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Let there be no doubt: a majority of senators, and a large number of Democrats, think the telecoms should not suffer the hazard of accountability for cooperating with the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) took to the floor last night to give a speech asking, "This is our defining question, the question that confronts every generation: The rule of law, or the rule of men?" The resounding answer: the rule of men.

The Senate voted on the Dodd/Feingold amendment, which would have stripped retroactive immunity from the surveillance bill just now. The final tally was 31-67; crossing over to vote nay were Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jim Webb (D-VA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Update: Here's the official tally.

Presidential candidates Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Barack Obama (D-IL) were present for the vote – voting nay and yea, respectively.

Next up on the Senate floor this morning was an amendment to provide more oversight of surveillance involving Americans, sponsored by Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Jim Webb (D-VA), and Jon Tester (D-MO). See below the fold for Sen. Webb's description of how the amendment would have worked.

A number of Democrats joined together to vote this one down, resulting in a resounding 35-63 defeat.

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The voting on the lion's share of the amendments to the surveillance bill will take this morning and afternoon in the Senate. We'll keep you updated as the results come in.

The first major vote was on Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) amendment to make clear that FISA is the "exclusive means" by which the government could conduct surveillance. As Feinstein said in her pitch, “The President does not have the right to collect the content of Americans’ communications without obeying the governing law -- and that law is FISA. Let there be no doubt: FISA has been – and continues to be – the exclusive means for electronic surveillance in this country. This amendment simply reaffirms and strengthens the existing law.”

Well, Democrats couldn't convince enough Republicans that there should be no doubt. And the doubt will remain. The bill failed 57-41, since it needed 60 votes, according to prior agreement between Republicans and Democrats. Update: Here's the tally for that.

We'll keep you updated as the (probably dismal) results come in.

From The Washington Post:

The Bush administration announced yesterday that it intends to bring capital murder charges against half a dozen men allegedly linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, based partly on information the men disclosed to FBI and military questioners without the use of coercive interrogation tactics....

FBI and military interrogators who began work with the suspects in late 2006 called themselves the "Clean Team" and set as their goal the collection of virtually the same information the CIA had obtained from five of the six through duress at secret prisons.

To ensure that the data would not be tainted by allegations of torture or illegal coercion, the FBI and military team won the suspects' trust over the past 16 months by using time-tested rapport-building techniques, the officials said....

Prosecutors and top administration officials essentially wanted to cleanse the information so that it could be used in court, a process that federal prosecutors typically follow in U.S. criminal cases with investigative problems or botched interrogations. Officials wanted to go into court without any doubts about the viability of their evidence, and they had serious reservations about the reliability of what the CIA had obtained for intelligence purposes.

"It was the product of a lot of debate at really high levels," one official familiar with the program said. "A lot of people were involved in concluding that it may not be the saving grace, but it would put us on the best footing we could possibly be in. You can't erase what happened in the past, but this was the best alternative."

Government prosecutors announced Monday that they are seeking the death penalty in the case against six men suspected of plotting the suicide-hijackings of September 11, 2001. The trial, which will be the first in the history of the Guantanamo detention system, faces a number of questions, including "whether waterboarding constitutes torture, how statements obtained by coercion are to be handled, whether detainees may be so psychologically damaged that they may not be able to assist in their defense and exactly what the rules of the trials are to be." The case also raises the possibility that the administration's interrogation methods will be themselves put "on trial" as defense lawyers are likely to question the reliability of evidence obtained through coercive methods. (New York Times, Boston Globe)

A federal Judge has granted Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) the right to collect a "very limited" amount of information from the White House Office of Administration regarding the 10 million e-mails that the White House failed to maintain. CREW, which sued the White House Office of Administration under the Freedom of Information Act, is attempting to prove that the Office of Administration is subject to the public records law and the judge rejected an offer by that agency to provide its own description of its functions and responsibilities. (USA Today)

The House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the CIA's destruction of videotapes of interrogations of terrorist suspects, will be allowed to view videotapes of an interrogation that are in the CIA's possession. Neither the suspect nor the interrogators have been identified publicly and it is not clear how the CIA obtained the tapes. (New York Times)

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It's amazing how seriously people can take a little thing like a presidential caucus.

Everyone has been all over the Washington Republican Party's back over this caucus result thing. But as the party's spokesman laid out to me yesterday, Chairman Luke Esser owed it to the party faithful to announce results Saturday, because no one likes to go to bed with things unresolved.

OK, so it seems that at least four counties had transmitted the wrong information to the party on Saturday. They were supposed to be counting the stated preference of the elected precinct delegates, and they'd counted the sign-in sheets, which reflected the preference for all their caucus attendees -- two measures that seem to have little to do with one another. Oops. As the party spokesman stressed to me yesterday, it's their first time reporting results on the same day, so perhaps mistakes were inevitable.

But never fear! The party has fixed that mistake (at least partially, one of those counties hasn't provided the correct information yet) and John McCain is still in the lead. With 96% percent reporting, he's up 25.6% to Mike Huckabee's 23.3%.

Now maybe the media and Mike Huckabee's lawyers will get off the state GOP's back. The main thing to realize, they want everyone to know, is how little Saturday's caucus bears any relation to the final slate of delegates Washington State will send to the national Republican Convention this summer. From The Seattle Times:

Due to the way Republicans select their delegates, the results could bear little resemblance to the presidential preferences of the 40 Washington state delegates ultimately sent to the GOP national convention in September.

