Adam Schiff was the one to blame for suddenly yanking an anxiously awaited reform bill off the table. At the very last minute, the California Democrat ordered his minion, Jerrod Nadler, to cancel the meeting. All of this turmoil happened simply because amendments to protect the accused would have passed with support from both sides. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is terrified that the secret star chamber known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court might actually have some safeguards put in place so he disrupted the proceedings.
Blame it all on Adam Schiff
It wasn’t Jerrod Nadler’s idea to pull the plug on the controversial meeting. A Republican aide leaked to the press that, “there was a decent reform bill that Nadler had.” Apparently, “Schiff forced him” to water it down. “No civil liberties group signed off on it. It is a Schiff wish list.” Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren came up with a set of proposed amendments that would have made both sides happy. “Lofgren has been perfectly transparent about wanting amendments, amendments that have strong bipartisan support. Which is why Schiff doesn’t want to vote on them.”
“The very idea that the Judiciary Committee might produce a bill that would address some of these problems was apparently too much for Chairman Schiff today,” a spokesman for FreedomWorks lamented. “Democrats are yet again putting our national security at risk with their stall tactics,” agrees Doug Collins. “Critical counterterrorism provisions are hanging in the balance because Democrats chose to delay an already ill-timed markup.”
See what happens when both sides agree? It pops the congressional circuit breakers. Matt Gaetz of Florida explained, “the reason we are not having the hearing today is that there was a consensus among the pipe-swinging progressives and the libertarian Republicans.” Amendments which would have provided some basic safeguards were all set to pass by both sides. “We would have had the votes today, which is why the markup is canceled.”
If Congress does nothing, as usual, three key provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will expire on March 14. The intelligence community is going spastic. Attorney General William Barr knows that the process is badly flawed, and so does Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, but both are in favor of extending the deadline now, then fixing the problems later. That approach isn’t going to fly with conservatives like Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, or Doug Collins. Even Democrats are upset at the way the FISA court is set up. It can be weaponized at the whim of whichever side is currently in power.
Comey’s FBI misled the FISA Court 17 times.
We can’t simply reauthorize the system that allowed those lies and omissions to happen.
Now is our chance to fix it.
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) February 26, 2020
No support for a ‘clean reauthorization’
AG Barr is terrified that Congress will drop the ball and he would hate to lose one of the most powerful tools in his toolbox, even if it is a dangerous one. At the GOP lunch on Tuesday, he begged them to “reauthorize the expiring portions of FISA’s surveillance powers as he continues to implement internal reforms.” Anyone who thinks that either side is going to sign off on a basic extension of the expiring laws without any kind of reforms ahead of time is dreaming. “Given the tremendous abuses in 16-17, a clean reauthorization is totally unacceptable,” the aide said. Even Schiff and Nadler are against the idea.
Democrats are calling the amendments, pushed by both their own Zoe Lofgren and Republican Jim Jordan, “poison pills.” Schiff is petrified that they will approve the amendment to create a position for “an outside expert.” An independent attorney would act as a lawyer for the accused in the hearing proceedings to challenge “the FBI’s application to obtain a wiretap.” Matt Gaetz says everyone is all for it. “I think there is a lot of consensus between liberty-loving Republicans and some of the populist Democrats on the Judiciary Committee to convert the FISA process from a non-adversarial process into an adversarial process with enhanced Amicus standards. Right now it is a non-adversarial process and that is not working for America.” Just ask Carter Page. In his case, the FBI “lied to the FISA court 17 times,” Rep. Jordan pointed out.
Lofgren already inserted protections for geolocation data into Nadler’s weak proposal. Other than minor changes to fix things identified in the Attorney General’s report, it would have eliminated one program that “collects data, including call dates and times of Americans, with whom they are in contact.” Both sides of the fence are in agreement that the Schiff inspired plan does not go nearly far enough. “The status quo is unacceptable. We cannot reauthorize these counterterrorism provisions without instituting critical safeguards that protect the civil liberties of all Americans,” Doug Collins and Devin Nunes wrote to Nadler.