Last night, the Senate passed the McConnell-Bond bill to modernize existing laws related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This legislation was based on a request by the Director of National Intelligence to Congress in April to clarify laws concerning the monitoring of terrorists on foreign soil. It requires the administration, within 120 days of enactment, to submit a description to the FISA Court of the procedures it will use to determine whether intelligence acquisition being conducted without advance court approval is strictly directed at foreign targets overseas. The FISA Court will review the procedures and order changes, if necessary. Its decisions are open to appeal by the Administration.
Once the procedures are established, the administration will be able, in appropriate situations, to act to obtain key intelligence without waiting for the judicial process to run its course. The Senate is required to revisit the issue in six months.
The McConnell-Bond bill passed by a vote of 60-22 (and I understand that 60 votes were required for passage). A large number of Senators apparently didn’t think want to go on record one way or the other. Most of them were Democrats (I believe only six Republicans failed to vote) who, one imagines, didn’t want to be vulnerable to charges of undermining the national security but didn’t want to incur the wrath of those who place our security interests a distant second to the privacy rights of people who talk to terrorists. One suspects that once the Democratic leadership counted to 60, thus ensuring that the party couldn’t be accused of sabotaging our intelligence efforts, it signaled to its most spineless members that they could opt out of voting.
The legislation still needs to pass the House.
CORRECTION: One suspects that an idiot wrote this post. As simple math shows, only a handful of Democrats didn’t vote. You can find my breakdown of the vote here.
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