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Looking back at FISA’s year in the House – Appendix

July 13th, 2008 by selise
Senator Russ Feingold

click to play YouTube

This diary contains, as an Appendix, the detailed timeline for my diary, "Looking back at FISA’s year in the House." These two diaries are my attempt to document and deconstruct the political theater we’ve witnessed from the House of Representatives, and specifically its Democratic leadership, in amending FISA this past year – from the passage of the Protect America Act (PAA) in August 2007 through the passage of the so-called "compromise" FISA Amendments Act in June 2008. Analysis, conclusions and a proposal are included in the previous diary. Acknowledgments: As with the previous diary, I owe many thanks to all my fellow commenters at FireDogLake, especially pow wow and Hugh, for their excellent analyses, discussions and frequent corrections during the past year.

Appendix – The House Detailed Timeline (7/2007 through 6/2008)

Friday, August 3, 2007 (see previous diary: how FISA went down in the House)

H.R.3356, the Democratic negotiated, not-as-bad bill, is brought to a vote on the House floor under a suspension of House rules so that passage required 2/3 votes. It fails with 218 voting for passage and 207 opposed.

Saturday, August 4, 2007 (see previous diary: how FISA went down in the House)

The House passes S.1927, the truly awful so-called Protect America Act (PAA), 227-183 (Rs: 186-2, Ds: 41-181). It is brought to a vote on the House floor without a rule, using instead a unanimous consent agreement that allows passage by simple majority.

Press Release from Pelosi: Amend FISA As Soon as Possible

Saturday, September 1, 2007

WaPo reports: "AT&T Plaintiffs Cite McConnell Remarks, Admission of Telecom Firms’ Involvement in Warrantless Wiretaps Sought as Evidence"

Wednesday September 5, 2007

HJC Hearing: "Hearing on Warrantless Surveillance and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: The Role of Checks and Balances in Protecting Americans’ Privacy Rights"

Monday, September 10, 2007

McConnell, along with Michael Chertoff, John Scott Redd and Robert S. Mueller III testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

McConnell briefs the House Select Intelligence Committee Press Release from Pelosi: Rep. Holt on DNI McConnell

“Contrary to DNI McConnell’s remarks before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee yesterday, the so-called ‘Protect America Act’ played no role in uncovering the recent German terrorist plot. Those arrests were made with the assistance of intelligence gathered under U.S. laws in effect earlier this year. The DNI knew that going into the hearing. The questions remain why he asserted otherwise during the hearing, and why he has yet to correct the record.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Press Release from Pelosi: Chairman Reyes Urges Public Correction from DNI McConnell McConnell issues statement: "…information contributing to the recent arrests was not collected under authorities provided by the Protect America Act."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

HPSCI Hearing: "FISA for the Future: Balancing Security and Liberty" HJC Hearing: "Hearing on Warrantless Surveillance and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: The Role of Checks and Balances in Protecting Americans’ Privacy Rights (Part II)"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bush, speaking at NSA headquarters, calls for telco liability protection.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

HPSCI Hearing: "Administration Views of FISA Authorities" As reported by TPM and WaPo, McConnell again lies to Congress.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

via Glenn Greenwald, Newsweek reports that:

The nation’s biggest telecommunications companies, working closely with the White House, have mounted a secretive lobbying campaign to get Congress to quickly approve a measure wiping out all private lawsuits against them for assisting the U.S. intelligence community’s warrantless surveillance programs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Oregon United States District Judge Ann Aiken in Mayfield V. United States, ruled two Patriot Act revisions of FISA unconstitutional

Tuesday, October, 2 2007

Jack Goldsmith testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. As reported in the WaPo:

No more than four Justice Department officials had access to details of the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program when the department deemed portions of it illegal, following a pattern of poor consultation that helped create a "legal mess," a former Justice official told Congress yesterday.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Holt introduces H.R.3782, the "FISA Modernization Act of 2007." The bill is referred to the HJC and HPSCI. It will never be considered by either committee. Cosponsors are:

  • Rep Tierney, John F. [MA-6] – 10/9/2007
  • Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9] – 10/9/2007
  • Rep Watson, Diane E. [CA-33] – 10/9/2007
  • Rep Nadler, Jerrold [NY-8] – 10/9/2007
  • Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9] – 10/10/2007
  • Rep Kucinich, Dennis J. [OH-10] – 10/10/2007
  • Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [CA-6] – 10/10/2007
  • Rep Ellison, Keith [MN-5] – 10/17/2007
  • Rep Davis, Danny K. [IL-7] – 10/25/2007
  • Rep Payne, Donald M. [NJ-10] – 10/31/2007
  • Rep Wexler, Robert [FL-19] – 11/7/2007

