FISA – Dead Issue or Sleeping Monster?

This afternoon, the House voted to extend the current FISA for 15 days. It was set to expire on Friday, and there’™s been a pitched battle in the Senate, with a key Republican defecting to the Dem’™s side in voting to deny cloture of the version of the bill that offers immunity to telecommunications companies. The future of FISA depends on constituent pressure – so, make the call today.

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Yesterday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly against cloture of the pending FISA bill, which as written, provides total immunity for telecoms in the U.S. against possible lawsuits for illegally assisting and enabling the Bush administration in conducting warrantless domestic wiretapping. Even Snarlin’™ Arlen Specter broke ranks with his fellow Republicans and voted to kill cloture. Glenn Greenwald has a great summation and updates from his live blogging of the various votes that were held regarding FISA.

FISA expires this coming Friday. That means that the Bush administration has three days left to exert pressure on the GOP minority to get something passed – and George Bush has vowed to veto any bill that comes to him as an ‘œextension’ of the current law, or one that excludes telecom immunity. As things stand now, the Dems in the Senate have held together, perhaps at Sen. Chris Dodd’™s request, but more likely because they’™ve been hearing from their constituents.

This afternoon, the House passed a 15 day extension of the current FISA, and the extension has been sent to the Senate. Will it pass? If I was in possession of a magic 8-ball, I’™d probably get the response, ‘œAll Signs Point to Yes’. And then the question becomes, will the Senate forward the extension to Bush, one he’™s vowed to veto?

I’™m not sure what the game is that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have been playing with FISA. Prior to the Christmas recess, they shelved the bill (after a threatened Dodd filibuster, and in the face of a lot of backlash from progressives). They knew they were just delaying the inevitable showdown, and we’™re pretty much there at this moment. Passions are running hot on both sides of the issue.

As I’™ve written before, once given, any immunity offered to telecoms is binding, whether or not FISA is ever revoked by a future congress and president. So, the upcoming vote, whenever it happens, is a showdown of sorts.

If you’™ve never contacted your congressional representative before, now would be a good time to do so. The Senate and House switchboards need to be swamped with calls from angry constituents. Bush and Cheney know full well that, eventually, the scope of their domestic warrantless wiretapping is going to become public. They’™ve vowed to protect their business partners in the illegality, and the Democratic Party-controlled congress needs to be just as resolute that when the day of reckoning comes, the force of law is behind the prosecution and/or civil liability of any enablers of the current administration’™s spying activities.

Make the call.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

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