Grassley yes, Harkin no on five more years of warrantless wiretapping

The U.S. Senate voted today to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for five more years, allowing “electronic eavesdropping” without a warrant to continue in the U.S. and abroad. President Barack Obama (who at one time opposed the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping policy) will sign the bill sometime before the end of December 31. Follow me after the jump for details on the Senate voting, including how Democrat Tom Harkin and Republican Chuck Grassley voted on various amendments.

When the U.S. House approved this bill in September, four of the five Iowans voted yes: Democrats Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) and Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05). Democrat Bruce Braley (IA-01) was among 118 House members to oppose the bill.

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Pre-election Iowa Congressional voting news roundup

Following a month-long summer recess, members of the U.S. House and Senate worked for less than three weeks before adjourning in late September until after the general election. Congress will hold only “pro-forma” sessions for the next month, presumably to prevent President Barack Obama from making recess appointments.

Follow me after the jump for a review of how the Iowans voted (or did not vote) on the most significant legislation that came up during the past few weeks.  

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In Retrospect: Who is Really Un-American??

(Charles Lemos is also worth reading on this subject: It's Time for a Special Prosecutor. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Crossposted from Hillbilly Report.

You know, one thing I get so sick of hearing from all the right-wing loons is how Progressives like myself and many of you are un-American. We have our patriotism questioned on a daily basis. Right-Wing idiots on the radio rail about how we do not believe in the Constitution and the values this country was founded on. Well, details that have emerged in the last couple of days show that the Bush Administration and their shameless enablers in the Republican Party and the former Republican Congress are the ones who really do not believe in the Constitution, or the freedoms granted by it.

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What's a little domestic surveillance between friends?

I know it isn’t polite to say I told you so, but last year many of us warned that the Bush administration’s proposed amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would increase domestic surveillance of American citizens. Congressional Republicans and a minority of Democrats didn’t heed those warnings, though, and in some cases ridiculed the critics of the FISA amendments.

Look what the New York Times reported on Wednesday:

The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews.

Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional.

I agree with Charles Lemos:

I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you. Massive domestic spying without meaningful oversight in the United States. No limits on surveillance power, what a grand idea.

Barack Obama voted for the bad FISA compromise, even though many of his supporters warned that the oversight provisions were inadequate. I expect his administration to do something to correct the abuses.

Josh Orton noted today that the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, David Kris, promised during his confirmation hearings “to get to the bottom of the FISA amendments act” and “to see how best to make any necessary improvements.” Sounds like he has his work cut out for him.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, says her committee will investigate the alleged violations by the National Security Agency.

UPDATE: Read this post by mcjoan for more good links and analysis.

Also, the New York Times reported that a member of Congress was wiretapped. Spencer Ackerman narrows the list of possible targets down to 27 members of Congress.

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Obama taps Leon Panetta to head the CIA

In one of his most surprising picks, President-elect Barack Obama will nominate Leon Panetta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

I am inclined to think that this was a smart choice. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California was already griping that Panetta lacks significant intelligence experience, but I don’t want an insider at the CIA now. As Spencer Ackerman noted, Panetta is on record opposing the use of torture:

We cannot simply suspend [American ideals of human rights] in the name of national security. Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground.

We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.

According to the New York Times, the Obama team was explicitly looking for someone without connections to controversial intelligence practices during George Bush’s presidency:

Aides have said Mr. Obama had originally hoped to select a C.I.A. head with extensive field experience, especially in combating terrorist networks. But his first choice for the job, John O. Brennan, had to withdraw his name amidst criticism over his role in the formation of the C.I.A’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Members of Mr. Obama’s transition also raised concerns about other candidates, even some Democratic lawmakers with intelligence experience. Representative Jane Harman of California, formerly the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was considered for the job, but she was ruled out as a candidate in part because of her early support for some Bush administration programs like the domestic eavesdropping program.

In disclosing the pick, officials pointed to Mr. Panetta’s sharp managerial skills, his strong bipartisan standing on Capitol Hill, his significant foreign policy experience in the White House and his service on the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel that examined the war and made recommendations on United States policy. The officials noted that he had a handle on intelligence spending from his days as director of the Office and Management and Budget.

Panetta ran the OMB for Clinton before being promoted to chief of staff, where he would have been privy to the president’s daily intelligence briefings.

Feinstein seems way off-base to suggest Panetta lacks the qualifications for this job. Her comments to the New York Times suggest that she’s offended not to have been informed about this pick in advance.

I am pleasantly surprised that Obama was looking for someone without connections to Bush’s eavesdropping program, given the way Obama caved on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act last summer.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Laura Rozen quotes a bunch of former intelligence officials and finds a mixed reaction to the choice.

Also, Bleeding Heartland commenter amcsepboe provides more reaction and background.

SECOND UPDATE: Other bloggers are already compiling evidence to show that Feinstein and her colleague on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, repeatedly enabled the Bush administration on torture and wiretapping.

EmperorHadrian goes over Feinstein’s history of supporting pro-torture Bush nominees.

Kula2316 has lots more reaction to the Panetta appointment here. The more I hear about the people who don’t like the pick, the more I think Panetta is the right person for the job.

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Bleeding Heartland Year in Review: Iowa politics in 2008

Last year at this time I was scrambling to make as many phone calls and knock on as many doors as I could before the Iowa caucuses on January 3.

This week I had a little more time to reflect on the year that just ended.

After the jump I’ve linked to Bleeding Heartland highlights in 2008. Most of the links relate to Iowa politics, but some also covered issues or strategy of national importance.

I only linked to a few posts about the presidential race. I’ll do a review of Bleeding Heartland’s 2008 presidential election coverage later this month.

You can use the search engine on the left side of the screen to look for past Bleeding Heartland diaries about any person or issue.

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