Conyers and Reyes introduce H.R.3773, the “Responsible Electronic Surveillance That is Overseen, Reviewed, and Effective Act of 2007.” The bill is referred to the HJC and HPSCI.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pelosi, as quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, ignores Holt’s bill in order to dishonestly push the leadership’s bill:

"This isn’t Democrats being concerned about the next election. This is about Democrats saying the law must be followed. And we will collect whatever intelligence we need to protect the American people under the law," the speaker said. "If you see the House bill that [Judiciary Committee Chairman] John Conyers [of Michigan], a great civil libertarian, and [Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman] Silvestre Reyes [of Texas] are putting in the hopper, I think today, to be marked up this week, you will see a bill that is not only better than what the bill was in August, it is better than the original FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] law in protecting our civil liberties. Again, recognizing that we have to get good intelligence and we have to do so in a way that is under the law. And we will do so in a way that has audits and is accountable and has guidelines on how to proceed in this manner," she said.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

"Allowing blanket warrants to be reviewed only once a year by a secret court doesn’t come anywhere close to the rigorous privacy safeguards Americans deserve. We urge both committees to examine Representative Rush Holt’s bill, ‘The FISA Modernization Act of 2007’ if they are looking for legislation that can pass constitutional muster.

HJC Markup Hearing and Press Release:

Today, the House Judiciary Committee passed the "RESTORE" Act – The Responsible Electronic Surveillance that is Overseen, Reviewed, and Effective Act of 2007 (H.R.3773). The bill seeks to update the hastily passed Protect America Act and implement safeguards to protect Americans’ civil liberties while providing the tools needed to support U.S. intelligence gathering efforts. It was reported favorably out of the committe, in a vote of 20-14.

HPSCI Markup Hearing and Press Release:

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence voted 12-7 today to send the RESTORE Act (H.R.3773) to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration. A vote on the measure by the full House is expected next week. All Committee Democrats supported the measure.

Holt’s Press Release: Holt submits 5 amendments to H.R.3773, the Restore Act, 4 are accepted by the HPSCI during markup. Bush threatens a veto if retroactive immunity is not included in the bill.

Friday, October 12, 2007

pow wow provides analysis of the two bills (Rush Holt’s H.R.3782 and the leadership bill H.R.3773).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

More analysis from pow wow:

I have to believe that the White House or the telecommunications companies re-arranged this language to achieve basically the same ends as the PAA, and John Conyers, Silvestre Reyes, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer then proceeded to force it through committee as “their” bill. It’s not their bill. [Nancy Pelosi mentioned something in her press conference last Thursday about how the White House didn’t want the (weak) court order provision in the new bill - but the ‘companies’ did… How does she know that? Where were the hearings that brought that information to light?] RESTORE (despite its lack of retroactive immunity) is the White House-drafted PAA, slightly tweaked to allow the same activity, with a bunch of after-the-fact reporting tacked on, that will (if complied with) helpfully itemize for Congress all the violations of the Fourth Amendment-protected privacy rights of Americans that they are knowingly endorsing with this language. The FISA bill actually drafted by Members of Congress is the Rush Holt/John Tierney Intelligence Committee bill [H.R.3782] which has been blocked from a hearing or a vote by the Democratic Committee Chairs apparently at the behest of the Speaker. Why?? Glenn Greenwald seems to sum the answer up, as his sources see it.

NYT reports:

The phone company Qwest Communications refused a proposal from the National Security Agency that the company’s lawyers considered illegal in February 2001, nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, the former head of the company contends in newly unsealed court filings.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ACLU reports: "National FISA Poll by the Mellman Group; Voters Vigorously Oppose Warrantless Wiretaps, Blanket Warrants and Telecom Amnesty"

At 7:35pm the House Rules Committee reports out closed rule (no amendments) H.Res.746:

Rule provides for consideration of H.R.3773 with 1 hour and 30 minutes of general debate. Previous question shall be considered as ordered without intervening motions except motion to recommit with or without instructions. Measure will be considered read. Bill is closed to amendments. All points of order against consideration of the bill except those arising under clause 9 or 10 of rule XXI. In lieu of the amendments recommended by the Committee on the Judiciary and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the resolution considers as adopted the amendment in the nature of a substitute printed in part A of this report, modified by the amendment printed in part B of this report, and considers the bill, as amended, as read.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 (floor summary)

Summary of the main actions in consideration of FISA modification legislation are as follows:

  • At 10:39am the House begins with one hour of debate on H.Res.746.
  • At 12:18pm Rule H.Res.746 is passed 223 196 (Democrats vote 222-3 with 6 not voting, including Holt).
  • At 12:31pm the House begins one hour and thirty minutes of debate on H.R.3773.
  • At 1:01pm the House recesses.
  • At 2:53pm the House returns from recess and proceeds to consider matters other than H.R.3773.
  • At 10:48pm the House adjourns for the day.

