BAILEY T. STEEN | SUNDAY, JANUARY 21, 2018
“Don’t panic,” reassured California’s Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, speaking to The San Francisco Chronicle about how she wanted to lead the resistance against the developing Trump administration, back in December of 2016. “And don’t be fearful. We need to see what moves he makes and see how best how to counter them.”
And while the left may find a friend in Feinstein-Democrats on staunch DACA legislation and gun control, they may also find a knife behind their backs on the National Security Agency (the all-seeing, all-hearing NSA, as exposed by journalist for The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald).
On Tuesday, a pivotal amount of Democrats, lead by supposed, weasel-worded resistance fighters such as Feinstein, voted with vast numbers of Republicans in a 60–38 majority to shut down further debate on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, and more specifically extension on Section 702 of the NSA surveillance program under FISA, which would extend the NSA’s surveillance and spying authority (revealed to be used unconstitutionally on American citizens) until at least 2023, where it may come up in the future for another up-down vote.
This legislation would also extend the authority of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (the all-snooping FBI), with The Intercept reporting it allows them to “search Americans’ digital communications without a warrant.”
According to Reuters, Trump initially wrote on Twitter that the surveillance program (first created in secret after the September 11 attacks of 2001 and later legally authorized) had been used against him, but later made statements that it was “greatly needed” for “bad guys on foreign land.” Meaning he will most likely sign the bill.
Defeating the filibuster efforts of privacy hawks, which included Kentucky’s Republican Senator Rand Paul and the Independent Senator for Vermont Bernie Sanders, the Senate ultimately passed the motion to scrap debate, eliminating public discourse on the legislation going forward and any chance for amendments introducing privacy protections for the American public.
Ahead of the vote, Sen. Paul said: “I rise in opposition to the government listening to your phone calls, reading your emails, or reading your text messages without a warrant.”
This means it wasn’t just a partisan defeat on privacy — 18 Democrats joined 41 Republicans and one independent, Maine’s own Angus King, in moving the pro-surveillance legislation quicker to President Trump’s desk without so much as some political theatre debates on CSPAN about it.
One of those Democratic Senators was the newly elected Doug Jones of Alabama, the unlikely winner in that special congressional race against the Steve Bannon-endorsed Republican Roy Moore, who now just voted with Trump and Republicans on executive spying authority, a move of political triangulation that no doubt would have been done outright by Moore.
Joining Feinstein and Jones in Senatorial agreement with Trump was:
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA)
Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Gary Peters (D-MI)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Aside from Senators John McCain (R-Ariz) and Dan Sullivan (R-Ala) who did not vote, a few specific Republicans who joined Paul in wanting debate were:
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Steve Daines (R-MT)
Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
In a press conference before Tuesday’s vote, a bipartisan coalition formed of pro-privacy senators which included Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).
“The American people deserve to have an opportunity for some real amendments to make sure, at the end of the day, we have policies that keep our people safe and protect our liberties,” Senator Wyden said. “What we’re debating is whether the Senate will be the Senate.”
Senator Warren then chimed in with her statement: “The United States should not be in the business of warrantless searches of dragnet surveillance of American citizens. … Opposing warrantless mass surveillance is not a partisan issue.”
Not to be confused with Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, who was instead lobbying for the bill’s quick passage alongside unlikely (and rather unpopular) allies in Richard Burr, his Republican colleague from North Carolina and the Republican leader Mitch McConnell. These were the same two men Senator Paul was seen trying to convince to vote for more debate before they ultimately voted against him.
Documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed that the law is the entire basis for two of the largest surveillance programs used by the NSA, PRISM, which collects the data from United States-based companies, as well as another called Upstream, which The Intercept’s Alex Emmons reporting that it “scans the data passing through internet junctions as it enters and exits the U.S.”
This leaves privacy hawks of all parties in serious trouble, given that the legislation will keep such authority in place for at least six years, an incredibly far-reaching political milestone that not only gives power to President Donald J. Trump, who these same people argue is a “tyrant” and a “fascist” elected by a foreign power in Russia, somehow, but to other presidents to come.
Thanks for reading!
Bailey T. Steen is a journalist, editor, artist and film critic based in Victoria, Australia, but is also Putin’s Puppet ™ on occasion.
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Cheers, darlings!! x