FISA Fillibuster Effort Fails 80-15

In blogs, civil rights, politics, Technology, U.S government, war on terror on June 26, 2008 by Editor Z

Efforts by opponents of the compromise between congressional democrats and the White House to pass legislation changing the rules of the 1978 FISA law on domestic wiretapping, including a provision that will grant telecommunication companies who aided the Bush/Cheney administration in intelligence gathering through a secret wiretapping program; appears to have failed.

Thursday the U.S Senate voted 80 in favor and 15 against moving forward and breaking any potential filibuster that could be mounted by opponents of the measure, whose supporters include Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-Ill), who last week irked many supporters when he voiced support for the legislation.

Supporters state that the government needs to be invested with greater powers and more agility to amass intelligence of possible terrorist related activities and insert provisions that incorporate the evolutions in modern communications that are not present in the 30 year old FISA process and law. Opponents though, claim doing so would intrude on Americans right to privacy and constitutional rights and would grant the executive branch even greater authority that will be scantly monitored.


An effort to block a wide ranging overhaul of U.S wiretapping laws failed in the Senate on Wednesday with opponents mustering only 15 votes against the bill in a procedural vote.

The House of Representatives voted last week to overhaul the Foreign intelligence surveillance Act, which requires a secret court to sign off on domestic electronic surveillance in Intelligence cases. The law passed in 1978 in response to Watergate-era wiretapping abuses.

Language that appears likely to let telecommunications companies escape law suits over the Bush administration’s warrant less surveillance program drew opposition from liberal Democrats such as Wisconsin Sen Russ Feingold.

Feingold said the bill would be a “get out of jail free” card for companies that went along with the program critics say was illegal and would give the government sweeping powers to spy on Americans.

“This legislation is going to be remembered as the legislation in which congress granted the executive branch the power to sweep up all our international communications, with very few controls or oversight,” he said.

Eighty Senators including most Democrats, joined Republicans in voting to move the bill forward. The vote was well beyond the 60 needed to break the threat of a filibuster.

The vote on the actual legislation may not come until July however, according to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV), of the legislation that the Bush/Cheney administration has been pressuring the congress to approve since 2007.

Meanwhile an odd, but passionate alliance is said to have been forming between the liberal blogging community as well as libertarians seeking to curb government power, including some of the devoted followers of former Republican libertarian Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) who also opposes the bill.

Wall Street Journal:

Liberal activists and supporters of the Texas Republican and former presidential candidate plan to join forces Thursday and begin a “money bomb” protest of lawmakers who support telecom immunity in the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act. During a “money bomb,” grassroots activists donate money during a short period of time — usually a day — to create buzz and raise money for their candidate.

The effort is timed to coincide with a planned Senate vote on the bill. Libertarians and liberal activists have blasted Democratic lawmakers, including presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, for supporting the legislation.

Both groups are upset about a provision in the bill that would provide retroactive immunity from civil actions for telecom companies alleged to have provided information to the government as part of its secret, warrant less wiretapping program. The House passed the legislation on June 20 and a Senate vote could come as soon as Thursday.


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