Yesterday, under heavy political pressure from the White House, the Senate approved a bill that provided expansive spying authority for the Bush administration. The White House had earlier rejected a compromise bill that provided powers sought by the Director of National Intelligence, opting instead to play politics with the issue.
Moments ago, the House passed the White House-backed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) bill by a 227-183 vote.
During the heated House floor debate over the legislation, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said the White House-backed FISA legislation was nothing more than a political ploy:
This bill is what Karl Rove and his political operatives in the White House have decided they need to win elections. That’s not national security. That’s political warfare.
I do not believe we will soon be able to undo this damage. Rights given away are not easily regained. This bill is not needed to protect America from terrorists. The only purpose of this bill is to protect this administration from its own political problems and cynicism, and its own illegal actions it has taken outside the law without any authorization.
In a symbolic move that reflected the efforts by many conservatives to politicize the FISA debate, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) immediately rose and asked that Nadler withdraw his statement that the Bush administration had conducted illegal activities.
After some pause, Nadler said he would withdraw his “truthful and accurate statements” in order to proceed with the floor debate. Issa, unhappy with Nadler’s retraction, said, “He is not withdrawing it if he claims they’re accurate.” Nadler responded, “I’m withdrawing them without any reservation but I retain my opinion.” Watch it:
Issa’s comments reflected the nature of the FISA debate — conservatives were more concerned with providing political cover for the White House than passing legislation that addressed national security concerns.
Nadler’s comments are hardly inaccurate. The current FISA debate was precipitated by the fact that a court had ruled the administration’s spying actions were outside the law. Just this week, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) revealed a secret court ruling that found “a key element of the Bush administration’s wiretapping efforts illegal.”