Beginning at 2:30 p.m. EST today, the Senate resumed debate on the pending FISA bill, by proceeding to vote on a series of amendments, most proposed by Democrats, to improve the bill. Key amendments include one jointly sponsored by Sens. Dodd and Feingold to strip the bill of telecom immunity; an amendment from Sen. Feinstein to transfer the telecom cases to the FISA court; an amendment jointly sponsored by Sens. Specter and Whitehouse to substitute the government for the telecoms as defendants; and an amendment from Sen. Feinstein emphasizing that FISA is the “exclusive means” by which the Government can conduct eavesdropping activities. On Thursday, Democratic and Republican leaders reached agreement whereby certain amendments would require only 50 votes to pass, while others would require 60. It appears that these vote thresholds were set so as to ensure that none of the amendments opposed by the White House could actually pass. It seems clear that the Senate is well on its way to passing a bill that will provide both telecom immunity and vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers for the President.
Glenn Greenwald & Jane Hamsher