Posted by: cjobrien | 17 February 2008

FISA: What’s Really More Important To Republicans?

Kurt is railing against Pelosi for not extending FISA, echoing the Far Right fear mongers that America is completely defenseless unless Bush and Company are allowed to water down the constitution and simultaneously give sanction to American corporations for running roughshod over the rest of us poor peasants. The Bushies have made a political (and economic) living off keeping the American people afraid with fake threats  – while ignoring real data that could serve to protect us.

I knew Ed Brayton would soon be posting on the FISA issue from a reasoned position and not one motivated by the fear-mongering. No one who has done any actual reading on the subject believes our ability to listen in on terrorists has anything to do with further stripping the constitution and Ed explains it concisely:

It means that the government, if it wants to listen in on a phone call between two people overseas, say two “evildoers” talking in Afghanistan, they can do so all they want with no legal restrictions on them whatsoever; that is the way it has always been and it still is. And if they want to listen in on a phone call or intercept an email between someone in another country and an American citizen, they can still go ahead and do it and they have three days to ask the secret FISA court for a retroactive warrant.

That’s right, they can still do it without a warrant and they can just go back and ask for one after the intercept has already taken place. And when they ask for one, they don’t have to show probable cause as the 4th amendment requires, they only have to show that the request is part of an ongoing national security investigation and, under the Patriot Act, the judge has to grant it.

Oh my god, we’re so unprotected! I’m scared, someone hold me! The Republican party might as well just go ahead and adopt their new slogan: we have nothing to sell but fear itself.

I also have to laugh (again) at what the fearful conservatives are not telling people about the whole “eavesdropping on terrorists” thing. It’s no wonder Republicans don’t like public education – none of them can actually read or ask a simple question without being at odds with the party platform.  Kurt and others have confused FISA itself (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) with provisions added to FISA under the PAA (Protect America Act). Expiration of the provisions do not expire the actual FISA act – and that act, without the provisions Kurt and others are worried about, already gives the government the authorities cited by Ed.

And get this from Media Matters:

Moreover, House Democratic leaders attempted to pass a three-week extension of the PAA that would have granted lawmakers additional time to construct compromise legislation. That proposal was defeated 229-191 on February 13, with 191 Democrats voting in favor of temporarily extending the PAA, and 34 Democrats joining 195 Republicans in voting against the extension.

So, let me get this argument straight: Republicans are railing against Democrats for letting certain FISA provisions expire because it is so crucial to protecting America, but the Republicans earlier walked out on a chance to protect Americans by extending the act?  So, here’s a question in need of an answer:

What’s really more important to a Republican?

  • A) Protecting America at all costs
  • B) Creating wedge issues and fear so that they stay in power


  1. How do you think a nation develops probable cause? It develops probable cause by watching and listening to its enemies. The Fourth Amendment recognizes that the right to privacy is not absolute.

    FISA is regulation of commerce and telecommunications companies’ cooperation is a term of service. How is the constitution being watered down? Significant constitutional arguments exist to the contrary especially the opening question.

  2. I still haven’t heard why the temporary provisions added to FISA under the PAA (which are what in reality expired) are so much more important than the FISA act itself – other than to use it for domestic spying as easily as for spying on terrorists. I don’t think I trust a Republican administration anymore than I would trust an Al Quaeda administration to limit its spying only to those who appeared to constitute a real threat. Let me ask this: would you feel equally comfortable allowing a President Clinton (either one!) to conduct whatever spying it deems necessary under the recently expired FISA provisions?

  3. […] a trip to discuss turkeys. Before he left for his turkey convention he provided his usual poke of intellectual dishonesty regarding FISA. Kurt is railing against Pelosi for not extending FISA, echoing the Far Right fear […]

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