GOP-Led Senate Intel Committee Did Things While You Weren't Looking. They Were ... Good Things?
We've been wondering what the Senate Intelligence Committee was going to be like ever since Marco "I Must Reluctantly Support Fascism Again But Look Here's A Bible Verse" Rubio temporarily took the reins from erstwhile chair Richard "I Am Maybe About To Be Indicted" Burr. We still haven't seen that big-ass forthcoming final Russia report Burr asked to have declassified on his way out the door.
But they did a couple of good things yesterday. Yes, good things! WHOA IF TRUE.
What's going on is that they are debating the terms of their yearly Intelligence Authorization bill, and BuzzFeed's Emma Loop reports that they managed to include some really strong enhanced whistleblower protections. They voted the bill out of committee by 14 to "Democratic Senator Ron Wyden," who voted against the bill for "reason." (It's not a bad reason, he's just Mad About A Thing, but he's happy about the whistleblower protections.)
Loop explains the committee started looking into this back in September, and we all remember what was going on in September. Or if you don't remember:
The inquiry began after the Trump administration withheld the whistleblower complaint about the president's interactions with Ukraine from Congress, despite a law requiring that the country's top intelligence official turn it over to lawmakers.
Loop spoke to a whistleblower expert named Irvin McCullough from the Government Accountability Project, who looked at the new provisions and said they are actually "incredibly important, excellent reforms."
Briefly, the bill would:
- More fully protect the identities of whistleblowers.
- Get real legally specific on what an "urgent concern" is, where whistleblower complaints are concerned. Remember, there was a huge fight at the beginning of the Ukraine scandal, where (now fired) intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson said "yes, this is URGENT CONCERN, I should give it to Congress!" and (now fired) Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire said "Lemme ask Donald Trump's personal bagman Bill Barr over there at the Justice Department" and Trump's bagman said "Crimes are not crimes when Donald Trump commits them, no urgent concerns here." (Not exact quotes.) McCullough says really sussing out the definition of "urgent concern" more fully empowers the IGs to make those decisions themselves.
- Make it easier for both IGs and whistleblowers to bring their concerns, and their information, to the intelligence committees. McCullough says this is YUGE.
- Oh nothing, it would just make it A CRIME to receive a whistleblower complaint about for example Donald Trump and then show it to Donald Trump, which Maguire did, by calling up the White House when he got the whistleblower complaint about Trump's PERFECT CALL.They'd now have to get permission from the whistleblower to do that, for it not to be a crime. And all whistleblowers past, present and future said fuuuuuuuuck you.
Adam Schiff's House Intelligence Committee will also vote on its own version of this bill, and Loop reports that Schiff's bill will also include bigly protections for IGs and whistleblowers, which is good, because have you noticed that Donald Trump has been Saturday Night Massacring inspectors general on a weekly basis ever since he was impeached forever?
So this is all good!
On top of the whistleblower protections, the committee also voted 8-7 to amend the bill to include a version of the FIRE Act, originally introduced last year by Democratic Intel Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner. The amendment would require presidential campaigns to tell the FBI if foreigns were trying to help them in any way. Can't imagine we'd need anything like that, with the Trump campaign gleefully accepting Russian reacharounds in 2016 and pretty clearly ready to accept them again in 2020.
Don't get confused. The 14-1 vote was on sending the whole bill out of the committee. The 8-7 vote was to include the FIRE Act amendment in the bill, which was then voted out of committee 14-1. The 8-7 vote on the FIRE Act amendment was along party lines, except for how Susan Collins — probably troubled and dismayed at the time — crossed the aisle and voted with the Democrats. We guess the other Republicans on the committee, including fascist Tom Cotton, don't think campaigns should have to report it when foreigns try to give them reacharounds. Wonder why!
Anyway, still, the bill passed, at least out of committee, which Warner is celebrating:
"This bill takes key steps to improve our national security, including investments in 5G technology, reforms to our security clearance process, and important protections for whistleblowers to report wrongdoing within the IC."
Now Tell Us About The Fuckery. There HAS To Be Fuckery.
There very well may be much fuckery, before this thing is actually voted on by the full Senate. It's possible some of these Republicans just wanted it on the record (SUSAN COLLINS) that they voted for #GoodThings when there's little risk to them, maybe because they (SUSAN COLLINS) are facing extremely tough Senate races in November.
As the Times's Nicholas Fandos notes, the Senate might look at the bill by itself, or they might roll it in with the humongous National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as they've done before. And there's ample time for asshole GOP senators to try to get good things in the bill taken out before they have to vote for good government provisions like these, because keeping foreigners out of American elections is bad for GOP electoral prospects.
Guess we'll just have to see. But as of now, the Senate Intelligence Committee did a good thing. Please nobody tell Donald Trump, he will get mad and they are very a-skeered of him when he gets mad.
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