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Senate Votes on FISA: Dodd -Feingold and Other Amendment Fail

Update 12:17 pm ET: The Dodd-Feingold Amendment fails by a vote of 32 to 66. Specter's Amendment will be voted on in 2 minutes. It needs 60 votes to pass.

Update 12:37 pm ET: Specter Amendment fails by a vote of 37 to 61, and is withdrawn. The Bingaman Amendment vote will take place in 2 minutes.

Update: 12:54 pm: Bingaman amendment vote: It fails 42 - 56. Obama and Clinton and good Dems vote for it. Lieberman votes against it. Surprise, Sen. Salazar (CO) votes for it (he voted against the other two Amendments.) Senate goes into recess until this afternoon.

The Senate is voting on the first of three amendments to the FISA bill. It's the Dodd Amendment stripping the bill of the telecom immunity provision. You can watch on C-Span here.

The Dodd Amendment needs 50 votes to pass. Both Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton just voted for the Amendment.

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Sen. Obama: Yes, You Can Keep Your Word To Hold Bush Accountable - Stop The FISA Bush Immunity

In April 2008, Attytood asked Senator Obama if he as President would hold former Bush administration officials accountable by seeking prosecution for crimes committed.  Obama promised that he would review the information to determine whether an investigation was required; and, if officials knowingly violated existing laws, Obama indicated that he would pursue prosecution.  

Based upon Obama's standard, there should be an investigation and potential criminal prosecution of Bush and other officials for knowingly violating FISA. Bush has admitted publicly that he did not comply with FISA, which is a criminal offense.  

However, the FISA bill pending before the Senate may take this putative prosecution off the table by providing immunity to Bush while codifying his unitary executive theory.  In order for President Obama to keep his word that he would hold Bush officials accountable for clear, knowing criminal violations, Senator Obama needs to stop this FISA bill, or at least provide amendments which clearly eliminate any colorable argument of immunity for Bush.

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FISA Wasn't Broke, It Needs No Fix

I've been opposed to all of the proposed rewrites of FISA. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We don't need a new FISA law. We need to force the President and his Administration to obey the law, not rewrite it so they can do as they please. Here are 10 mytbs about it.

As for Sen. Obama's statement today that he supports the compromise but will work with the Senate to eliminate the telecom immunity provision, my question is, how will he vote if the immunity provision stays in? It seems like he will vote for it. [More...]

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ACLU Condemns FISA Compromise

As Big Tent Democrat wrote earlier, the FISA compromise is a done deal. The text of the bill is here. The AP reports here. The ACLU responds:

“This bill allows for mass and untargeted surveillance of Americans’ communications. The court review is mere window-dressing – all the court would look at is the procedures for the year-long dragnet and not at the who, what and why of the spying. Even this superficial court review has a gaping loophole – ‘exigent’ circumstances can short cut even this perfunctory oversight since any delay in the onset of spying meets the test and by definition going to the court would cause at least a minimal pause. Worse yet, if the court denies an order for any reason, the government is allowed to continue surveillance throughout the appeals process, thereby rendering the role of the judiciary meaningless. In the end, there is no one to answer to; a court review without power is no court review at all.”

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FISA Court Asked FBI About Illegal Wiretapping

Ryan Singal reports newly declassified documents show that the FISA Court had concerns the FBI was wiretapping innocent Americans:

Does the FBI track cellphone users' physical movements without a warrant? Does the Bureau store recordings of innocent Americans caught up in wiretaps in a searchable database? Does the FBI's wiretap equipment store information like voicemail passwords and bank account numbers without legal authorization to do so?

That's what the nation's Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court wanted to know, in a series of secret inquiries in 2005 and 2006 into the bureau's counterterrorism electronic surveillance efforts, revealed for the first time in newly declassified documents.

A review of the declassified documents shows: [More...]

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FISA Changes May Not Become Law During Bush's Tenure

I have long been opposed to any re-write of FISA granting additional powers to conduct electronic surveillance. FISA's not broke, it doesn't need fixing and it certainly doesn't need weakening at the expense of the Fourth Amendment.

This is a bill, as the Washington Post says, that "would update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to expand the powers of intelligence agencies and keep pace with ever-changing communications technologies."

The good news, as I see it, is this:

The House's action ensures that Bush will not receive surveillance legislation for several weeks. But some lawmakers from both parties said the impasse is now so deep that the issue may not be resolved until a new president takes office next year.

Bush and Republican lawmakers have shown no desire to move further toward the House Democratic leaders' position, and the Democrats are showing no sign of buckling under the mounting political pressure.

Maybe we won't get a FISA re-write after all.

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House Dems Reject Telecom Immunity, Offer Compromise

House Democrats today stuck to their guns and rejected telecom immunity for warrantless wiretapping in abscence of a FISA court order :

Locked in a standoff with the White House, House Democrats on Tuesday maintained their refusal to shield from civil lawsuits telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on their customers without a secret court's permission.

But they offered the companies an olive branch: the chance to use classified government documents to defend themselves in court.

The ACLU says the compromise is an improvement but there are still concerns.

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FISA and Your E-Mail

A FISA compromise is in the works. At a meeting yesterday, sponsored by the American Bar Association, Kenneth Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, pointed out something that hasn't gotten wide attention: Foreign to foreign doesn't really mean that when it comes to e-mail.

At the breakfast yesterday, Wainstein highlighted a different problem with the current FISA law than other administration officials have emphasized. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, for example, has repeatedly said FISA should be changed so no warrant is needed to tap a communication that took place entirely outside the United States but happened to pass through the United States.