Holt’s statement on the House Floor at 11:05 am (YouTube, C-SPAN archive):

The RESTORE Act, which its well-meaning authors believe will both help protect our liberties and our security, does the latter but, unfortunately, does not fully do the former. If I had more time, I would talk about the good features of this bill, but in the time I have, I would like to point to the one thing that it needs most, that it lacks, which is ironclad language that maintains the fourth amendment’s individual warrant requirement when Americans’ property or communications are searched and seized by the government. The RESTORE Act would allow the government to collect the communications of innocent Americans. The executive branch assurances that the rights of Americans will be protected through administrative procedures are no substitute for judicial protections. In recent weeks and months, we’ve seen too many abuses of administrative warrants to find any reassurance or to even find these assurances believable. Yes, I voted “yes” in committee to bring this to the floor, with the assurances that we would work to get it better. I regret to say that I’ve seen no effort to resolve this point. It could be fixed easily to the safety of Americans, because Americans will be safer when agencies have to demonstrate to a court that they know what they are doing. We get better intelligence, just as we get better law enforcement, when you do it by the rules. In fact, my own leadership I believe would deny me time to speak on this issue to try to strengthen this bill, but for the sake of the security of Americans, I implore the leadership to make these improvements.


Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government’s domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources. Disclosure of the deal followed a decision by House Democratic leaders to pull a competing version of the measure from the floor because they lacked the votes to prevail over Republican opponents and GOP parliamentary maneuvers. The collapse marked the first time since Democrats took control of the chamber that a major bill was withdrawn from consideration before a scheduled vote. It was a victory for President Bush, whose aides lobbied heavily against the Democrats’ bill, and an embarrassment for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had pushed for the measure’s passage.

The House Leadership pulls the RESTORE Act after debate but before it comes up for the vote due to pressure from progressives led by Rush Holt on individual warrants as well as Blue Dogs and a Republican threat to recommit. (detailed explanation by pow wow)

Wednesday October 31, 2007

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: "FISA Amendments: How to Protect Americans’ Security and Privacy and Preserve the Rule of Law and Government Accountability"

Wednesday November 14, 2007

At 7:17pm the House Rules Committee reports out rule H.RES.824, Providing for further consideration of H.R.3773 – RESTORE Act of 2007, modified by a managers’s amendment. Explanation from pow wow:

The meaningful changes in the “manager’s amendment,” of course, were those included thanks to Rush Holt & Company to likewise gain their support for a revised version of RESTORE – changes which, building on an amendment that had passed in the Intelligence Committee mark-up, primarily involve enhancing and elaborating on the warrant-seeking “guidelines” the FISC would review and approve to govern the surveillance of “specific” U.S. persons for whom “a significant purpose” of (originally group-based) authorized spying becomes the collecting and analyzing of the communications of said person(s).

Thursday November 15, 2007 (floor summary)

Summary of the main actions in consideration of FISA modification legislation are as follows:

  • At 10:10am the House begins debate on H.RES.824.
  • At 11:50am Rule H.RES.824 is passed 224-192.
  • At 6:14pm the House begins one hour and thirty minutes of further debate on H.R. 3773.
  • At 8:54pm H.R.3773 is passed 227-189.

Holt’s statement on the House Floor at 10:57am (YouTube, C-SPAN Archive):

When Congress made the error of passing in haste and in fear the unconstitutional Protect America Act this past August, some of us could take a bit of comfort from this sorry episode in that it would expire. That meant we would get another chance to get things right, to actually pass a bill that would protect our country from terrorists and also from those in government who would turn the fearsome powers of our Federal intelligence and enforcement communities against the American people. I am pleased to say that after some intense work, we have a bill that does that. The RESTORE Act now includes provisions via the manager’s amendment that will ensure that it is the courts, not an executive branch political appointee, who decides whether or not the communications of American citizens are to be seized and searched, and that such seizures and searches must be done pursuant to a court order that meets the standard of probable cause.

H.R.3773 – RESTORE Act of 2007, as modified by the managers’s amendment, passes 227-189 (Rs: 5-184, Ds: 222-5). David S. Kris reports on "Modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

DOJ releases Inspector General’s audit report: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Management of Confidential Case Funds and Telecommunication Costs."

