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A prepared transcript of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) remarks before the vote today are below.

Some highlights:

Mr. President, in my twenty years in Congress, I have not seen anything quite as cynical and counterproductive as the Republican approach to FISA.

The American people deserve to know that when President Bush talks about the foreign intelligence bill tonight, he's doing little more than shooting for cheap political points - and we should reject his efforts....

The Republican leader filed cloture on this bill after it had been on the floor for just a few hours. He filed cloture after Republicans blocked every amendment they could from being offered and blocked all amendments from getting votes.

In simple terms, this means the Republicans were filibustering their own bill. Let me repeat that. The Republicans were filibustering their own bill. In my time in the Senate, I can't remember this taking place....

We are the deliberative body. Let us deliberate.


Full transcript below.

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the champion of the Senate intelligence committee bill that contains retroactive immunity, and one of the twelve Democrats who voted against the Senate Judiciary Committee bill last week, just said on the floor that he'll also vote against cloture. The administration is placing politics above national security, he says.

This isn't shaping up to be a close vote.

Update: His full statement is below.

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Not a good sign for the Republicans Just now on the Senate floor, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) spoke against the Senate Republican leadership's attempt to invoke cloture on the surveillance bill, indicating that he'll vote with the Democrats.

Among the amendments that the Republicans seek to block is one of Specter's own amendments, one he's sponsoring along with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The amendment would, rather than granting the telecoms retroactive immunity for cooperating with the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, substitute the government as the defendant in the numerous lawsuits against the telecoms.

Update: We have a rough transcript of some of his floor remarks below.

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The race is on to determine which Republican can best walk and chew gum at the same time: that is, simultaneously fear-monger about the lapse of the Protect America Act while at the same time rejecting Democratic efforts to extend it for thirty days.

President Bush, in his weekly radio address, warned: "We need to know who our enemies are and what they are plotting. And we cannot afford to wait until after an attack to put the pieces together." Bush, remember, has threatened to veto any extension of the PAA.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), face underlit with a flashlight observed succinctly: "It’s not about frightening the American people. The American people should be frightened and remember full well what happened on 9/11."

And House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) ties it all up into a neat bow: "The implications of failing to act are real. If we let this law expire, we will go back to a system that last spring kept American soldiers in Iraq waiting on D.C. lawyers before they could look for a kidnapped colleague.... Our national security is far too important for another temporary patch."

For me, I have to say that Blunt takes the cake. Not only does it rely on the by-now debunked claim that the prior FISA law prevented the NSA from wiretapping Iraqi insurgents who'd kidnapped U.S. troops, but he claims that the old FISA law prevented the U.S. from even looking for those missing soldiers. And Blunt glancingly describes the administration lawyers who deal with surveillance authority as "D.C. lawyers." Gotta love that. His full statement, which is just bursting with distortions too numerous to catalog, is below.

Note: Any other outstanding examples we didn't note? Let us know in the comments.

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For years, the families of the four Blackwater guards killed in the infamous Fallujah incident have carried on a wrongful death lawsuit against the company. A House oversight committee investigation faulted the company's cost-cutting for leaving the guards vulnerable to the ambush.

But Blackwater, always in need of very good lawyering, says that if it weren't for some lousy (though very expensive) lawyers, they would have easily disposed of the lawsuit already. From Legal Times:

Blackwater Security filed a $30 million malpractice suit against Wiley Rein on Wednesday, alleging that the firm made costly missteps in a wrongful death case brought on behalf of four former Blackwater employees who were killed in Iraq in 2004.


Somewhat awkwardly, one of the lawyers who was on that Wiley, Rein team being sued for incompetence is current White House counsel Fred Fielding. It's nothing personal, I guess.

Blackwater dropped Wiley, Rein back in 2005, opting for another heavy-hitting firm, Greenberg, Traurig. The suit is ongoing.

From 60 Minutes' fascinating interview with FBI agent George Piro, who led the American team to interrogate Saddam Hussein:

Piro says no coercive interrogation techniques, like sleep deprivation, heat, cold, loud noises, or water boarding were ever used. "It's against FBI policy, first. And wouldn't have really benefited us with someone like Saddam," Piro says.

Why not?

"I think Saddam clearly had demonstrated over his legacy that he would not respond to threats, to any type of fear-based approach," Piro explains.

"So how do you crack a guy like that?" Pelley asks.

"Time," Piro says.

Months of time, during which Piro manipulated Saddam, creating a relationship based on dependency, trust and emotion.


Oh, and by the way: "He considered [Osama bin Laden] to be a fanatic. And as such was very wary of him. He told me, 'You can't really trust fanatics,'" Piro says."

via Laura Rozen.

You hear a lot about the administration's torture regime, but not a lot about the process of how we got to where we are.

Say hello to TPM alum and drinking buddy Spencer Ackerman at his new muckraking home, The Washington Independent. In his first big piece, Spencer looks at how the CIA ended up implementing a system where "U.S. interrogators are still mostly in the dark—in the dark not only about al-Qaeda, but about how to effectively elicit vital national-security information from the detainees in its custody."