"Nobody won or lost anything on Saturday," said Vance, now a public affairs consultant and McCain supporter. "But every other state had been able to report a 'winner,' so there was expected there would be a 'winner' in Washington state."


So the "winner" of the "caucus" (according to the party's "count") was McCain. Probably. So enough with the fuss already.

How time flies.

At the end of this month, exactly one year after he entered prison, ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), so far the only congressman to go to jail for taking bribes from Jack Abramoff, will move to a halfway house, Roll Call first reported (sub. req.) this morning. And then, because of good behavior, he's due to be released in August, shaving approximately 13 months off his 30-month sentence.

A key issue in Ney's sentencing was that he was a "functional alcoholic," who would sometimes crack open his first beer as early as 7:30 AM. Ney's lawyer tells The Columbus Dispatch that Ney, aka Inmate #28882-016, has been involved in an alcohol treatment program at the minimum security prison, and he's doing "pretty well."

We've been trying to get a handle today on just what's been going on up in Washington state, and I just got off the phone with a spokesman for the Washington Republican Party. Here, at least, is his explanation of what happened on Saturday.

The process as he described it was this: Washington Republicans showed up at their precinct caucuses on Saturday. Each caucus-goer indicated their presidential preference on a sign-in sheet at the door. Then each caucus elected precinct delegates from among those in attendance at the caucus. Each precinct then reported the presidential choice of its elected delegates as indicated on their sign-in sheets. The precincts report up to their respective counties and the counties in turn report to the state GOP.

So why did the state GOP Chair Luke Esser decide to pack it in early on Saturday night? It's a relatively chaotic process, the spokesman said, which was made more chaotic by their first try at same-day reporting. He stressed that the process was "all voluntary." The last results came in around 10 PM. And that was it; the tendency was natural to fold up early, he said. "People want to be fresh for the next day."

So why did Esser call the race with 13% of the delegates still outstanding? "He was giving his analysis," the spokesman said. "He said it appears John McCain has won. This wasn't a certainty." (The party's press release, titled "Sen. McCain Wins Republican Precinct Caucuses in Washington State," bore no such ambiguity.) People who had participated in the caucuses had naturally "expected to hear results and hear analysis of what they had spent the whole day doing," he explained.

Esser's pronouncement had nothing to do with any favoritism for McCain, he said. That's "misinformation." He would have done the same for any other candidate.

The remaining results, he said, are slow going. They probably won't get to 100% today. The state gets results from the county, but some of the precincts are apparently tardy in reporting to the counties. The spokesman said that was as expected. "People went off to work on Monday. People had services on Sunday."

A whole separate issue is the uncertain correlation of Saturday's caucus results with the delegates that the Washington GOP will ultimately send to the convention. The spokesman compared Saturday's results to a "flash poll" that's just a step on the way to the GOP selecting the state's 18 delegates for the convention. And he stressed that they were "at-will" delegates who could change their choice for president at any time.

A Washington blogger who attended the GOP caucuses writes that presidential preference never "came up" in selecting their delegates. The post, titled "What The Washington GOP Precinct Caucus Results Mean," begins, "Nothing."

John Durham, the prosecutor tapped by Attorney General Michael Mukasey to probe the destruction of the CIA’s videotapes of interrogations, finally laid out in detail the purview of his investigation last week. And it’s clear that his focus is on the tapes themselves – not what they might show.

Given Mukasey’s refusal to investigate the use of waterboarding, that’s not much of a surprise. Mukasey had also allowed that Durham could look at the possible use of torture “if it leads to showing motive” for the destruction. Durham’s summary of his investigation jibes with that -- showing that it’s all about the tapes, but that why someone might have destroyed the tapes will also be key to his investigation:

The questions under active review in this investigation focus on whether any federal criminal offenses were committed in connection with the destruction of the…videotapes. More specifically, the investigation team is actively reviewing whether any person or persons obstructed justice, made false statements, or acted in contempt of court or Congress in connection with the destruction of the videotapes. With respect to potential obstruction of justice offenses, we are investigating whether the destruction of the videotapes violated any order issued by any federal judicial officer, and, if so, what the persons’ knowledge, motive, and/or intent was in destroying the tapes or causing their destruction….

Central questions for this investigation include: who within the federal government knew of the existence of the videotaped interrogations at issue; who was aware of the various orders that might have required the preservation of the videotapes; and who was involved, in any way, in the decision and/or directive to destroy the videotapes.


In other words, whether any of this will lead to an examination of the interrogation techniques that were used on the two detainees whose interrogations were videotaped is unclear.

Durham made the disclosure, which was first reported by The New York Times this weekend, as part of the government’s bid to convince a federal judge to withdraw an order to explain the tapes’ destruction. You can read it here.

TPM Reader JW writes in with a little window into the mind of Washington GOP Chair Luke Esser, who decided to stop counting votes on Saturday night just because.

It's a column from Esser's college days, and a column that was clearly intended to be humorous at that. So it should be taken with a grain of salt. On the eve of the 1986 midterm elections, Esser wrote in the University of Washington's paper that he was praying for rain, because that would drive Democratic-voting "shiftless deadbeats" away from the polls. He explained, "Years of interminable welfare checks and free government services have made these modern-day sloths even more lazy. They will vote on election day, if it isn’t much of a bother. But even the slightest inconvenience can keep them from the polling place."

And since, he wrote, "[m]any of the most successful anti-deadbeat voter techniques (poll taxes, sound beatings, etc.) that conservatives have used in the past have been outlawed by busybody judges," he was organizing a "Rain Dance" for conservatives that night. Ha ha ha.

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