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The Arsonist in Chief has checked in and he's ready to burn shit down to the ground! This time he's setting fire to the FISA reauthorization bill negotiated by his own Justice Department and Congress.

How you livin', Bill Barr?

Okay, it is day eleventy hundred of the pandemic, we're all losing our goddamn minds, and the FISA bill is nobody's idea of sexytalk. But once again President ADD is destroying a carefully constructed edifice erected by his own rapacious national security apparatus because he actually believes that arglebargle Fox feeds to the rubes to prop up their Obamagate conspiracies about Michael Flynn being framed by the Deep State. Attorney General Barr knows that stuff is all bullshit because the Justice Department and Intelligence Community rely on the FISA courts. Only Commander Couch Potato is such a dipshit he can't differentiate between the propaganda and the business of government.

But we are NOT A DIPSHIT! So let's take a quick minute and try to work out what's going on here.


Wait, remind me again what's a FISA?

FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Enacted in the wake of President Richard Nixon's domestic surveillance abuses, it allows us to spy on foreign agents in the United States, while protecting US citizens from government intrusion. After September 11, 2001, the government started leaning hard on it to pursue terrorists in the United States.

The House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence (HPSCI) and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) supervise the Justice Department's activities under FISA. To get a FISA warrant, the DOJ must demonstrate to the FISC that there is probable cause to believe that the suspect is a foreign agent inside the United States. If Americans are picked up incidentally speaking to the foreign agent, their identities must be "minimized," and only revealed through appropriate procedures.

And why do the wingers have a bug up their ass about FISA?

You would think those proto-fascists would be all over a government surveillance program, right? And in the main, they are, with the exception of some of the more libertarian types like Rand Paul and Mike Lee. Bill Barr is certainly a fan of increased government authority to hoover up data. The problem is that half of Trumpland got picked up talking to foreign government agents during the Russia investigation, which is highly embarrassing.

Most notably, Mike Flynn got caught in December 2016 promising the Russian ambassador that Trump would cancel the sanctions imposed on the Kremlin in the waning days of the Obama administration. And then he lied about it to the FBI, which is a crime. But Flynn was certainly not the only one flapping his yap to foreign agents. Don Jr. hosted the Russian government lawyer at Trump Tower for sexxxxxy Hillary Clinton dirts, Jared Kushner was meeting with sanctioned Russia banks and seeking a private backchannel to the Kremlin, Emirati Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (aka MBZ) snuck into the US without officially notifying the Obama administration in December 2016 to meet with Flynn, Kushner, and Steve Bannon, etc. The list goes on and on, and it's not a good look!

Remember when Donald Trump insisted that Barack Obama "tapped" his wires? A normal politician would know damn well that all those foreign actors were being "tapped" by the government — that's the Justice Department's actual job! But Trump and his minions were fucking idiots, and so they blithely went on yammering to people under surveillance. And when they realized their mistake, it was too late. So they turned around and accused the Obama Deep State of "tapping" them, because the best defense is a good offense, right?

So why is this all coming up now?

In March, the FISA bill came up for a reauthorization vote in Congress. In normal times, the reauthorization debate revolves around civil liberties, with the government agitating for greater authority and a weird coalition of libertarians and left-wingers fighting for privacy interests. But, of course, nothing has been normal for three years.

In January, the Office of Management and Budget released a Statement of Administration Policy supporting the FISA reauthorization bill, and on March 11 the DOJ similarly encouraged Congress to pass it. But then Trump, egged on by the wingnut media's nonsense about Michael Flynn being framed, threatened to veto it.

No one wanted him to veto it. The GOP wanted to get the whole business over with, so the DOJ could get what it wanted without highlighting the fact that they'd all signed on to a bill they'd been railing against as Obama's Deep State handmaiden. But then Trump backed them into a corner, and the FISA law actually lapsed. It was only rescued by an emergency voice vote extending the bill (retroactively) another 77 days. Which brings us to ... May 30, three days from today.

Cutting it kind of close, aren't they?

Indeed they are! The current reauthorization, which was largely shepherded through by Bill Barr and the GOP allies, has gotten hung up over an amendment which would curtail the DOJ's ability to collect Americans' browser history without a warrant. Naturally, Barr opposes any curb on his agency's power, and the amendment failed in the Senate. The House compromise bill crafted by Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Adam Schiff contains some of those protections, but is opposed by Senator Ron Wyden, the original author of the amendment. This drama has been overshadowed by Trump, though, who once again cut the legs out from under his own administration's bill.

Politico reports on the chaos as Republicans try to deal with the fallout.

The FISA debate has also created a rift in the GOP conference — and those divisions were on full display during a private call between Republican leaders and ranking committee members on Tuesday.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who helped negotiate the initial FISA deal, voiced his support for the bill and pointed out that the president wants reforms, according to sources on the call. Trump and his allies allege that the FBI used the law to improperly monitor figures in his campaign amid an investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) pushed back, saying she disagreed with Jordan, and outlined her reasons why. She argued that the amended bill would undermine national security, create red tape at the FISA courts and wouldn't have protected the president.

Cheney, who backed the FISA bill when the House first sent it over to the Senate, then encouraged her colleagues to vote against the amended bill before Jordan got back on the line to deliver his rebuttal.

Meanwhile, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is desperately trying to extract his dick from the wringer, and has called on Nancy Pelosi to cancel the vote scheduled for today to spare Republicans the humiliation of being forced to vote against the bill they supported just 10 minutes ago. Because the GOP charged out onto a bridge only to have the president set fire to it when they were halfway across. As per usual.

How can the GOP be so BAD at governing?

Dunno! Might be that they elected a lunatic couch potato as their leader. Anyway, they deserve everything they get.

[Lawfare / Politico]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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