The tribe-busting politics of FISA and the surveillance debate

Minutes after House Republicans led the way in ...

Posted: Jan 12, 2018 1:05 PM
Updated: Jan 12, 2018 1:05 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34211

Reported Deaths: 2125
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9761576
Lake3573186
Allen160069
Cass15877
St. Joseph126634
Elkhart126228
Hendricks116671
Hamilton115493
Johnson1097108
Madison58659
Porter53428
Bartholomew50834
Clark49741
LaPorte43023
Howard40428
Tippecanoe3933
Delaware38536
Jackson3821
Shelby37122
Hancock33127
Floyd31839
Boone31635
Morgan27824
Vanderburgh2662
Montgomery23817
White2338
Noble22821
Clinton2271
Decatur22431
Grant21022
Dubois1993
Harrison19422
Henry17211
Greene16924
Vigo1688
Dearborn16821
Monroe16712
Warrick16628
Lawrence15924
Miami1401
Putnam1367
Jennings1304
Kosciusko1271
Orange12622
Scott1193
Franklin1108
Ripley1086
Marshall1021
Carroll932
Daviess8516
Steuben832
Wayne785
Fayette777
Newton7710
Wabash772
LaGrange762
Jasper661
Washington521
Clay511
Jay500
Fulton491
Randolph473
Rush462
Pulaski460
Jefferson451
Whitley413
Starke393
DeKalb371
Sullivan351
Owen341
Brown331
Perry320
Wells310
Benton300
Knox280
Huntington272
Tipton251
Blackford252
Crawford240
Fountain212
Switzerland200
Spencer201
Parke170
Adams171
Posey160
Gibson152
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin110
Vermillion100
Union90
Pike60
Unassigned0167

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35033

Reported Deaths: 2149
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin5773260
Cuyahoga4369226
Marion266028
Hamilton2642148
Lucas2241242
Pickaway205037
Mahoning1428174
Summit1390172
Butler87429
Columbiana74352
Stark72391
Lorain67859
Montgomery65616
Trumbull56948
Belmont42812
Warren36621
Miami35530
Tuscarawas3423
Ashtabula33834
Medina33723
Delaware33113
Portage32357
Lake30612
Wood28746
Geauga28232
Clark2776
Wayne27250
Fairfield2596
Licking24310
Allen21132
Mercer2107
Clermont2065
Richland1993
Erie17114
Darke16721
Madison1527
Washington11819
Crawford1144
Morrow1071
Greene1015
Ottawa9916
Putnam9114
Monroe7812
Auglaize733
Sandusky7311
Ross712
Hocking694
Jefferson672
Hardin600
Huron571
Williams541
Union511
Muskingum500
Hancock501
Clinton431
Shelby413
Wyandot402
Fulton400
Fayette400
Logan380
Coshocton380
Guernsey351
Preble351
Holmes341
Defiance332
Lawrence300
Carroll303
Brown281
Champaign271
Knox251
Highland231
Vinton212
Seneca202
Ashland200
Athens181
Perry181
Henry150
Scioto150
Paulding140
Jackson140
Harrison100
Adams91
Gallia91
Van Wert60
Pike60
Meigs60
Noble60
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 63°
Angola
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 55°
Huntington
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 62°
Decatur
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 63°
Van Wert
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 63°
Sunny Sunday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events