The US Senate just passed a 5 year extension to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The US House passed FISA earlier this year, and it now goes to the White House where President Obama is expected to sign it. While it is easy to blame “government” or “both sides” for this tyrannical internal spying, it is important to realize that while some Democrats voted for this (mostly conservative Dems), the majority of the blame for this authoritarianism once again lies with the Republican Party. Renouncing both sides as the same here is a false equivalence logical fallacy, and below is the data to prove it.
FISA is in essence a law that enables domestic espionage. Originally passed in 1978, its most draconian and invasive portions like warrantless wiretapping were secretly enabled in the Bush/Cheney regime following passage of the ironically named “Patriot” Act. A renewal of FISA passed and was signed into law by President Bush in the Summer of 2008, which gave retroactive immunity to those who violated the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution. The 2008 version passed the House 293-129 (GOP 188-1, Dem 105-128), and the Senate 69-28 (GOP 46-0, Dem 22-26).
Below is the cartogram of the House votes.
Note that areas that vote liberal almost universally rejected FISA 2008, while traditional conservative areas voted almost unanimously in favor of FISA. A similar pattern exists for the US Senate votes, and votes on the [Chris] Dodd [D-CT] Amendment that would have stripped away the telecomm immunity portion of the bill.
In the 2012 renewal of FISA, the US House, the votes were 301 yea vs 118 nay. Republicans voted for this 227-7, while Democrats only voted 74-111. Thus out of the 118 votes against FISA, 111 were Democratic Party votes, with only 7 being Republican.
In the US Senate it was a bit closer. 73 yea votes vs 23 nay. Republicans voted 42-3 for FISA, while Democrats voted 30-19. Out of the 23 votes against FISA, 19 were Democratic Party votes, only 3 were Republican.
Breakdown of the 2012 FISA yea votes:
- House GOP 97%
- Senate GOP 93%
- House Dem 40%
- Senate Dem 61%
Clearly indicated here is that while there are certainly some members of both parties that support this draconian domestic espionage, the Republicans are hands down far worse. Note that this does not excuse the votes by the Democratic Congressman, especially those that are not conservative and should know better.
Further evidence that some have claimed indicates that conservatives hate freedom and the constitution can be found in the votes for various amendments to FISA in the US Senate. In the words of The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF): “Commendably, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled yesterday he’d like to bring the bill to the floor for debate, including amendments by Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.“
There were 4 amendments proposed for FISA in the Senate that would have softened the bill significantly. Quotes below are all from the EFF.
Rejected 43-52 (GOP 6-39, Dem 36-12)
Ron Wyden’s amendment would force the NSA to come clean and give a general estimate of how many Americans have been affected by this unconstitutional bill, and finally give us information Americans deserve. In addition, another Wyden amendment would clarify that the acquisition of American communications is prohibited without a warrant. Sen. Wyden has accused the government of conducting “backdoor searches,” whereby the government collects communications of foreign individuals talking to Americans, but later goes back into the government’s database of intercepted communications and reviews the Americans’ [communications]. Sen. Wyden hopes this clarification to the law will help guard against further intrusive spying on American communications.
The Merkley FISA Court Amendment (S.3435)
Rejected 37-54 (GOP 3-40, Dem 34-13)
Starting with the precept that “secret law is inconsistent with democratic governance,” Sen. Jeff Merkley’s amendment would force the government to release any FISA court opinions that contain significant interpretations of the FISA Amendments Act so the American public can know how it may or may not be used against them.
Rejected 12-79 (GOP 3-40, Dem 9-38)
Republican Senator Rand Paul has commendably been one of the few voices unequivocally denouncing the FISA Amendments Act as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. To that end, Sen. Paul will be introducing “the Fourth Amendment Protection Act” which will re-iterate that all US communications, whether sought by US intelligence agencies like the NSA or any government agency, are protected against unwarranted searches and seizures—even if they are held by third party email providers like Google.
The Leahy Sunset Amendment S.3437
Rejected 38-52 (GOP 2-41, Dem 36-10)
Senator Leahy’s amendment would shorten the law’s length to three years. While any extension of a law that results in [unconstitutional] spying is unacceptable, the shorter the re-authorization, the better.
The provisions in FISA that violate your privacy and constitutional rights are an assault on your liberty. Remember to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of those guilty for the vast majority of the blame here: Republicans and conservatives.