Senate Democrats

Reid Urges President To Give Congress The Time It Needs To Debate Surveillance Law

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada today sent President Bush a letter urging him to support a one-month extension of the nation’s foreign surveillance program.  A day after Senate Republicans objected to giving Congress the time it needs to modernize the legislation before it expires on Feb. 1, Reid asked the President to work with Congress to give our intelligence professionals the tools they need to make America more secure.  Democrats remain committed to improving our nation’s ability to fight terrorism while protecting Americans’ civil liberties. 

The text of the letter is below:

January 23, 2008

President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

I write to request that you work cooperatively with Congress to ensure that important intelligence gathering activities continue without interruption while we work to strengthen the legal framework for such activities. 

Last summer, Congress acted on an expedited basis to authorize a foreign surveillance program that you described as critical to our national security.  That law (Public Law 110-55) contained a six-month sunset provision to allow for a more thorough review before the program would be authorized on a longer term basis. 

Since then, Congress has worked diligently to address this matter.  The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill last November, and two Senate committees have each reported a version of the bill.  The full Senate began consideration of the legislation in December and is set to resume its floor debate shortly.  But it now appears doubtful that a final bill can be negotiated and passed by both Houses prior to the February 1 expiration date. 

Yesterday, I proposed a short-term extension of current law so that the intelligence community may continue ongoing surveillance activities while Congress finalizes a longer term bill.  Unfortunately, Senate Republicans objected.  I urge you to announce your public support for a brief extension of current law so that existing authorities are not allowed to expire while we complete work on this important bill. 

Congress is working on a bipartisan basis to provide our intelligence professionals with the tools they need to combat terrorism, while protecting the privacy of law abiding Americans.  The legislative process on this critical issue should neither be rushed, nor tainted by political gamesmanship.

Sincerely,                                 

Senator Harry Reid
Majority Leader

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