Today, House conservatives announced they would go into a “secret session” to discuss classified portions of a proposed FISA update, the sixth closed session in history. According to an internal GOP memo, they are to have a “candid debate on the importance of passing a long-term modernization of our nation’s foreign surveillance.”
In reality, the session is not a “candid debate.” Next week, the House is scheduled to go into recess. The Hill reports that the conservatives are organizing the session in order to “delay” Democrats’ FISA legislation, raising the possibility that nothing will be passed until after break:
House Republicans had been seeking the closed session to delay a vote on a new Democratic FISA overhaul, unveiled Tuesday, and discuss its national security implications.
Weeks ago, however, conservatives were uncomfortable with the idea of a secret session. When Democrats proposed a closed session in late February to “discuss the legal underpinnings” of Bush’s spy program, Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-OH) office said it was a “stalling tactic“:
“There are clear rules and procedures for how Congress handles classified information,” [Boehner's spokesperson] said. “This nonsense is nothing more than another stalling tactic from a bunch of liberals who don’t want to give our intelligence officials all the tools they need to keep America safe.“
“Every day” that a FISA update is delayed, Boehner said at the time, is “wrong and dangerous” and “we are losing valuable information about terrorists’ plans.”
This morning, President Bush fearmongered that “children” may be not “safe from terror” without a FISA fix, urging Congress to get him a bill before this weekend. His criticism is better directed at House GOP for their own “stalling tactic.”
Boehner’s flip-flop underscores how the conservatives’ “secret session” isn’t about a “candid debate” or improving intelligence gathering. Instead, they are clearly more concerned with theatrics.
(HT: Glenn Greenwald)