The tribe-busting politics of FISA and the surveillance debate

Minutes after House Republicans led the way in ...

Posted: Jan 12, 2018 12:05 PM
Updated: Jan 12, 2018 12:05 PM

Minutes after House Republicans led the way in voting to reauthorize a controversial government spying program, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul pledged to oppose the bill in the Senate. Fifteen minutes later, Democrat Ron Wyden, one of Paul's most liberal colleagues, promised to do the same.

"No American should have their right to privacy taken away!," Paul tweeted, with a preview of what comes next: "#FILIBUSTER."

At noon, the Oregon Democrat followed suit. "If this #Section702 bill comes to the Senate," he wrote, "I will filibuster it."

It wouldn't be the first time Paul and Wyden commandeered the Senate floor to rail against a program a majority of one or both of their parties favored. But Paul's opposition, bolstered now by Wyden and a motley crew of fellow senators ranging from Montana Republican Steve Daines to Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, underscores the unusual politics of the surveillance-state debate.

Paul, Wyden and that bipartisan, though mostly Democratic, coalition of senators, are pushing for an amendment that would reform the current law, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, providing new privacy protections for Americans caught in its sweep. His libertarian friend, Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash, along with California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, led a similar effort in the House, but it fell short in another Thursday vote. Not long after their amendment failed, Paul said he was skeptical that leadership -- meaning fellow Republicans like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, of Texas -- would even allow his companion bill to reach the floor.

Check out below the partisan breakdown for both Thursday votes in the House.

"I'm assuming they will try to block (our amendment)," Paul said on Thursday, adding a jab at fellow Kentuckian McConnell: "It's funny they call the Senate the world's most deliberative body, but most of what happens around here is prevention of debate."

That a Republican, or group of them, would clash with other Republicans, especially the party's leaders on Capitol Hill, is hardly a novel development. The hardline conservative Freedom Caucus has created something approaching a third party in the House, where Republicans are constantly made to fight for their votes. On the other side of the aisle, House Democrats, for all the huffing and puffing over Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's status, have typically voted in lock-step. In the Senate, too, Democrats are keeping up a remarkably united front.

On almost every major decision to be made in Washington, the partisan status quo rules. Even on an issue like the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and immigration, what separates pockets of lawmakers within each party is more typically a question of degree than ideology. The forces that derailed Republican Obamacare repeal efforts last year were similarly nuanced, typically colored by a given lawmaker's narrow interests.

When it comes to FISA Section 702, though, mapping out the competing camps can be more difficult. In October of last year, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12-3 to advance the controversial legislation. Democratic Sens. Wyden, Martin Heinrich and Kamala Harris were the holdouts, citing a series of privacy concerns.

But the other four Democrats (technically three, plus Maine independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with them), joined their Republican colleagues. California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who tried and failed to add stronger new protections in committee, ultimately voted in favor anyway. Fellow Democrat and Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman, Virginia's Mark Warner, successfully included an amendment that adds a layer of judicial oversight, but nothing that gives privacy hawks or civil libertarians much peace. He too voted to move the process along.

Further complicating the matter -- for at least a few hours on Thursday -- was the unpredictable and, at times, politically ambiguous voice coming from the White House. President Donald Trump began this day like so many others, by parroting Fox News talking points on Twitter.

At 7:33 a.m. ET, he wrote: "'House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.' This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?"

The quote at the top grabbed directly from what appeared on screen during a segment Trump had presumably watched. CNN's David Wright kept up with the feedback loop in real time:

Nearly two hours later, at 9:14 a.m. ET, after what must have been at least a handful of anxious phone calls or emails, Trump revisited his FISA take with this addendum:

"With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today's vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land," he tweeted. "We need it! Get smart!"

Asked about the President's apparent reversal, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later said, "We don't think that there was a conflict at all," adding that Trump "fully supports the 702 and was happy to see that it passed the House today."

But Trump's seesawing was, at least for a few hours, ultimately immaterial to the big question at hand -- an issue that's spawned strange bedfellows for a decade now, since Congress in 2008 codified a program initiated in secret after the 9/11 attacks. For Americans thirsting for bipartisanship in Washington, well, here you go.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 94189

Reported Deaths: 2046
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin26706928
Ramsey10775319
Dakota7428125
Anoka6006133
Stearns395024
Washington373555
Scott253233
Olmsted238828
Nobles196116
Blue Earth16766
Wright16037
St. Louis155539
Carver13967
Clay137140
Rice13288
Mower13225
Sherburne113714
Kandiyohi9822
Winona87018
Lyon6784
Waseca6148
Freeborn5404
Steele5402
Benton5363
Nicollet52916
Watonwan5204
Crow Wing49418
Todd4882
Chisago4841
McLeod4782
Le Sueur4604
Otter Tail4304
Beltrami4135
Martin39410
Goodhue3609
Pine3190
Itasca31314
Polk3054
Douglas2972
Isanti2890
Becker2722
Carlton2631
Morrison2331
Dodge2320
Cottonwood2240
Pipestone22010
Chippewa2081
Meeker1982
Sibley1913
Wabasha1880
Brown1842
Yellow Medicine1762
Rock1660
Cass1654
Murray1632
Mille Lacs1583
Redwood1581
Unassigned15552
Renville1478
Jackson1451
Faribault1410
Swift1371
Houston1250
Koochiching1213
Kanabec1198
Roseau1180
Pennington1171
Fillmore1160
Lincoln1110
Hubbard971
Stevens971
Pope920
Big Stone810
Aitkin761
Wadena680
Wilkin633
Grant614
Lake580
Norman540
Lac qui Parle531
Marshall511
Mahnomen461
Red Lake441
Traverse290
Clearwater270
Lake of the Woods211
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 84671

Reported Deaths: 1303
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15779262
Woodbury535664
Johnson510027
Black Hawk447290
Linn3973111
Story342917
Dubuque317341
Scott297128
Dallas277138
Pottawattamie208938
Buena Vista198412
Marshall177734
Sioux15653
Wapello132857
Webster125114
Plymouth112220
Clinton111221
Muscatine110054
Crawford10775
Cerro Gordo105121
Warren9516
Jasper83332
Des Moines7748
Marion7567
Henry7305
Tama70831
Carroll6605
Lee6247
Wright5811
Dickinson5106
Boone5058
Bremer4887
Washington45611
Louisa42815
Mahaska40619
Delaware3973
Franklin34718
Floyd3423
Jackson3373
Winneshiek3306
Hamilton3223
Clay3194
Lyon3184
Benton3091
Winnebago30113
Hardin2991
Poweshiek2928
Buchanan2741
Butler2702
Jones2693
Clarke2653
Kossuth2650
Shelby2651
Emmet26110
Allamakee2596
Clayton2523
Sac2480
Cherokee2462
Chickasaw2460
Guthrie2446
Cedar2411
Grundy2193
Fayette2172
Harrison2143
Madison2122
Iowa2041
Mitchell1890
Humboldt1883
Palo Alto1880
Howard1876
Hancock1842
Calhoun1823
Mills1781
Cass1632
Monroe15710
Osceola1570
Pocahontas1572
Lucas1566
Page1540
Monona1501
Jefferson1381
Appanoose1363
Union1313
Taylor1271
Davis1244
Ida1201
Fremont1150
Van Buren1141
Keokuk1071
Worth1070
Greene1000
Montgomery925
Wayne862
Audubon821
Adair711
Decatur670
Ringgold502
Adams330
Unassigned70
Rochester
Few Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 66°
Mason City
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 70°
Albert Lea
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 66°
Austin
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 68°
Charles City
Few Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 70°
One Last Mild Day
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events