FISA: High Noon at Midnight Friday

By February 14, 2008Briefly Legal, Communications

From Andrew C. McCarthy at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writing in the National Review Online:

In today’s article, I catalogue some of the problems with the Senate bill which would overhaul FISA — while explaining that the bill absolutely must be passed by the House or our foreign intelligence collection is going to collapse. It would be unconscionable for Democrats to allow that to happen while our nation confronts an enemy hell-bent on reprising 9/11 and while we have 200,000 men and women in uniform relying on the continuing flow of information from our intelligence services.

Well it looks like the unconscionable is about to occur. I am hearing from several sources that the House is planning to recess on Friday without taking up the Senate bill. That would mean the lapse of our surveillance authority at midnight.

McCarthy’s take highlights the partisan particulars of the debate, which is, inded, the unfortunate reality here. Still, it should be noted that the Senate bill passed and the House temporary extension were defeated thanks to Republicans AND Democrats, both.

Much tit for tat right now. Majority Leader Hoyer’s office sends out a page of talking points accusing the White House and Congressional Republicans of politicizing the debate. It’s obviously not intended to persuade, because the document leads with Richard Clarke, now a partisan fighter for the anti-war left.

There has certainly been enough time already.

UPDATE (12:30 p.m.): From The Foundry blog at Heritage:

Campaign contribution data reveal that those opposing protection for telecommunications companies received $1.5 million from the trial lawyers that are seeking to cash in law suits based on possible post-9/11 technical violations of FISA. A bipartisan coalition of Senators passed FISA legislation that protects these cooperating companies. A bipartisan coalition, which includes 21 Blue Dog Democrats, wants to pass similar legislation in the House. Political gamesmanship is no way to protect our country. The House needs to step up to the plate and pass FISA reform so we can defend our country within the rule of law.

UPDATE (1:45 p.m.): President Bush says he will delay his scheduled trip to Africa to sign the electronic surveillance bill into law.

House Republican Leader John Boehner has just called on Republicans to leave the chamber to protest vote on holding Josh Bolten and Harriett Miers in contempt, rather than voting on the FISA legislation.

UPDATE (1:52 p.m.) Majority Leader Steny Hoyer blames Senate Republicans for delays and disputes President Bush’s assertion that the expiration of the Protect America Act will endanger the company. FISA will remain in effect, Hoyer says. “So I tell my friends, we are pursuing the politics of fear, unfounded fear.”

UPDATE (2:02 p.m.): Speaker Pelosi and House Republicans holding competing news conference.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Paul Dirks says:

    You can blather on about who is “politicizing” whom but the President can’t have it both ways. Either the August law’s expiration is no big deal or his veto threats are grossly irresponsible.

    Choose one.

  • po says:

    It’s not about the left or the right, it’s about the Constitution, that “damn piece of paper” we’re “over there” fighting for so we don’t have to “fight them over here” to protect it. You cannot vacuum up all communications traffic that is routed through the US and expect to be in compliance with the Constitutions reasonable suspicion requirement. Don’t like it, change the Constitution. But since the misdeeds of the British crown are what fueled the need for the 4th Amendment, and the current administration is acting more like George the III rather GHWB, I doubt that’s going to happen.

    The current fight is about nothing more than immunity. The President wants it. The majority of Americans don’t. So the President is going to hold the country hostage and threaten mushroom clouds in NYC to try and scare us to get his way. Nice try, and it’s worked many, many times before. But the pattern has been noticed, and those threats, without any shred of credible evidence to back them up, are now seen for what they are, idle threats.

    As for our intelligence gathering being compromised, doubt it. I’m sure there is a super, doubt secret executive order signed off on by DOJ allowing everyone to carry on as they have been.

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