But in response to a question at the meeting by David Kris, a former federal prosecutor and a FISA expert, Wainstein said FISA's current strictures did not cover strictly foreign wire and radio communications, even if acquired in the United States. The real concern, he said, is primarily e-mail, because "essentially you don't know where the recipient is going to be" and so you would not know in advance whether the communication is entirely outside the United States.

Corrente Wire has more. And Raw Story reports the FBI wants the telecoms to get immunity even if they acted in bad faith.

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Hillary on Passage of FISA Bill Today

Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton missed the final FISA vote today -- they were the only Senators, along with Sen. Graham, to miss it. It occurred between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. The vote was 68 to 29, so it wouldn't have mattered had they been there. Both were present to vote with Sen. Dodd against cloture a few weeks ago and Obama was present this morning to vote on the Amendment.

Hillary Clinton released this statement on the FISA vote today:

"I believe we need to modernize our surveillance laws and give our nation’s intelligence professionals the tools they need to fight terrorism and to make our country more secure. At the same time, smart, balanced reform must also protect the rights and civil liberties of Americans. In my opinion, the FISA Amendments Act of 2007 falls short of these goals, and for that reason, I oppose the bill.

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Senate Passes FISA Bill With Telecom Immunity

Bump and Update (TL): The Senate passed the FISA bill with telecom immunity today. Firedoglake has been providing great coverage all day. It's up to the House now, where pressure will be strong to adopt the Senate bill. Sign the petition to tell them not to cave like the Senate did.

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FISA: Dodd Amendment Fails
By Big Tent Democrat

This is your Democratic Party in action:

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FISA Reauthorization Vote

Update: Cloture vote fails, 48-45. They are now going on to a vote on the 30 day extension. The President has said he would veto a bill with an extension. The Republicans ask for a vote against cloture on the 30 day extension. Harry Reid is arguing for a 30 day extension. Cloture vote fails.

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The Senate is voting on limiting debate and amendments to a substitute FISA bill. The Intelligence Committee bill provides for retroactive telecom immunity. They are voting now. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voted "No."

Firedoglake has been live-blogging the hearing all afternoon.

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FISA: Hillary And Obama to Vote No on Cloture

Via Christy at Firedoglake:

Hillary Clinton will be in the Senate tomorrow to vote "no" on cloture on the Intel version of the FISA bill. The vote is scheduled to take place at 4:30 pm tomorrow.

Will Obama show? Christy is waiting to hear from his campaign -- He has a 4:00 pm fundraiser scheduled in D.C.

Update from Jane at FDL: The Obama campaign confirms that Senator Obama will also be in the Senate tomorrow to vote "no" on cloture. I've added his name to the title of this post.

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Denver Post Calls FBI "The Keystone Cops"

Leading with this week's news that telephone companies shut down FBI wiretaps because the agency failed to pay its bills, an editorial in today's Denver Post compares the FBI to "keystone cops."

In addition to the telephone bill embarrassment, the Post points out:

The late payments were part of a larger pattern of loose practices when it comes to tracking money sent to field offices for undercover operations.

With FISA hearings again on the horizon, the Post says we should be paying attention to the FBI's problems as Congress debates the reauthorization of the Patriot Act: [More...]

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FISA Bill Consideration Postponed Until January

Sen. Harry Reid pulled the FISA bill today saying there were too many amendments to consider before the Christmas recess.

Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat and presidential candidate, spent much of the day attacking the idea of giving immunity to the phone companies, and he took credit for the delay.

“Today we have scored a victory for American civil liberties and sent a message to President Bush that we will not tolerate his abuse of power and veil of secrecy,” Mr. Dodd said in a statement.

“The president should not be above the rule of law, nor should the telecom companies who supported his quest to spy on American citizens,” he said. “I thank all my colleagues who joined me in fighting and winning a stay in the rush to grant retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies who may have violated the privacy rights of millions of Americans.”

The ACLU calls today's action "a clear win for civil libertarians."

“The ACLU wants to thank Senator Dodd and all of the senators who joined the effort to protect civil liberties. Senator Dodd was joined by nine other senators who voted in a midday procedural vote and 15 Senators who signed a letter asking for the Judiciary Committee’s bill to be given preference over the Intelligence Committee’s bill.

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FISA Debate and Vote - Live Thread

Update: Consideration of the bill has been postponed to January due to the number of proposed amendments and lack of time to consider them.

Update: Here's the transcript of Dodd's speech.

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The Senate is debating S. 2248 to overhaul FISA. The bill contains retroactive immunity for the telecom companies.

A vote will begin shortly on whether to accept the bill. Right now they are moving to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed.

You can watch live on C-Span3.

Update: The Roll Call vote is happening. The room looks more than three-quarters empty. By unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum requirement is waived. 60 votes are needed to move forward with the bill. Clerk calls roll.

Sen. Leahy is expected to file a substitute bill stripping the telecoms of immunity.

Vote tally: Boxer, Feingold, Cantwell, Brown, Harkin, Wyden, Cardin, Kerry, Menendez and Dodd voted in the negative so far. Leahy and Durbin voted yes, as did Feinstein, Schumer, Kennedy, Specter, Levin and Ken Salazar. Again, this is the motion to invoke cloture to allow the bad Senate Intel Committee bill to proceed.

Vote total: Cloture is invoked. 76 to 10. Motion is agreed to. Harry Reid: No one intends to talk for 30 hours but some want to talk post-cloture. Reid wants everything from now on to take 60 votes, except for final passage. The rules don't require it, but they do take 60 votes to stop a filibuster. They are arguing about that now.

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