House Republicans Take Their Ball, Go Home In FISA Fight

from the so-THAT'S-what-a-spine-looks-like dept

It now appears all but certain that the stopgap Protect America Act, which Congress passed in August, will expire this weekend, despite dark warnings from the White House that this would create a parlous “intelligence gap” and stymie intelligence community efforts to track terrorists. House Republicans, led by Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, staged a walkout to protest Democrats’ refusal to schedule an immediate vote on a bill approved in the Senate earlier this week enacting more permanent changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Unlike the RESTORE Act passed in the House back in October, the Senate bill establishes only limited checks on warrantless surveillance of communications between Americans and foreigners, and includes a provision granting retroactive amnesty to telecoms charged with illegally providing customer data to the government without a court order.

Democrats are, for a change of pace, fighting back against charges that they are soft on security issues. Contra predictions of imminent doom, many are now pointing out that the practical effect of the PAA’s lapsing is likely to be quite limited, as any surveillance authorized under the law can continue unabated for another six months. And for all the administration’s dire forecasts, Democrats note that it was House Republicans who voted down a further temporary extension of the PAA in the shadow of a presidential veto threat, and the Republican leader in the Senate who blocked a bicameral conference on the bill, in hopes of forcing the immediate approval of the White House?endorsed Senate bill. In a letter to President Bush today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had drawn the ire of progressives for his perceived compliance with White House demands, blasted what he characterized as the administration’s “reckless attempt to manufacture a crisis over the reauthorization of foreign surveillance laws.”

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Comments on “House Republicans Take Their Ball, Go Home In FISA Fight”

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Krum says:

I know it's been said before but....

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

I still have the right to not be listened to if I’m calling someone in a foreign country or if I’m using my cell in another country and if a telecom company assisted in obtaining those calls illegally, then they should be held accountable for treating all Americans as guilty.

Ryan says:

Re: I know it's been said before but....

Why are you so damn worried if your not doing anyone any harm. The government isn’t going to tell anyone who your calling, so who cares. If this bill catches ONE, SINGLE TERRORIST, who was planning to take lets say 10 lives, dont you think its worth it to give up a little PRIVACY (not freedom) to save a life?

Im sick of people complaining that the government doesnt have a right. Do you want to know something? A terrorist doesnt have the right to take lives, and if we are saving lives, I dont care if they listen to every minute of my phone calls, because IM no terrorist.

The whole bill was set up by the Democratic party anyways, who were paid over a million dollars to vote for the bill by a group of lawyers who like to sue telcos for giving up information. The democrats dont even care if we might be missing key terrorist information, as long as they get a measly million bucks.

E Jones says:

Re: Re: I know it's been said before but....

A bit of history:

Shortly before the original FISA bill was passed in the late 1970’s, Frank Church led a Senate committee investigation that uncovered a series of federal wiretapping abuses. For example, a congressman was spied on. The FBI, in a well documented attempt to uncover embarrassing personal information, spied on Martin Luther King, hoping to discredit him as a civil rights leader. This was done under the false pretense of investigating communism.

Human beings being what they are, without serious judicial oversight, its not hard to imagine similar abuses happening in the name of investigating terrorism.

Tyler Nothing says:

Re: Re: I know it's been said before but....

Yeah, you’re right, it’s been said before. And everything I want to say to you has been said before as well. So, instead of reiterating what so many people have said before me in response to your statement, why don’t you look up why FISA was put in place.

“Do you want to know something? A terrorist doesnt have the right to take lives…”

Who does? We do?

Spare me…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I know it's been said before but....

I’m sorry, but you’re in the wrong country. The whole entire bill of rights and much of our judicial history is built on the theory that is better to a let a bad guy get away than to intrude on the dignity of American Citizens.
We would absolutely prevent more crime and lock up more bad guys without pesky things like laws:
* providing the right to not self-incriminate
* against illegal search and seizure
* against double jeopardy
* providing the right to assembly
* etc.

We’re a country that abhors false positives so much that we’re okay with the occasional false negative.

The new senate bill completely obliterates judicial oversight. According to the bill, the courts do not have to be told hardly anything about the interceptions. The government is “not required to identify the specific facilities, places, premises, or property” involved in wiretapping. All the court is allowed to do is make sure the forms were filled out right. If the FISA court finds that the fourth amendment is being violated they can issue an order which “at the Government’s election” does not have to be obeyed. Can you see why someone might object to that?

Pesti says:

Re: Re: I know it's been said before but....

“Americans are internationally famous for being fearful — afraid of terrorists, afraid of communists, afraid of each other. When Europeans have terrorist attacks they apprehend the perpetrators and go about their business — they don’t flip out and give up their freedoms. Americans seem willing to chuck the Bill of Rights and jettison our democracy if only Big Daddy will protect us from Bad Guys….”

“We Americans were so horrified to discover we were vulnerable to terrorist attacks that we were willing to give dictatorial powers to the first mediocrity who asked for them.

When FDR became president, he said: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It’s still true.”

(Full Text by Philip Slater@

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: I know it's been said before but....

Ryan wrote:

If this bill catches ONE, SINGLE TERRORIST, who was planning to take lets say 10 lives, dont you think its worth it to give up a little PRIVACY (not freedom) to save a life?

There is no evidence that such surveillance has ever caught anything resembling a terrorist, or that it will ever do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I know it's been said before but..

Ah, but the practice is under fire. Don’t you think that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people should at least be willing to give us SOME, if not all, proof that what they’re doing is actually useful? if they could show that, maybe fewer people would be as irritated by it.

Chris G says:

Re: Re: I know it's been said before but....

