Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dems and security -- will they "cave"?

By Carol Gee

"A bill to modernize and streamline FISA -- S2248." It does not seem a coincidence that AT&T was unable to provide working Blackberry services for three hours yesterday, according to Fox News. That would be just the type of event that would scare all the "wired" senators into making sure that the telecommunications industry gets everything it wants in the way of help and protection during the FISA reorganization. Of course the Democrats will cave in to fear-mongering and pressure from high powered lobbyists.

Today is voting day for amendments to FISA in the U.S. Senate. Here are the morning's results:

  • Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's amendment dealing with minimization was adopted on a voice vote.

  • Senator Feinstein's amendment on exclusivity (of FISA as the sole means of collection of foreign intelligence) was withdrawn. The vote was 57 to 41 in favor, with Rockefeller supporting it. Sixty votes were required for passage.

  • Senator Feingold's amendment 3979 on communications safeguards failed 35 aye to 63 no, with Rockefeller opposed.

  • Senator Dodd's amendment 3907 -- striking the grant of retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies now being sued for operating outside the law -- failed by a vote of 31 aye and 67 no (including Rockefeller's no).

  • Senator Feingold's amendment 3912 (also opposed by Rockefeller), preventing indiscriminate "bulk collection" of all communications between the U.S. and abroad, 37 aye and 60 no.

  • The Bond amendment 3938 adding "proliferators" of weapons of mass destruction to the list of "foreign agents" used to determine targets for surveillance passed by voice vote.

  • Senator Specter's amendment 3927, the so-called substitution amendment (substituting the government for corporate defendants in the telecom lawsuits). Senator Rockefeller was opposed. The amendment, like almost all those offered today, failed 30 to 68.

  • Senator Feinstein offered another amendment, 3919, would provide that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court would review the telecommunications companies for compliance under the FISA law, rather than the courts where the suits currently reside. The vote was 41 aye, 57 no, and the amendment was withdrawn.
  • The vote on cloture (60 required) was 69 aye and 29 no. Debates and amendments will now be limited.

Present in the Senate for the votes were Senators McCain and Obama. I believe Senator Clinton was absent.

What those in the know are saying about the Senate's attempts at amending FISA -- During the Senate debate all day Monday on amending FISA (also at empty wheel), the writer used a very interesting tactic for keeping up with what was going on called "FISA Liveblog and Trash Talk Thread." Senator Feingold's speech was lauded by empty wheel's blogger writing on "George Bush's Perfect Crime." Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report discussed "WSJ makes the case for telecom immunity, slams 'anti-antiterror left.' Glenn Greenwald also weighed in on the WSJ editorial, with some excellent little "updates" at the end. Glenn Greenwald's latest (updated) post was titled "Amnesty Day for Bush and lawbreaking telecoms." He writes for Salon.com.

UPDATE I -- latest from 1) Firedoglake 2)"empty wheel" 3) Muckraker -- TPM

Update II: At the end of the day the (Bond-Rockefeller) watered-down and flawed bill passed 68 to 29. Now it goes to conference to iron out the differences with the House bill.

What those who should be in the know are saying about U.S. security -- Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote quite a thorough and lengthy piece last year in Foreign Affairs called "Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-first Century." Barack Obama wrote in mid 2007 his own article in Foreign Affairs called "Renewing American Leadership."

What the Congressional Quarterly says on security is available to interested people on a frequent e-mail basis. The following paragraph illustrates why I highly recommend "CQ Behind the Lines," a regular e-mailed newsletter that is rich with paragraphs like this sample one quoted:

Social networking with the enemy:

“After successfully sponsoring several of the presidential debates, Facebook is spreading its wings once more, announcing today that it would become the official co-sponsor of the U.S.’s
war on terror,” The Borowitz Report reports. “In snagging the coveted antiterrorism sponsorship, the popular networking site beat out two of its rivals, MySpace and YouTube, who had also vied to co-sponsor the global struggle against Islamic extremism,” Andy Borowitz writes. “While the announcement of the collaboration between the Defense Department and Facebook took many in diplomatic circles by surprise, some intelligence experts characterized the move as a win-win for both partners. ‘For Facebook, being named co-sponsor of the war on terror adds to the prestige and luster of their brand,’ said Tracy Klujian, editor-at-large for Antiterrorism Monthly. ‘For the Defense Department, teaming up with Facebook makes the war on terror seem hip and fun.’”

Sign up here for any one of several CQ newsletters.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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