Posts Tagged ‘FISA Act’

Donnelly joins with GOP on surveillance vote

March 2, 2008

(The following piece ran on Feb. 28 in the South Bend Tribune. Emphasis in the text below by DW.)

by Nancy Sulok

Congressman Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, was one of seven Democrats and 191 Republicans who voted Tuesday to allow a vote on a Senate bill concerning surveillance of suspected terrorists.

The effort failed, however, with 212 Democratic votes against it.

The vote would have allowed the House to vote on a resolution to extend the Protect America Act, which is part of the larger Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Congress is negotiating for a new FISA, which became law in 1978, but Democrats and Republicans have failed to come to an agreement on it.

Donnelly voted on Feb. 13 to extend the Protect America Act for 21 days to allow more time to resolve the conflicts. The Protect America provision, passed last August, expired Feb. 16.The controversial measure provides for warrantless searches and surveillance, including wiretaps, of suspected terrorists. Since it expired, surveillance can continue, but only with a warrant from a FISA judge.

After Tuesday’s vote, Defense of Democracies issued a press release praising Donnelly for his vote. Defense of Democracies has been running a television ad in the South Bend market that urges constituents to contact Donnelly and ask him to push for passage of the bill.

Puckett hits Donnelly on delayed terror act extension

February 27, 2008

from the South Bend Tribune (emphasis in the text below by DW):

by Nancy Sulok

Luke Puckett, a Republican candidate for 2nd District U.S. representative, said incumbent Joe Donnelly and other Democrats “will have a lot of questions to answer” about the failure to reauthorize an expiring law called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

FISA would allow the government to continue eavesdropping on suspected foreign terrorists.

The bill was reputed to have unanimous Republican support in the House after its passage in the U.S. Senate. Enough Democrats, including Donnelly, were expected to join the Republicans to approve a 21-day extension until a permanent extension could be negotiated.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recessed the House for a week in mid-February without voting on the extension.

Republicans have latched onto the issue to accuse Democrats of selling out to the trial lawyers lobby. “The true reason for blocking the bill,” Robert D. Novak wrote in a Feb. 18 column in the Washington Post, “was Senate-backed retroactive immunity to protect from lawsuits private telecommunications firms asked to eavesdrop by the government.”

In a news release issued Tuesday, Puckett sought to paint Donnelly with the same brush as the other Democrats.

As Donnelly and the others return to Congress this week, Puckett said, they will have to answer questions “about risking America’s national security in an effort to provide a litigation frenzy for the same trial lawyers who have filled their campaign coffers.”

Puckett’s release quotes the Washington Post from Feb. 23 as saying some telecommunications companies have refused to cooperate with terrorism-related wiretapping orders since the bill expired.

Donnelly, part of group of moderate Democrats known as the Blue Dogs, actually was part of a Democratic minority in favor of extending the act. “I support updating and extending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Donnelly said in a statement responding to Puckett’s release. “On January 13, two days before the latest iteration of the FISA law lapsed, I voted for a 21-day extension of that same law. I stand ready to vote for another extension or a permanent new FISA law.”

He added that “Congress and the president must put aside partisan differences to resolve this matter as soon as possible.”

Despite Donnelly’s support of the act, a national organization known as Defense of Democracies has been running television ads in the South Bend market that single him out.

Brian Wise, director of media relations for Defense of Democracies, said Donnelly is one of 15 congressmen in 17 different media markets targeted by the 30-second ad. Locally, it urges constituents to contact Donnelly and ask him to use his influence to bring the matter to a vote.

Wise said the ad is not anti-Donnelly. He acknowledged that Donnelly would have voted to stay in session until the FISA matter was resolved, and said, “to be honest, that’s the kind of support this bill needs.” Now the Granger Democrat needs to put pressure on the House leadership to have a vote as soon as possible, Wise said. Every day that passes, he said, is more lost information the government could be gathering about potential terrorism in our country.

Today is deadline for primary candidate filing

February 22, 2008

Thus far, Joe Donnelly is unopposed in the Democratic primary. It remains to be seen whether he will face a competitive race in the general election. He most likely will face Republican Luke Puckett, but more intriguing for 2nd district progressives is the question of whether Donnelly could face an independent or 3rd party insurgency.

:::::

According to HoosierAccess, Puckett issued the following statement on the recent debate over the extension of the FISA law:

“Without the act in place, vital programs would be plunged into uncertainty and delay, and capabilities would continue to decline. Under the Protect America Act, we obtained valuable insight and understanding, leading to the disruption of planned terrorist attacks. Expiration would lead to the loss of important tools our workforce relies on to discover the locations, intentions and capabilities of terrorists and other foreign intelligence targets abroad.”

The conservative HoosierAccess blogger, Brian Sikma, had this analysis:

“Puckett’s opponent, Joe Donnelly (D), played an interesting role in last week’s events. On Wednesday morning Donnelly bucked party leadership and joined the Republicans on a roll call vote on the subject. In the afternoon, however, Donnelly changed his position and joined his party leadership in the afternoon vote on the bill.

Either Joe Donnelly doesn’t know what his position is or he’s just not interested in protecting the American people and providing our national intelligence agencies with the legal tools that they need.

This fall the choice for voters across America will be clear: The Republican candidates have pledged to do whatever it takes to win the defining conflict of our era, the Democratic candidates have continually failed to decisively act on key proposals that have real consequences for our security.”

[bold text by Donnelly Watch]

We can agree on our frustration over Donnelly’s (and, more generally, the Democrat-controlled Congress) lack of principled stands while disagreeing strongly with Sikma’s assertion that civil liberties ought be sacrificed at the alter of fear.

Donnelly’s apparent inability (as evidenced above with his FISA votes) to take a clear stand is, perhaps what is most frustrating. It’s discouraging to see that Donnelly and many of his fellow Democrats do not realize how weak and “indecisive” they seem because of their (in)action since the 2006 election.