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2/15/08

AP spins Pelosi's delay of key Anti-Terrorism Bill

The Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell says:

(WP)- "For almost two years, we have worked with Congress to modernize FISA and ensure that the intelligence community can effectively collect the information needed to protect our country from attack... Without the act in place, vital programs would be plunged into uncertainty and delay, and capabilities would continue to decline. Under the Protect America Act, we obtained valuable insight and understanding, leading to the disruption of planned terrorist attacks. Expiration would lead to the loss of important tools our workforce relies on to discover the locations, intentions and capabilities of terrorists and other foreign intelligence targets abroad. Some critical operations, including our ability to adjust to dynamic terrorist threats that exploit new methods of communication, which sometimes requires assistance from private parties, would probably become impossible. And the difficulties we face in obtaining this essential help from private parties would worsen significantly if the act expires or is merely extended without addressing this issue. Without long-term legislation that includes liability protection, we will be delayed in gathering -- or may simply miss -- intelligence needed to protect the nation.

The Surveillance Bill passed in the Senate Tuesday would renew an existing law that "allows the government to initiate wiretaps for up to one year against a wide range of targets. It also explicitly compels telecommunications companies to comply with the orders, and protects them from civil lawsuits that may be filed against them for doing so." AP

AP claims this doesn't mean the government is totally hindered without these laws in place. "Even if the law expires, the government can get an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to compel their cooperation." AP

But this is a lengthy, expensive, and time consuming process. It doesn't guarantee surveillance. And those companies still may get sued. Mike McConnell probably knows what he's talking about.

But, Pelosi just didn't have time! Says AP:

(AP)..."The easy solution, say Democratic congressional leaders, is to extend the current law long enough to allow the House and Senate to work out the differences in their respective surveillance bills. The House finished its version in October, but the Senate did not finish until this week, pushing Congress hard up against the deadline.

Actually, Congress has been working on this bill for two years. They had plenty of time. Also, AP fails to report that the Senate passed their bill with an overwhelming majority: 68 to 29. But they did report: "Unable to muster the votes to extend the current law, House leaders say they'd rather let it lapse and operate under the old FISA rules than be pressured by the White House into accepting the Senate bill."

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