***scroll for updates***
The WaPo publishes this shocker:
The Senate bowed to White House pressure last night and passed a Republican plan for overhauling the federal government’s terrorist surveillance laws, approving changes that would temporarily give U.S. spy agencies expanded power to eavesdrop on foreign suspects without a court order.
The 60 to 28 vote, which was quickly denounced by civil rights and privacy advocates, came after Democrats in the House failed to win support for more modest changes that would have required closer court supervision of government surveillance. Earlier in the day, President Bush threatened to hold Congress in session into its scheduled summer recess if it did not approve the changes he wanted.
Well, that’s one way to get what you want
The legislation, which is expected to go before the House today, would expand the government’s authority to intercept without a court order the phone calls and e-mails of people in the United States who are communicating with people overseas.
As currently written, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act already gives U.S. spies broad leeway to monitor the communications of foreign terrorism suspects, but the 30-year-old statute requires a warrant to monitor calls intercepted in the United States, regardless of where the calls begin or end.
At the White House, where officials had voiced concern about that requirement, a spokesman praised the Senate vote and called on House leaders to quickly follow suit. The legislation will “give our intelligence professionals the essential tools they need to protect our nation,” spokesman Tony Fratto said.
Cut and runner Harry Reid wasn’t too happy with the outcome:
“My Republican colleagues chose to rubber-stamp a flawed administration proposal that fails to provide the accountability needed in the light of the administration’s past mismanagement of key tools in the war on terror,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).
“Civil liberties groups” aren’t happy, either:
Privacy advocates accused the Democrats of selling out and charged that this bill gives the government more authority than it had under a controversial warrantless wiretapping program begun in secret after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Under that program, the government could conduct surveillance without judicial oversight only if it had a reason to believe that one party to the call was a member of or affiliated with al-Qaeda or a related terrorist organization. This bill drops that condition, they noted.
Democrats “have a Pavlovian reaction: Whenever the president says the word ‘terrorism,’ they roll over and play dead,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Washington legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Jules Crittenden responds accordingly:
Actually, when the president says “terrorism” they roll over and lose.
So, like, I wonder if this means now that Democrats are complicit in helping Bush “violate the Constitution” by giving him his way on being able to wiretap – without warrant, in extraordinary circumstances – a phone call in which a terrorist from Al Qaeda could be on?
I’ve not been able to find the roll call on this vote but I’d love to know what Senators – in addition to Lieberman – voted with the Dems on this one. Rest assured that the Dem frontrunners – La Clinton and Senator Obama – did not vote with the majority.
Now the question is: Even with the WH “strong arming” the House, will the House, under the leadership of Nancy “power grab” Pelosi, be the stumbling block?
And speaking of power grabs, a special committee has been formed to investigate the vote controversy that erupted on the House floor a couple of nights ago. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was apologetic, but Pelosi was not. No surprise, there.
Sat PM Update: Bad news for the moonbats:
The Democratic-controlled House tonight approved and sent to President Bush for his signature legislation his intelligence advisers wrote to enhance their ability to intercept the electronic communications of foreigners without a court order.
The 227 to 183 House vote capped a high-pressure campaign by the White House to change the nation’s wiretap law, in which the administration capitalized on Democrats’ fears of being branded as weak on terrorism and on a general congressional desire to proceed with an August recess.
Which Democrats helped in passing this bill?
Democrats facing reelection next year in conservative districts helped propel the bill to quick approval. Adding to the pressures they felt were recent intelligence reports about hreatening new al Qaeda activity in Pakistan and the disclosure by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) of a secret court ruling earlier this year that complicated the wiretapping of purely foreign communications that happen to pass through a communications node on U.S. soil.
Looks like La Pelosi couldn’t keep her caucus contained. Should we thank Rahm Emanuel for the conservative Democrats he brought to the table last month? Heh. In any event, here’s what Pelosie had to say about the bill’s passage:
The House Democratic leadership had severe reservations about the proposal and an overwhelming majority of Democrats opposed it. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the measure “does violence to the Constitution of the United States.”
But with the Senate already in recess, Democrats confronted the choice of allowing the administration’s bill to reach the floor and be approved mainly by Republicans or letting it die.
If it stalled, that would have left Democratic lawmakers, who have long been anxious about appearing weak on national security issues, facing an August spent fending off charges from Mr. Bush and Republicans that they left Americans exposed to terrorism threats.
Despite the political risks, many Democrats argued they should stand firm against the president’s initiative, saying it granted the administration far too much latitude to initiate surveillance without judicial review. They said the White House was using the specter of terrorism to weaken the privacy rights of Americans and empower Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, an official Democrats say has proved himself untrustworthy.
Well, while Democrats often won’t vote in favor of a bill in spite of the fact that it would help protect us from terrorism, they will vote for it for two reasons: 1) politics and 2) they wanna go on their summer recess. Good move, Mr. President.
More reax to the news here. The left is reacting predictably, of course.
By the way, here’s the roll call on that Senate vote (thanks to ST reader spree).
Related: Michelle Malkin is liveblogging the late night House session.