As part of our audit, we analyzed 990 telecommunication surveillance payments made by 5 field divisions and found that over half of these payments were not made on time. We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence including an instance where delivery of intercept information required by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) order was halted due to untimely payment.

Friday, January 11, 2008

WaPo reports on DOJ Inspector General’s findings: "Wiretaps Are Cut Over Unpaid Bills."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Twenty one members of the Blue Dog Coalition send Pelosi a a letter in support of the Rockefeller-Bond Senate bill, S.2248, and retroactive immunity for the telcos. The letter is posted on the House Republican website.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Holt’s statement on the House Floor (C-SPAN archive):

Mr. Speaker, the House made a serious mistake last August when it passed the Protect America Act. I opposed the legislation at the time because it authorized a massive, unregulated electronic fishing expedition, an approach guaranteed to ensnare innocent Americans and a sloppy, inefficient way to collect intelligence. It lacks the basic standard of court review of the government’s actions. If we have learned anything, it is when officials must establish before an independent court that they know what they are doing when they collect communications, we get better intelligence than we do through indiscriminate collection and fishing expeditions. Extending the PAA is unnecessary because existing orders issued under it will continue for a year and are broad enough in scope to deal with any contingencies that may arise. In November we passed in this body a good bill to replace the PAA. Congress should never pass legislation under duress brought on by propaganda, misinformation, and fear-mongering. I urge my colleagues to remember this when we debate the topic today.

With no FISA legislation yet passed by the Senate, and the PPA due to expire at the end of the week, the House proposes a 30 day extension. Bush threatens a veto, and a compromise of a 15 day extension is reached. H.R.5104 passes in the House by voice vote, the Senate by UC and on January 31, is signed by Bush.

Friday, February 1, 2008

PAA originally due to expire (180 days after bill first signed).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mukasey and McConnell write to Majority Leader Reid. Analysis from Marcy Wheeler:

Recall that the administration has claimed, repeatedly, that its only goal with amending FISA is to make sure it can continue to wiretap overseas, even if that communication passed through the US. We always knew that claim was a lie, but the letter from McConnell and Mukasey finally makes that clear. Even still, they’re rebutting Feingold’s amendments–which they say "undermine significantly the core authorities" of the bill–with a bunch of misrepresentations about them, to avoid telling two basic truths (which Whitehouse and Feingold have said repeatedly, but which the Administration refuses to admit).

  • They’re spying on Americans and refuse to stop
  • They intend to keep spying on Americans even if the FISA Court tells them they’re doing so improperly

Thursday, February 7, 2008

CQ reports that legal documents "necessary for considering retroactive immunity" were received last week (Thursday, January 31) by House Democrats. The pro-immunity letter sent to Pelosi by 21 Blue Dogs on Monday, January 28 is also mentioned – but without noting that this letter was sent prior to receipt of the documents.

Monday , February 11, 2008

Representative Tom Lantos is dead of cancer of the esophagus.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008 (floor summary)

H.R.5349, to extend the PAA for a further 21 days, is introduced and referred to the HJC and HPSCI. Senate passes S.2248 (cloture vote at 12:18pm 69-9, final vote at 5:30pm 69-29) and its language is used to replace all the original language in the House’s amended Restore Act, H.R.3773. Senate Republicans block sending the bill to conference committee, so the Senate bill is sent back to the House.

At 8:21pm the House Rules Committee reports out closed rule (no amendments) H.Res.976. "Rule provides for consideration of H.R.5349 with 1 hour of general debate."

Wednesday February 13, 2008 (floor summary)

Due to Republican delaying tactics in the Senate, the House, having time only to accept the Senate bill as is before the PAA expires, attempts to buy time by extending the PAA another 21 days. Bush threatens a veto, but the House leadership proceeds to bring H.R.5349 to a vote. Throughout the day Republicans interrupt and delay using a variety of procedural moves (moving to reconsider, moving to adjourn, moving to recommit). Democrats also delay the final vote with a temporary postponement of the debate. The extension is eventually defeated 191-229 when a group of mostly progressive Democrats defy their leadership to vote with Republicans and a few Blue Dogs. Summary of the main actions in consideration of FISA modification legislation are as follows:

Holt’s statement on the House Floor at 11:56 pm (C-SPAN archive):

