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The Legislative Branch Shows Signs of Life

When I was at the Duke conference last week, I premised a question to ACLU’s Legal Director that ACLU was having more success in the courts than in Congress of late. He responded by joking about my faint praise. Perhaps I reverse jinxed him. Because we’re beginning to make some progress in Congress.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House Majority Leader, postponed apress conference announcing new reforms of the Foreign IntelligenceSurveillance Act after progressive lawmakers banded together and saidthey would fight any legislation that did not include a set of eightprinciples on wiretapping that preserve the "rule of law."

"What’s most significant is that the Progressive Caucus cametogether and said to the leadership that all 72 of us require thatthese provisions be included," said Caroline Fredercikson, LegislativeDirector for the American Civil Liberties Union. "This changes thedynamic significantly."

Meanwhile, back in the Executive Branch, we are making no progress, as you’d expect.

The head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission declined toinvestigate reports that phone companies turned over customer recordsto the National Security Agency, citing national security concerns,according to documents released on Friday.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin turned down a congressional request for aninvestigation as a top intelligence official concluded it would "posean unnecessary risk of damage to the national security," according to aletter National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell sent to Martinon Tuesday.

Frankly, Markey is the kind of person who could bull dog these issues effectively, and Commerce could exert pressure on the phone companies in other ways too. Let’s hope he follows up fully.

We might yet coax this legislative branch out of their stupor, yet.

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