Dems Shift Responsibility to FISA, But Never Took Surveillance Questions to FISA Pre-NYT Story

Sen. Carl Levin (D.-Mich) complained this afternoon that Congress is not an effective “check” on the administration because responsibility to oversee the President’s surveillance policy rests with the FISA court (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), and those members who were briefed were unable to take appropriate action.

“We talk about congressional oversight being a check [on the executive branch]. Well, it should be a check on them, but it hasn’t proven to be much of a check with a Republican-controlled Congress,” said Levin.

Levin shifted congressional responsibility to FISA courts. He said, “FISA acts as a check and balance, that’s the FISA court. Let’s be really clear. FISA law is the check and balance, which the President is ignoring.”

He claimed that was the case because the senators contacted, to date only verified to be Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) and Sen. John Rockefeller (D.-W.Va.), were prohibited from discussing the matter with legal scholars or staff aides.

Regarding the President’s statement that he was authorized to circumvent Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to protect the safety of Americans, Sen. Russ Feingold said, ”I think it’s one of the weakest legal arguments I have ever heard that this war resolution somehow undid the basic laws of wiretapping.”

Senators Levin, Feingold and Jack Reed said they were not among the four rumored members to have been briefed.