FISA Vote, or How I Lost Complete Faith in Our Legislative Branch

Today's the day, folks. Start dialing your international calls now while you still have some assurance of privacy.

Reid came on the floor and set up the rules. Debate will continue then votes on the amendments — Dodd, then Specter, then Bingaman.

Senator McConnell: "Blah blah blah compromise blah blah blah thanks to Bond's leadership blah blah blah…"

Then Bond spoke, saying that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was created as and should be the only vehicle for oversight. May I say, you've not done a great job, sir. Even Rockefeller, whose capitulation on immunity is insane, thought the program was out of line and went so far as to keep a sealed letter in his desk disavowing it. And look where we are now. Bond also called out "far left editorial writers." Wink, wink NYT!

Hatch followed Bond and attempted to rebut points made on the floor yesterday while also tearing down those who have suits against the phone companies. He argued that no one in the government has the time or inclination to monitor random domestic phone calls. Well, whether they have the time or inclination they're about to get the ability to do so, so thanks.

Hatch also repeated Bond's strange and likely baseless argument that, if the lawsuits go forward, phone companies will suffer consequences including possible physical threat to their employees. Can someone explain that to me? Who is circulating that talking point? What the hell is going on?

Feingold on Hatch's remarks that the majority of the Senate being in the dark on the specifics of the program: "Wow." He smacked down Hatch's condescending remark that it's the "black helicopter crowd" that is concerned with this saying, "It could not be clearer that this program broke the law and this president broke the law."

Feingold's walked us through the history of this issue, starting before the New York Times broke the story. (Here's a little history lesson from the ACLU.) He brought up that old Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) story. You know, the one where the administration claimed Congress gave it the go ahead to wiretap without warrants when it passed the AUMF? That should have been another red flag that this administration is crazy-go-nuts for ridiculous legal interpretations. (BTW, here's an old and fantastic story on TPM that I just found — check the date on that baby.) Then the administration was all, "No, no, no. The president's got Article II authority." Wasn't it clear when it was scrambling for prior legal cover that the administration knew it was caught with its hand in the cookie jar?

Feingold also said that, as a member of the Intel committee, he's seen all the documents and has been read into the program and, "members of this body will regret we passed this legislation." If only that would resonate…

Leahy is Leahy and I love him. Oh my goodness, I love him.

Specter followed Leahy and said passing this law without knowing the full details of the program is like buying a pig in a poke. It's been a while since I've heard that and he's right. It can't be said enough that senators are voting on something that the majority of them have little or no context for. Once this bill passes and these amendments are voted down, it's done. DONE. Everything you always wanted to know about the president's domestic spying program will remain a mystery.

Senator Sanders just took to the floor and spoke for less than a minute but said everything that needed to be said. We're all for finding terrorists and preventing attacks but we must remain within the bounds of the Constitution. Sanders out.

Since votes came up quicker than I can type, I'll quickly summarize:

  1. Bingaman speaks on his amendment.
  2. Dodd is up — he had a great line thanking the blogs, advocates and private citizens who have inserted themselves into the debate saying, "Not one of them had to be involved but they chose to be." Awwww.
  3. Rockefeller spoke and bizarrely called it a farce that the administration was claiming that, right after the story broke, "Congress had been briefed" when in reality only four members had been. Strange line to draw when the vast — VAST — majority of members still haven't been fully briefed.
  4. Cantwell was next and wisely the point the language of the bill is written so vaguely that it will allow for the "broad expansion of authority to conduct domestic surveillance."
  5. Then Nelson, another member of the Intel committee who has been fully briefed, reiterated that he is against blanket immunity and offered an amendment against it in committee.
  6. Bond spoke again and made some snarky comment about briefing the New York Times with sensitive material. Sigh.
  7. Dodd followed with a last-minute plea for his amendment. It didn't work. The Dodd amendment failed, 32-66.
  8. Specter followed with a last-minute plea for his amendment. It didn't work. The Specter amendment failed, 37-61
  9. Bingaman followed with a last-minute plea for his amendment. It didn't work. The Bingaman amendment failed, 42-56

Final passage will be around 2 or 2:15. Stay tuned and don't do anything foolish in the meantime. We'll get through this.

Update: After the amendments were effectively killed – along with any possible hope of court review of the president’s illegal and unconstitutional domestic spying program (can’t say that enough) – the votes for final passage were counted.