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) said yesterday on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" that he will return all campaign funds that are connected to indicted Chicago developer Antoin Rezko. Obama has already returned $85,000 in Rezko-related contributions, but news reports have suggested recently that he has not returned all Rezko-related money. (Washington Post)

The Bush administration’s federal mine safety regulators have violated federal law by allowing thousands of health and safety violations to go unpunished. In just the past six years, The Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration failed to act upon approximately 4,000 violations. One of those violations was partially responsible for the 2005 death of a Kentucky miner. (Charleston Gazette)

On New Year’s Eve President Bush signed the OPEN Government Act, legislation that had passed in the House and Senate unanimously. Though the law was supposed to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, Bush has now taken steps to undermine OPEN by gutting funding for the National Archives and thus, according to Congress Daily, “effectively eliminat[ing] the office.” (Think Progress)

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The White House surveillance bill squeeze stepped up to another level over the weekend. So the scene is set for an ol' fashioned cloture vote rumble this afternoon at 4:30.

To refresh your memory: the administration's far-reaching surveillance bill, which was passed last August in a similar White House squeeze play, expires February 1st.

To take the time pressure off and ensure that surveillance would be unaffected by the lapse, Senate Majority Leader has repeatedly proposed a 30-day extension to the Protect America Act. Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly blocked any effort to have a vote on it. They've also blocked attempts to hold votes on almost all of the offered amendments, leading to the situation today.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed for cloture, forcing a vote which would end debate, preclude any votes on the amendments, and lead immediately to a vote on the underlying Senate bill -- the administration-supported Senate intelligence committee bill, which contains a provision granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms. The Republicans need 60 votes to make that happen.

Now things are at the point where even if the Senate did manage to pass some sort of bill before Thursday, the process of hashing out the differences with the House version (which doesn't contain retroactive immunity) would drag on past the deadline. Reid has said as much: "The president has to make a decision. He's either going to extend the law... or there will be no wiretapping."

And over the weekend, the White House issued a veto threat. The game was clear:

“The president would veto a 30-day extension,” a senior administration official said. “They’re just kicking the can down the road. They need the heat of the current law lapsing to get this done.”


Bush even added a tweak of soft-on-terrorism in his weekly radio address to bring home the message:

"If this law expires, it will become harder to figure out what our enemies are doing to infiltrate our country, harder for us to uncover terrorist plots and harder to prevent attacks on the American people."


For the record, everyone agrees that surveillance initiated under the Protect America Act will be unaffected for another year. But surveillance on new targets would fall under the prior FISA law, the one superseded by the Protect America Act.

So.... what's going to happen this afternoon? The Senate will hold its much anticipated cloture vote, and we'll see if the Republicans will be able to lure over enough Dems over to get to 60. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) will be present to cast their "No" votes. If the vote fails, it seems likely that Reid will try for a vote on that 30-day extension. (For it's part, the House is set to hold a vote on a 30-day extension today.)

As for what happens at that point, I'll be the first to confess that I have no idea. We'll keep you updated.

On Thursday morning, Detroit’s Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty -- and all of Detroit, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press -- woke up to find the irrefutable evidence of the love affair they had both denied under oath:

Beatty asked the mayor, on Sept. 12, 2002, if she could "come and lay down in your room until you get back?"

The next morning Kilpatrick, referring to his bodyguards, wrote: "They were right outside the door. They had to have heard everything."

Beatty replied: "So we are officially busted!"

"Damn that," Kilpatrick responded. "Never busted. Busted is what you see!"


Worse than the humiliation and embarrassment at the very public disclosure of both their affair and the unraveled coverup, is, yes, the real possibility of getting "busted" on a perjury charge, a felony. If charged and convicted, Kilpatrick, a lawyer, could be disbarred, would be removed from office, and could even face up to 15 years of jail time. Beatty, a law student, would have to find a new career.

The other big loser in this tawdry affair is the city of Detroit.

The mayor has cost Detroit taxpayers more than $9 million to date, because he was sued as a public official. Many are calling for the resignation of “a mayor with so much potential squandered on the keyboard,” a “talented” and “charismatic ” politician - “so knowledgeable on policy, so lacking in discipline.”

It all started back in April 2003 when one of the mayor’s bodyguards, Harold Nelthrope, blew the whistle on two of the cops on the mayor’s security detail; they were fraudently padding their expenses, wrecking city cars and drinking and partying while on duty. Nelthrope also passed along rumors about a bash at the mayor's residence involving a stripper. Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown began to investigate. Two weeks later, he was out of a job.

Three weeks later, Brown and Nelthrope sued the mayor and the city, claiming they were fired in retaliation for investigating the mayor’s security team. Later that year, another bodyguard, Walt Harris, sued the city and the mayor, making the same charges as the other two. He also alleged that the mayor retaliated against him because he reported that the mayor was cheating on his wife with Beatty and several other women.

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