FISA amendment passes, MN reps criticized for support


Several Democrats in both houses broke with their parties to support the measure, including Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar.

Before leaving Washington for the August recess last week, Congress passed a bill amending the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act.

Klobuchar, Peterson, Walz Assailed for FISA Vote
by Jeff Fecke

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Reps. Colin Peterson and Tim Walz broke ranks with most congressional Democrats in voting to authorize the Bush administration to continue FISA wiretapping, drawing the ire of progressive bloggers nationwide.

The blogger Meteor Blades, writing at Daily Kos, expressed anger, saying, “These are the Dems who … failed us. Who failed our country.”

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville also was bitter, saying, “It was bad enough when the Dems were only failing to hold this administration accountable for its abuses of power. To see them transferring more power to them at this point is truly unbelievable.”

Kevin Hayden of The American Street decried the vote, saying, “That’s not how our government was designed. With the Democratic leadership surrendering its oversight responsibility and reducing itself to the roles of a Stepford wife and criminal accomplice, the only check and balance to prevent the continuation of the march to complete dictatorship is you and me Bubba.”

And Glenn Greenwald of Salon said, “Congressional Democrats know virtually nothing about how the Bush administration has been eavesdropping on our conversations because the administration refused to tell them and they passively accepted this state of affairs.”

Most Minnesota bloggers were occupied with the 35W bridge disaster, but a few noted Klobuchar’s defection specifically. Kjell Olsen at Station 11 wrote an open letter to Klobuchar, saying, “By making the crimes of Bush legal at his own behest, under his threats – to refuse your summer recess, and to `hold you responsible for whatever terrorist attacks may take place in the future – you’ve done little better than incriminate yourself. I’m pretty sure that at his inauguration he swore to uphold the constitution of the united states of america, and you the same. I don’t see how you can sleep at night, much less how you can sit in the chambers of the senate and pretend to be doing your job.”

Mischa Beitz also wrote to Klobuchar, saying, “As a Minnesotan and US citizen, I am APPALLED at your yea vote on a FISA bill drafted by the White House.”

At least one Minnesota blogger praised the vote, though. Paul Mirengoff of Power Line said the Senate had done the “right thing, finally.”

FISA has come under increased scrutiny over the past two years as the Bush Administration has grudgingly revealed details of wiretaps conducted on American citizens without a warrant. Such warrants are required under FISA, and are almost never denied, but the Bush Administration has maintained that Congress indirectly gave the President the authority to circumvent FISA with its use-of-force authorization after 9/11.

The bill, signed into law this morning by President Bush, was panned heavily by left-leaning activist groups and bloggers who see it as validation of illegal activity conducted by members of the Bush Administration. Intelligence experts have said that the legislation more or less legalizes the program, but how it affects previously illegal activity remains to be seen.

In the run-up to the final vote on the bill, the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent an action alert to its members opposing the bill, saying “[m]ake no mistake, if Congress doesn’t take a stand now, Bush will continue to bulldoze over Congress and play on lawmakers’ timidity and political calculation in the months ahead. No president should have powers to spy on Americans’ emails or phone calls without individual warrants, period.”

Nevertheless, several Democrats in both houses broke with their parties to support the measure, including Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar. In a statement on the bill, Klobuchar said

The bill approved by the House and Senate this week provides a temporary six month extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. While I supported the extension as a temporary measure, I remain concerned about whether there are adequate safeguards in the bill, and will work with my colleagues to address these concerns in the next six months while we enact a permanent extension of FISA.

Contacted over the weekend, a member of Klobuchar’s staff echoed her statement, saying that while there are significant concerns about the bill and its effect on civil liberties, the resulting law will sunset in six months, giving Congress time to fix its existing issues. Her staff expressed confidence that fixing the bill will be at the top of the priority list at that time, but also that something needed to be done immediately for national security concerns.