Mr. Lungren and others who have spoken are right in one respect, yes, most of the House of Representatives voted not for the Protect America Act but rather for a substitute that we passed, a very good piece of legislation, that would indeed protect Americans, known as the RESTORE Act. That passed the House. It should be the law. We do not need the Protect America Act to protect Americans, the so-called Protect America Act. We do not need it to keep from going dark. But what we do need is the time and the attention to get this right. This is a serious, serious matter about protecting the safety of Americans but also about the definition, the relationship between the people of this country and their government. There has been a fundamental shift under the Protect America Act in the relationship between the people of this country and their government. It is whether or not the government regards the ordinary American with suspicion first. Think about it. The reason this country and our liberty has survived so well is because the government understands they are subservient to the people. The government has understood that they treat the people with respect, their bosses, and do not regard them with suspicion first. To be able to seize, search, intercept without having to demonstrate to an independent judge that you know what you are doing is a sign of disrespect. It is a sign of suspicion. It is, in fact, a redefinition of the makeup of this country.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Memorial service for Tom Lantos is held. Republicans force a vote on a motion to adjourn during the memorial service. Reyes writes to Bush: “Put partisanship aside” on FISA

As you know, the 1978 FISA law, which has been modernized and updated numerous times since 9/11, was instrumental in disrupting the terrorist plot in Germany last summer. Those who say that FISA is outdated do not understand the strength of this important tool

You have also suggested that Congress must grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. As someone who has been briefed on our most sensitive intelligence programs, I can see no argument why the future security of our country depends on whether past actions of telecommunications companies are immunized.

I, for one, do not intend to back down – not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a President, who wants Americans to cower in fear.

The House Democratic Leadership continue to pile on with statements from Reyes, Conyers, Pelosi and others that 1) there is no danger in allowing the PAA to expire and 2) telco immunity is unnecessary. McConnell testifies before the Senate Select Intelligence Commmittee (transcript).

Friday, February 15, 2008 Statement from Bush:

"House leaders blocked a good piece of legislation that would give our intelligence community the tools they need to protect America from a terrorist attack. … [B]y blocking this piece of legislation our country is more in danger of an attack. … [T]he House leaders must understand that the decision they made to block good legislation has made it harder for us to protect you, the American people, and we expect them to get a good bill to my desk – which is the Senate bill – as soon as possible."

Press Release from Pelosi: ‘The President is Misrepresenting the Facts on Our Nation’s Electronic Surveillance Capabilities’

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Radio Address from Bush:

At the stroke of midnight tonight, a vital intelligence law that is helping protect our nation will expire. Congress had the power to prevent this from happening, but chose not to.

PAA expires. The world does not end.

Friday, February 22, 2008

In a letter to Reyes, McConnell and Mukasey write:

Our experience since Congress allowed the Protect America Act to expire without passing the bipartisan Senate bill demonstrates why the Nation is now more vulnerable to terrorist attack and other foreign threats. In our letter to Senator Reid on February 5, 2008, we explained that: "the expiration of the authorities in the Protect America Act would plunge critical intelligence programs into a state of uncertainty which could cause us to delay the gathering of, or simply miss, critical foreign intelligence information." That is exactly what has happened since the Protect America Act expired six days ago without enactment of the bipartisan Senate bill. We have lost intelligence information this past week as a direct result of the uncertainty created by Congress’ failure to act.

Your assertion that the failure to provide liability protection for those private-sector firms that helped defend the Nation after the September 11 attacks does not affect our intelligence collection capability is inaccurate and contrary to the experience of intelligence professionals and to the conclusions the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reached after careful study of the matter. It also ignores that providing liability protection to those companies sued for answering their country’s call for assistance in the aftermath of September 11 is simply the right thing to do.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Holt’s statement on the House Floor (C-SPAN archive):

Mr. Speaker, almost before the ink was dry on the February 22 letter to Intelligence Chairman Reyes claiming that the telecommunications companies were balking at their surveillance support requests, the DNI and Attorney General were forced to admit that the companies were, in fact, cooperating with the U.S. Government surveillance activities. It is not simple patriotic duty; it’s the law. They must cooperate. Under FISA, if they’re compelled to cooperate, they are automatically provided immunity. The truth is that the only time FISA phone taps have been turned off lately is when the President failed to pay the FBI phone bills. If you don’t believe me, look at the Inspector General’s report of the Department of Justice in 2008 this year. The real issue before us is this: How do we produce law that provides us better intelligence and safeguards Americans’ liberties? The answer is we’ve done it through the RESTORE Act, and the sooner that House-passed bill becomes the law of the land, the better. Requiring the government to apply to a court and demonstrate to a standard of probable cause that they know what they’re doing not only protects the liberty of Americans, it produces better intelligence.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Quantico Circuit ((a Verizon communications feed to the government) is revealed by security consultant Babak Pasdar.

