pro-spying on us, and pro-telco immunity for clear crimes.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

from Steny Hoyer means he's trying to maneuver the language, the record and the way the vote plays out so it will be seen as his triumph if it all turns out to be a political plus and all Pelosi's fault if there's blowback.

Perhaps you thought his focus was on the bill itself, or the constitution, or national security, or right and wrong? Afraid not. Steny wants that gavel, and he will sell your soul and slit your throat to get it.

Submitted by lambert on

Seriously, he sounds like a real second-rater. If he makes it in, the Dems are in even worse shape than I thought. I suppose he'd get along fine with Daschle, though?

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

All this legislation is written electronically. In a properly ordered system each proposed change would be published to Thomas. Moreover, it would be perfectly possible to set up RSS feeds for each proposed legislation so that citizens could follow along as much as any lobbyist.

We should insist on this.

Submitted by hipparchia on


i tried to keep up with both the farm bill and health care this past year. i ended up losing track of the farm bill completely, and i'm probably going to have to give up hope of getting any health care before 2013.

rss feeds would have been great, at least on the farm bill!

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

"FISA was always the exclusive means" - Exactly, and that is the ground they need to fight on. Trying to get a law passed thar says the same thing as an existing law is insane. I swear to God this is yet another example of the kind of discussions we're having these days when I just think, this nuts right? It's not just me right?

Again, great post. Thanks for the OMB Watch site too - I'd never even heard of it before.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

without a deal the law reverts to what it was, which was fine. We don't need a deal.

Submitted by lambert on

so it never needed fixing. The only thing that's happening here is legalizing illegal behavior by the telcos, to wit: Sucking down all of our data on the Internet and then doing whatever the fuck they want with it. Check the many, many other posts in this series on warrantless surveillance. Links at the bottom.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.