Friday :: Dec 16, 2005

Bush Clams Up On NSA Spying As Feingold Derails Patriot Act Reauthorization

by Steve

On the morning that the New York Times finally released a story they have been sitting on for a year about Bush authorizing the NSA to illegally monitor the communications of American citizens here at home, Russ Feingold successfully derailed the reauthorization of the Patriot Act by lining up bipartisan support to reject several provisions of the bill.

And then hours later, Bush suddenly clams up about the NSA spying and won't talk about it. In other words, W just got his jonnson caught in the zipper heading into the weekend news cycle after trying like hell to win back the public opinion war in recent weeks.

And now after seeing McCain make him eat dirt this week on torture, Bush now sees McCain and Arlen Specter line up against him over this new development. Why? Perhaps because the one case the White House cited where they claimed to have used domestic phone calls and emails obtained by the NSA as key evidence in an arrest here at home appears bogus, as the attorney representing the defendant involved says that none of the evidence against his client came from emails or phone calls.

In a crucial vote early Friday, the bill's Senate supporters were not able to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a threatened filibuster by Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and their allies. The final vote was 52-47.
President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Republicans congressional leaders had lobbied fiercely to make most of the expiring Patriot Act provisions permanent, and add new safeguards and expiration dates to the two most controversial parts: roving wiretaps and secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries.
Feingold, Craig and other critics said that wasn't enough, and have called for the law to be extended in its present form so they can continue to try and add more civil liberties safeguards. But Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert have said they won't accept a short-term extension of the law.
Then lose, bitches.
Frist changed his vote at the last moment after seeing the critics would win. He decided to vote with the prevailing side so he could call for a new vote at any time. He immediately objected to an offer of a short term extension from Democrats, saying the House won't approve it and the president won't sign it.
"We have more to fear from terrorism than we do from this Patriot Act," Frist warned.

The GOP is ready to trot out the Saddam/Max Cleland smears again next year it appears, but whether they work or not his time is up for debate.

If the Patriot Act provisions expire, Republicans say they will place the blame on Democrats in next year's midterm elections. "In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without these vital tools for a single moment," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "The time for Democrats to stop standing in the way has come."
But the Patriot Act's critics got a boost from a New York Times report saying Bush authorized the National Security Agency to monitor the international phone calls and international e-mails of hundreds — perhaps thousands — of people inside the United States. Previously, the NSA typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions and obtained court orders for such investigations.
"I don't want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care," said Feingold, the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001.
"It is time to have some checks and balances in this country," shouted Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. "We are more American for doing that."

And there isn’t lockstep GOP support for this version of the Patriot Act reauthorization anyway.

“Those that would give up essential liberties in pursuit in a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security,” said Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H. They suggested a short extension so negotiations could continue, but the Senate scrapped a Democratic-led effort to renew the USA Patriot Act for just three months before the vote began.

That's the sound of the libertarian wing of the GOP pushing back, folks.

On top of that, Arlen Specter put the Bush Administration on notice that he would hold hearings next month on the NSA spying, saying that it was “inappropriate” for the NSA to have done this regardless of the presidential authorization.

"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

So much for all that good spin Bush and Rove did to get Iraq behind them this week. Thanks to an assist from the NYT, they are right back in the poop again, and we’ll see how well a replay of “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” plays next year.

And for what it’s worth, Condi denied the NYT report today, saying that Bush had acted lawfully and never told anyone to do anything unlawful. But when challenged, she refused to comment directly on whether or not Bush had authorized the NSA to monitor phone calls and emails of US citizens here at home.

Steve :: 10:26 AM :: Comments (26) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!