The votes were cast and so was the die. Final count: 69 to 28.

I can only say it’s been emotional. This isn’t the last you’ll be hearing from the ACLU on this subject — in fact, far from it. Keep an eye on this space for our continued and tireless work protecting the Fourth Amendment (and all the other ones, too, come to think of it).

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Thank you ACLU for defending the Constitution of the United States of America.

Harold Rex

I guess we'll have to do with a weakened 4th amendment for a while. Meantime let's get behind the second. We shouldn't need permits to purchase or carry arms any more than to speak or write. What are we going to do for the cause of liberty on that score?


This has been a blow to me. Never have I felt so disgusted with Democrats. We don't have a majority, we have only a handful that had the moral fortitude to vote and fight against this. We have, what was supposed to be our best candidate, but he took no leadership and gave approval to this president to break the law and not uphold the fourth amendment. I'm one less Precinct Captain in Michigan and one less donor.


Everyone R, D & I who voted for this in the Senate should be voted out as soon as their term is up. I cannot belive this has happened, this is the fruit of the poison tree.

Susan Meehan

I'd like to know the name of everyone who voted for that miserable bill. I will contact everyone who voted for it and tell them I intend to help make sure they don't get re-elected.

Two of the reasons for opposing the reign of George III, as written in the Declaration of Independence are:

" For depriving is many cases of the benefit of Trial by Jury" and
"For takking away our Charters. abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments".

These points are as critically important today as they were 233 years ago. Please let us know which Senators voted for this bill. For shame on them!


Cases like this are why I'll be voting third party this year. It seems pretty obvious to me that the leadership of both the Democrats and Republicans is bent on diminishing the limitations that the Constitution very clearly places on the powers of our government. This is just the latest of a series of ill-conceived acts of Congress and the Executive, that anyone who's paying attention has been concerned about for some time. Best of luck to the ACLU on this case.

Susan Hayward

Through my wiretap, they are publishing everything I write online (which goes directly to their server), say within my home and telephone, and monitor what I'm watching on tv. As crazy as this sounds, it's the truth. How can I get them to stop? Wjere
s the warrant and how do I get a copy?
It's one thing to listen, quite another to publicly humiliate me any way they can. My tv serves as a viewing screen for them, and they just broke in my home again for the upteenth time to play with coax wires. There is no limit to the dirty tricks the Bush Administration has done in my case. God help us all. What Constitution?


Nixon breaks the law, wiretaps, and gets run out of office. Bush breaks the law, wiretaps, and gets a bill giving him a pass. Bush cant even calm war powers at that time. This wasent even done in the middle of the night like the repubicans did during their control, it was done in the light of day, with public officals thumping their collective chest for the Alpha male in the White House. Bush cant cover his unconstational abuse of power any other way than to have the rest of the government look the other way while passing a bill. If there is any way the ACLU, once Bush's pen leaves the bill signing it into law, to sue on grounds of unconstational grounds then file it.


You would think the people who had been fully briefed on the FISA bill would have been listened to by the others that had not been fully briefed.

It goes to show that eveyone who voted for this is in the pockets of big telecom and corporations and cannot be trusted to protect the constitution or the american people.

I think when everyone starts to be affected by the taking away of their rights is when people will wake up.

the american public do not even know what rights they are entitled to so when one right is taken away apparently they do not even care.

very sad. try to educate everyone you know, thats all we can do.


Let me tell you a Fact that a old timer once told me.

"Mine & your Granddaddy didn't have nothing to help or protect them." (Sounds like the early 1930's)
"Then our daddy's came along & fought hard to make a better America for their children."
....."But The Next Generation ain't gonna ask for what They Want, They are just gonna Take It !"

All this I see coming true. When the baby-boomers, which were a lot of the L.S.D.-orgy-hippies that have now grown old & turned out now to be Bible Thumping Hypocrites that are worst than the parents they rebelled against in the 60's start thinking they will retire or if they wind up in a nursing home, This Next Generation will strangle them to death with leaving this country in all this debt & chaos.

"America promotes a Nation of UnderAchievers !"

The Next Generation are not lost on this
They grew up hearing their parents say:
"Tune In, Turn On, & Drop Out!"

It just has a little different meaning in 2008.It just has a little different meaning in 2008.


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