"The circuit was tied to the organization’s core network," Pasdar writes in his affidavit. "It had access to the billing system, text messaging, fraud detection, web site, and pretty much all the systems in the data center without apparent restrictions."

Monday, March 10, 2008

WSJ reports that NSA spying on American citizens is much worse than previously known.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Glenn Greenwald announces project: Targeting bad Democrats

Democrats are never going to change their behavior if there continues to be no price for what they’re doing. If even the most pro-Bush Democrats continue to receive reflexive support from other Democrats, regardless of how fundamentally they reject the political values of those Democrats, they will continue on the same course. Why wouldn’t they? And if Democrats whose political values are violated by these office holders refrain from ever working against them, solely because they have a (D) after their name, then this process will continue unabated. The only real prospect for changing any of that is to attach a political price, some form of meaningful punishment, when they do things such as vote to abolish habeas corpus or to vest new warrantless eavesdropping powers in the President or to grant amnesty to telecoms. That needs to be done even if it means weakening the bad Democrat in question.

Glenn Greenwald reviews new version of the House FISA bill H.R.3773:

I’ve now had the opportunity to read the full text of the House FISA bill which they unveiled today. It is actually surprisingly good, though the real question, of course, is how committed they really are to having it enacted, as opposed to this being merely a base-placating measure with the real intention of enacting something virtually identical to the Rockefeller/Cheney bill once it is returned from the Senate.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

At 6:35pm House Rules Committee Reports out H.RES.1041, "Providing for consideration of the Senate amendment to the bill (H.R.3773) to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish a procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, and for other purposes." This rule amends H.R.3773 to replace the senate language (S.2248) with new House bill released yesterday. By amending an amendment, it appears that the Republican threat of a motion to recommit is avoided. Furthermore, as Glenn Greenwald comments in "Signs of life from House Democratic leaders"

With regard to yesterday’s FISA bill, more surprising than their defiance is their shrewdness. By including a provision that explicitly authorizes telecoms to submit to the court any exculpatory documents — notwithstanding the assertion by the administration that those documents are subject to the "state secrets" privilege — the House bill completely guts, in one fell swoop, the primary argument that, for months, has been made by telecoms and their allies as to why amnesty is necessary.

The shrewdness of what House Democrats did is reflected in today’s news accounts reporting on their bill. Almost every news article frames the House Democratic bill not as a refusal to protect telecoms, but rather, as "offer[ing] the companies an olive branch: the chance to use classified government documents to defend themselves in court." This is the headline for today’s Washington Post article: "Relief for Phone Firms Proposed." It’s a clear, easy-to-understand, and intuitively fair way to give the telecoms all the protection they’ve been saying they need to defend themselves in court — a true "compromise," rather than a Beltway "compromise" (which means: "Bush makes demands and Democrats ultimately agree"). Now, if telecoms really did nothing wrong, if they really did comply with the law, they can just go to court and easily demonstrate that. Who could possibly object to that?

Thursday, March 13, 2008 (floor summary)

Pelosi calls Bush, in effect, a liar (YouTube). House goes into secret session.

Friday, March 14, 2008 (floor summary)

Summary of the main actions in consideration of FISA modification legislation are as follows:

  • At 10:18am the House begins one hour of debate on H.RES.1041.
  • At 12:05pm H.RES.1041 is passed 221-188.
  • At 12:06pm the House proceeded with one hour of debate on the motion to agree to the Senate amendment to H.R.3773 with an amendment.
  • At 2:08pm the House passes H.R.3773 with an amendment 213-197, 1 Present.

Holt’s statement on the House Floor (C-SPAN archive):

I am pleased to rise to say that not only do we have enough time to debate this, but we have a very good, well-structured bill in front of us. – snip – I commend the Speaker, the leader, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, the Chair of the Intelligence Committee for negotiating with a firm tone and a principled approach to give us very good legislation, a very good bill despite the fact that they’ve had to work with the relentless drumbeat of propaganda and disinformation orchestrated by the administration in this matter. I commend them for producing such good legislation in such difficult circumstances.

H.R.3773 is passed as amended 213-197 (Rs: 0-185, Ds: 213-12). Glenn Greenwald: "House Democrats reject telecom amnesty, warrantless surveillance"

As impressive as the House vote itself was, more impressive still was the floor debate which preceded it. I can’t recall ever watching a debate on the floor of either House of Congress that I found even remotely impressive — until today. One Democrat after the next — of all stripes — delivered impassioned, defiant speeches in defense of the rule of law, oversight on presidential eavesdropping, and safeguards on government spying. They swatted away the GOP’s fear-mongering claims with the dismissive contempt such tactics deserve, rejecting the principle that has predominated political debate in this country since 9/11: that the threat of the Terrorists means we must live under the rule of an omnipotent President and a dismantled constitutional framework.

