Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, had a bad day last Thursday, as two of his amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) were rejected by the Senate. In debate on the Senate floor, Feingold took on some heavy hitters from the Administration -- and gave as good as he got, as you'll see on the video, HERE.
The legislation, which will overhaul electronic surveillance laws and determine how much spying the administration can do -- balancing the right of Americans to privacy against the government's ability to wiretap suspected terrorists -- comes up for Senate passage this week.
One of Feingold's amendments would have given the FISA court, which oversees government eavesdropping on telephone calls and e-mail of people within the United States, the choice to block the government from using information about a U.S. citizen if that information had been collected illegally. That provision was rejected 56-40; Sen. Herb Kohl voted with Feingold in the minority.
Feingold's second amendment would have prevented "reverse targeting" -- stopping the government from wiretapping a foreigner communicating with someone in the United States when the real target is the person in the U.S. Feingold's amendment would have required a FISA court order whenever the intent of the surveillance is to monitor an American inside the U.S. This one failed 57-38, again with both Feingold and Kohl in the minority.
A complete story about the FISA debate appeared in Congressional Quarterly, and can be found HERE.
During the debate Thursday, Feingold took on what he called the "tired accusations" of Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Director of National Intelligence J.M. McConnell and Sen. Kit Bond, R-MO, vice chairman of the select committee on intelligence. "Let's worry less about the alleged feelings of a secret court and worry more about the rights and privacy of perfectly innocent Americans," Feingold said. Watch for yourself: Here's Feingold's response, on VIDEO
A transcript of what Feingold said about listening in on Osama bin Laden can be found on the Empty Wheel blog.