Buddy if you don’t know why you should be worried then I don’t know what to tell you. You might want to read the Constitution again, (if you ever have in the first place). There is a little thing called the “Bill of Rights” in particular Article IV. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
No body is saying the Government can’t listen in. What they are saying is that there has to be due process and review and a warrant has to be issued. The reality is that the FISA court and judges can act very swiftly in the case of an emergency and, in fact, taps can be started with out court approval but have to have a warrant issued with in a set time period or will have to cease. It gives law enforcement that ability to respond swiftly and provides for review.
Letting the government have carte blanch in observing the citizens is a recipe for Totalitarianism. This is a slippery slope that leads to the curbing of other freedoms.

SomeGuy says:

Re: Re: I know it's been said before but....

“Why are you so damn worried if your not doing anyone any harm.”

Yeah, if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear, right? At least, not until someone decides you HAVE done something wrong. Just because you’re sitting pretty now doesn’t mean that down the line someone in power won’t decide you’re a threat. The more protection we maintain against those we’ve allowed to govern us, the better we stand against such possible future abuses.

We SHOULD do what we can do stop terrorist attacks on our country, but we SHOULD NOT compromise ourselves in order to do so.

“When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.”

Paul` says:

Re: Re: I know it's been said before but....

So by that logic, a cop should be able to start shooting in your direction and if you run, you obviously have done something wrong and thus deserve being fired upon?

A terrorist doesn’t have the right to take a life unless they’re funded by the American government and kill in other countries I assume you mean to say.

Duane M. Navarre says:

FISA abuses

Apparently some very important details are being left out
by the mainstream media, namely room 641a.

The fact that they were not just monitoring foreign calls.

They were monitoring all calls, even if you were not on
a suspected terror association list.

Yes, that is right, all internal US calls, even grandma
to grandson on Christmas.

It may sound conspiratorial, but it takes more gear to
monitor all citizens so it cost more money for what
they TRULY implemented.

This exceeded the scope of their venture, and is
Orwellian at best, and I can only dream of what the
worst thing it could be done with it with speech
recognition and them possibly considering any
phone number that has called a gang members phone
as being a “domestic terrorist” even if your child
doesn’t know that little johnny at school is a
poser gang member.

Like the Wikipedia article says, this is just one of
many such rooms around the country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Right On # 4 - 7

I’m just so . . . well, it’s cheesy but, just so proud that there are other Americans that haven’t lost sight of what it means to truly BE American. Far too many of our fellow citizens have lost that sight, especially those that still willingly support the Bush administration despite every effort by the administration to destroy our Constitution.

Americans 4, Ryan 0. Owned.

Anonymouse Coward says:

Get a warrant


Nobody’s saying you can’t do domestic surveillance, but get a freaking warrant — you can even do it retroactively! Someone other than the law enforcement officer needs to know what’s going on. Why are you so afraid of judicial oversight?

For some reason authority seems to believe that if they just knew who everyone was, they would be able to find bad guys, but that isn’t so because bad guys are motivated and smart, too (see Iraq) they will change tactics. New terrorists aren’t likely to be spotted by anyone in law enforcement – they’ll be spotted by us, the civilians because they will always learn how to hide from police.

Oh, and while I’m on the soapbox, I object to the whole “War On Terror” slogan. It’s stupid. You can’t declare war on terrorism any more than you can declare war on poverty. It’s not a group or a place or land you can take and hold – it’s a tactic, and eliminating (by force) the people doing it won’t eliminate that people will still be doing it to each other a thousand years from now. It’s how little guys (who in this case, by the way, happen to be homicidal maniacs) fight against an overwhelming opponent. If Al Zarquawi had the money and troops to roll 10,000 tanks into Iraq instead of kidnapping contractors and civilians, he would have.

The sooner we get rid of Bush, the better…. AND I VOTED FOR HIM!!!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Do you remember the first thing they did with the

Do you remember the first thing they did with the telecom data? They used it to find out who was leaking info from the White House about the Justice Dept. scandals. Not to protect us from Terror, but to cover their own ass.

Anyone who believes this act is designed to protect us is an idiot. I know lots of you are idiots, and I am ashamed to share a country with you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Were I a criminal (no, not a petty copyright thief, I mean a real criminal) I would love to have the govt. use illegal means to gather information on me. Guess what, when you go to court, all that evidence gets thrown out.

Again I ask, why are you worried about it?

Oh, and the whole NSA Calling Scandal that has everyone’s panties in a bunch? They were not listening to calls, they were seeing who was talking to whom. Get off your fucking soapboxes you sissieboys. Let real men protect you and America while you type bullshit on your computer screens.

Israel knows how to get things done. They did the world a favor when they wacked Mughniyah. How is that for due process?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Blind trust of the government is dangerous. If there is no check on the power what prevents abuse, and yes the U.S government has abused power in the past, we have FISA as a result of that abuse. It not the rights of terrorists people are concerned about it’s everyone else’s. It’s no secret the FISA court is a sham that rubber stamps warrants. You can could the number of times they’ve said no to a request on one hand.
Every time a president wants more power, it’s the same excuse “national security”.

G Santo says:

Republican walkout

The Republicans walked out because the Dems wanted to find the president’s lawyer and chief of staff in contempt for not going along with the Dems’ latest attempt to investigate the administration, not because of the reason mentioned in the article. The Dems chose to go on vacation rather than even consider the intel bill.
Seems like the Dems spend all their time and energy trying to embarrass the president and investigate every little thing the administration does, no matter how much it may also embarrass the country and even give aid and comfort to those who wish to see us dead. I’ll be glad when Mr. Bush leaves office, since the Dems will have to actually show us results instead of this endless partisanship.

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