Even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer sounds good:

…wisely, this bill rejects the Administration’s demand that Congress grant blanket, retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that assisted with the President’s warrantless surveillance program. “Instead, the bill provides these companies with a process to present their defenses in secure proceedings in federal district court without the Administration using the ‘state secrets’ privilege to block those defenses from being raised. “Let me remind my colleagues of the statement by Judge Vaughn Walker, the chief judge of the Northern District of California, in a case involving AT&T’s participation in this warrantless program. “Judge Walker, a Republican appointee, wrote: ‘AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal.’

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Glenn Greenwald describes Mukasey’s deceitful statements made in a 3/27/08 Commonwealth Club speech.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

From Pelosi: Conyers, Judiciary Members Demand Answers from Attorney General on 9/11 Surveillance.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Leahy confronts Mukasey at Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing (transcript). Glenn Greenwald: "More on Michael Mukasey’s false 9/11 and FISA claims"

Mukasey got caught red-handed making numerous false and misleading claims — about both the facts of 9/11 and the law — and he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it simply because, under pressure, he has now "acknowledged" some minor error that does not, in any way, mitigate the core deceit here.

Monday April 14, 2008

Marcy Wheeler: "Conyers to Mukasey: So You Did Spin Shamelessly, Didn’t You?". From Pelosi: “Conyers, Nadler, Scott Demand Answers, Not Spin from AG

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Republicans attempt a discharge petition to force the House to consider H.R.5440, a Republican bill with retroactive immunity. To succeed 218 signatures are required. They eventually are able to obtain only 192 when Blue Dogs refuse to join the Republicans.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Christy Hardin Smith at FDL reports: FISA: What’s In It For Steny?

I’m hearing from the ACLU that Steny Hoyer and Kit Bond presented a FISA deal to a limited number of members and staffers on the Hill today. And that Hoyer is representing this as a "done deal" for FISA that includes district court review (which, as we’ve already discussed, would be set up so that there is a pre-determined outcome) and a sunset of 6 years.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hoyer’s office denies any secret deal making. NYT reports: Congress Nears Deal on Surveillance Bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wants the matter settled before Congress breaks for Independence Day at the end of next week, suggesting she is ready to bring the issue to a head. “We want to pass a bill that will be signed by the president,” she said. “And that will happen before we leave for the Fourth of July. So the timing is sometime between now and then. I feel confident that that will happen.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Glenn Greenwald announces major new campaign to target Democrats responsible for this capitulation, it will be called "Strange Bedfellows."

All the money raised will be spent exclusively on ad campaigns aimed at the short-term vulnerabilities of those in Congress responsible for delivering this indescribably tyrannical package of surveillance powers to the President and the accompanying corrupt gift to lawbreaking telecoms.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Glenn Greenwald reports that $90,000 has been raised in the first 24hrs of the "Strange Bedfellows" campaign.

Thursday, June 19, 2008 (floor summary)

At approximately 11:45 am, Pelosi holds a press conference (C-SPAN archives) to praise the new bill and the secret negotiations.

At 5:08 pm, House Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter files the report from the Committee on Rule H.RES.1285. Miraculously, it appears she is able to do this before the House Rules Committee has actually reported out the Rule.

At 5:35 pm, the House Rules Committee Reports out Rule H.RES.1285, "H.R.6304 – FISA Amendments Act of 2008." This Rule introduces H.R.6304 and is a closed rule that limits debate to 1 hour. In an act of cowardice, it is passed in committee by voice vote. Senator Rush Feingold says, “The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation." Press release from the ACLU: ACLU Condemns FISA Deal, Declares Surveillance Bill Unconstitutional Analysis from Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel, "the "immunity" provision here sucks ass." Glenn Greenwald notes:

What’s particularly amazing about this whole process is that the House leadership unveiled this bill for the first time today — and then scheduled the vote on it for tomorrow. No hearings. Nothing. They all have less than 24 hours to "read" the bill and decide whether to eviscerate the rule of law and the Fourth Amendment. I recall Democrats long complaining that they were only given one day before being forced back in September, 2001 to vote on the Patriot Act, yet here they are — even without the excuse of the 9/11 attack — doing that to themselves.

