The administration and congressional Democrats agree on the need to update the FISA statute to reflect the realities of 21st-century telecommunications, including the ever-expanding digital world of e-mail, podcasts and text messages.The vote was 60-28, so it's clear that Democrats, much as they'd like to put their mark on the legislation, cannot bear to look as though they accept a greater risk of terrorist attacks.
White House and intelligence officials have sought a broad overhaul of the act to allow spy agencies to listen in on terrorism suspects quickly, without having to apply for a court order, as is required for surveillance that targets U.S. residents. But Democratic leaders say the administration's proposals could lead to broad searches of phone calls and e-mails by ordinary Americans without judicial review....
White House officials complained that Democratic proposals do not give them a crucial tool: the ability to begin wiretapping without having to go to a court. "Every day we don't have [this wiretap authority], we don't know what's going on outside the country," a senior White House official said. "All you need is one communication from, say, Pakistan to Afghanistan that's routed through Seattle that tells you 'I'm about to do a truck bomb in New York City' or 'about to do a truck bomb in Iraq,' and it's too late."
Marty Lederman gives some detail on the failed Democratic proposal, which "the communications privacy community" considered "too conciliatory... going well beyond authorization to exclude purely foreign-to-foreign communications from FISA, i.e., far beyond what is necessary to address the problem that the Administration has described."
Joe Gandelman writes:
... Bush held out for the strongest deal he could get, went on TV and seemingly scared some Democrats to go along with him (some other Democrats clearly agreed the law update was needed) since his TV talk centered on how critical it was to give government these new updated tools to protect the U.S. And it worked — indicating a) he still has a lot of clout since he can peel off wavering or sympathetic Democrats so they join in coalition with GOPers and b) if it worked this time chances are this tactic will be used on other high-stakes measures....The Talking Dog barks:
Harry Reid voted against it in every way except the one way that mattered: he had the power to keep this piece of shit off of the Senate floor altogether, and to tell the President that when the President started respecting the Constitution and the rights of the American people, then he could start suggesting legislation of this kind... and not dictating to another branch of government what it should pass or when it should recess. And instead, on this, we get "an up or down vote". Jebus.The Dog is reading Digby, who writes:
... [W]e can presume that the D.C. cocktail party circuit is all abuzz about fear of terrrrrrrrrorists attacking Washington any God damned moment... and, unbelievably, Democrats believe that they would be blamed for it. And again, methinks, why was it I worked so hard to get this party in the majority again, so we could get exactly the same results as if they weren't?
I have the niggling feeling that there has been some pretty heavy cocktail and bar-b-que chatter in the capital this summer with the elders warning everyone that something is afoot, but they can't talk about the details. Suddenly the villagers are all acting like nervous cats on a hot tin roof and dancing around like it's the hot summer of 2002 again for no discernable rason [sic].Americablog:
If that's so and little birdies are whispering in ears, the congress should stay in town and hash this thing out for real instead of signing off on something they haven't read. And if that's so, the president also needs to stay in town instead of rushing off to clear that poor brush again on his "ranchette" set in Waco and negotiate in good faith to protect the American people. The fact that nobody is doing this suggests to me that if there is some fear mongering going on, everyone involved knows it's typical Bushian nonsense but they are afraid to take a chance just in case he gets lucky and hits another trifecta.
No. More. Executive. Power. Period. It's their job to figure out how to track terrorists without trampling on the constitution. If that means staying in town for the month August in that sweltering heat, well, that's what they're paid for.
So much for that "one of the people being listened to needs to be a terrorist" line that Bush kept selling us. Apparently, he never intended that to be the case, and now it isn't. And the more congress permits itself to be rolled, the more Bush knows he can roll them. The man is at 28% in the polls and the Democrats are scared to death of him. Pathetic.
Yes, and how has Congress been doing in the polls?