Yesterday evening, the Progressive Caucus had a closed-door meeting with the Democratic Leadership and the entire Democratic Caucus in the House — Speaker Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel, among others. My understanding is that the Progressive Caucus met with Rep. Conyers — who heads the House Judiciary Committee at 6:30 pm ET, and then the whole caucus met with the leadership afterward around 7 pm ET.
The weird thing is that an AP article hit the wires (H/T to TPM for grabbing the wire piece) at 6 pm ET with quotes from Steny Hoyer regarding the possible need to cut a deal with the Bush WH on retroactive immunity for the telecom companies in order to get FISA legislation passed.
To be completely fair, the hedge on “we don’t have the documents from the Bush Administration yet” was still in there — that’s been their consistent wiggle room excuse on this. But to throw that issue out on the table BEFORE you even take your first pass on the legislative mark-up seems to undercut entirely what the process was intended to do — which ought to be to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law instead of kowtow to an untrustworthy Bush White House and their telecom cronies.
If my information on the timing of the Conyers and then leadership/Progressive/Dem Caucus meetings is correct, Steny had to have given those quotes to the AP WELL BEFORE the meetings ever took place. There is no other way the reporter could have met that wire timing.
I have contacted the AP reporter and Hoyer’s office to see if I can nail down a timeframe on this. In the meantime, though, when this popped up last night, I e-mailed contacts in Pelosi’s office to see what in the hell was going on — and am awaiting a response because it seems that Steny’s office hadn’t really been bragging about his AP interview before it hit the wires, and that the significant concerns over the effect on pending litigation as well as long-term precedent on this are far from agreed to among Democrats. When I do hear something back, I’ll be reporting it immediately, but I found it both infuriating and telling that Hoyer seemed to be freelancing — and I’m certainly going to be pushing a number of folks in Congress for some clarification today.
So, what gives? Guess we’ll see.
In the meantime, selise has put together the hearing schedule for today (scroll down to Wednesday) — and there are two mark-ups scheduled on the proposed FISA legislation — a 10:15 am ET hearing in the House Judiciary (which selise tells me is set to be webcast) and a 10:30 am ET hearing in the House Intel committee (not certain on broadcast on this at this time, but will let you know if I get specifics). I am going to try and follow these as best I can this morning, although if the past two days are any indication, I may be spending a significant portion of my time on and off the phone trying to pin down yet another round of rumors.
Additionally, President Bush will be making a public Rose Garden statement today at 11 am ET. Gosh, I expect some honesty and up front accountability about the rule of law. Not.
The bottom line? I have no clear picture of who is doing what to whom with this legislation — but one thing is abundantly clear: if we don’t keep the pressure up for the Constitutional and rule of law principles, including fundamental issues such as third party review of wiretapping power on an individualized basis when the person being surveilled is an American — something that every federal and state law enforcement officer has to do on a daily basis with every single warrant they obtain.
With a 72-hour emergency window for an immediate wiretap and delayed warrant filing, there is no excuse for these federal agents to not be able to do their jobs the exact same way…unless, of course, there is a whole lot more to the surveillance programs than we already know and the Bush Administration is desperately trying to prevent ANY oversight from anyone, including federal judges who have rarely — as in five times total, and then only temporarily – rejected a warrant application for national security wiretaps. Bundled, umbrella warrants which have only passing oversight in large batches on a periodic basis does not constitute proper scrutiny of warrants on Americans. It just does not pass the legal rigor smell test, not with a surveillance option this powerful and this likely to be abused.
“Trust us” is not exactly footing on which anyone should operate with the Bush Administration. They forfeited that good faith argument years ago. And I lump the telecoms who illegally participated in this program into the same “don’t trust you” category — the retroactive immunity malarky that Hoyer is peddling is a very bad idea for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which because we should not set a precedent of the US Congress rewarding bad faith actions of big money donors in an issue of Constitutional and rule of law importance such as this. Period.
Here’s a thought: why bother with the amendment of FISA if the White House, the GOP, the telecoms, and their donor surrogates in Congress are not operating in good faith, above-board negotiations? Let the current very bad bill expire and go back to the old FISA rules unless and until the people who are trying so hard to smarm something through start operating in an honest fashion? If it were me, they wouldn’t be getting a damn thing moving on this until they started owning up to backdoor maneuvers and fast.
You know the drill — let your elected representatives hear from you that a bad bill is not nearly good enough, and that the Constitution and the rule of law deserve more than a passing glance on this: (H/T to katymine for the numbers)
1 (800) 828 – 0498
1 (800) 459 – 1887
1 (800) 614 – 2803
1 (866) 340 – 9281
1 (866) 338 – 1015
1 (877) 851 – 6437
(Photo via AP.)