Friday, June 20, 2008 (floor summary)

At 9:51 am, Michael Arcuri introduces H.RES.1285 for one hour of debate:

We can all agree that the world changed on September 11, 2001. Our Nation faces new threats on new fronts. What we’re doing here today is proof that we can come together, Republicans and Democrats, to provide our Nation’s Intelligence Community with the necessary tools to fight terrorism while protecting civil liberties of Americans.

After eight minutes of debate, at 9:59 am, H.Res.1285 is passed in a further act of cowardice by voice vote.

At 10:48 am, The House proceeds to one hour of debate on H.R.6304. Holt’s statement on the House Floor (C-SPAN archives):

I thank the chairman of the Judiciary Committee for yielding me time to speak about this. Unfortunately, the negotiators who brought this bill to the floor bought into the flawed assumptions of the Bush administration that because we live in a dangerous world, we must now redefine the fourth amendment and thus the fundamental relationship between the government and its people. If this bill becomes law, it will perhaps be the only lasting legacy of the Bush-Cheney administration’s overhaul of national security policy, a congressionally blessed distortion of congressional checks and balances. It permits massive warrantless surveillance in the absence of any standard for defining how communications of innocent Americans will be protected; a fishing expedition approach to intelligence collection that we know will not make Americans more safe. Its court review provisions are weak and narrowly defined. I know some of those who negotiated this bill say that some court review is better than no court review. That is only true if the judge’s hands aren’t tied in the review process. They are in this bill. There is a fundamental American principle that those who search, seize, intercept and detain should not be the ones who decide who are the bad guys.

From the emphasis that Holt puts on "Judiciary" above, I surmise that his own committee chair (Reyes) has denied him time to speak. Pelosi from her statement on the House floor (C-SPAN archives):

I want to pay special tribute to our majority leader, Mr. Hoyer, for making this compromise possible today. It’s a very difficult task, many competing views as to how we should go forward. Mr. Hoyer handled it all with great intellect and great respect for all of those views. Thank you, Mr. Hoyer. Also want to acknowledge Mr. Smith and Mr. Hoekstra and minority whip, Mr. Blunt, for their leadership in giving us this opportunity today.

…we have the fight on the war against terrorism, the fight against terrorism, wherever it may exist. Good intelligence is necessary for us to know the plans of the terrorists and to defeat those plans. So we can’t go without a bill. That’s just simply not an option. But to have a bill, we must have a bill that does not violate the Constitution of the United States, and this bill does not. Some in the press have said that under this legislation, this bill would allow warrantless surveillance of Americans. That is not true. This bill does not allow warrantless surveillance of Americans.

At 12:25 pm voting begins.

At 12:48 pm voting is complete and H.R.6304 passes 293-129 (Rs: 188-1, Ds: 105-128). To pass H.R.6304, the House leadership dispensed with some of the political theater used in August 2007 to pass the PAA. This time they did not even pretend to be against the bill. Instead they falsely called it a "compromise", used the rhetoric of right wing fear-mongering and appealed to the so-called "War on Terror" to justify their support for what was in essence a Republican bill that grants telco immunity and removes judicial oversight of government spying on it’s own citizens.

June 22 through 29, 2008 pow wow’s roundup of statements from House "debate" (part 1, part 2) WSJ reports: "Pelosi Says More Debate on FISA Would Be ‘Healthy’" Linkfest from pow wow in ""New" FISA: Clueless Dragnet or Post-Clue Surveillance, or Both?:

Jim Dempsey, David Kris, Marty Lederman Just think how much more might be understood or unearthed about this FISA deal, even with just one more week of delay.

More analysis from pow wow: "H.R. 6304 has "cosmetic changes, largely" from S. 2248" Glenn Greenwald sums it up:

Warrantless eavesdropping. A stop to lawsuits examining Bush lawbreaking. Telecom immunity. What more could a Bush follower ask for? As Kit Bond put it: "the White House got a better deal than they even had hoped to get" — a deal they tried but were unable to get when the Congress was controlled by Bill Frist and Denny Hastert. Here’s what I wrote about the Bush administration’s efforts in September, 2006, when the GOP controlled the Congress:

One thing is beyond dispute at this point: the White House’s plan to resolve the NSA scandal by obtaining amnesty for past lawbreaking and future legislative blessing for its warrantless eavesdropping program has veered far off course and, at least for now, appears genuinely imperiled.

The White House had to wait until Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi took over before they could get that done. For a right-wing Bush supporter, what’s not to love?


07/13/08 – DOJ IG report (January 10, 2008) and WaPo article on the report (January 11, 2008) added to the timeline as suggested by rincewind in comments.
07/15/08 – a few additional details and links added to days of critical votes. some quotes shortened.

x-posted at dailykos

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