The Bush Administration is not being straight with the American people on FISA. The President said that there was no excuse for letting the current FISA law expire, but threatened to veto any extension. He said failure to pass a new FISA law would put our country in more danger of an attack, but DNI McConnell said the real issue was getting retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies. DNI McConnell also said that we were losing capability, but yesterday testified that intelligence collection could continue even if the current law expires. Instead of playing political games and trying to force Congress to accept its bill, the Administration should work with Congress to find a compromise that gives our intelligence professionals the tools they need while protecting Americans’ civil liberties.
President Bush Said There Was No Excuse for Letting FISA Law Expire. “There is really no excuse for letting this critical legislation expire.” [President Bush, 2/14/04]
- But President Bush Threatened to Veto Any Extension of FISA Law. “Patchwork extensions of critical national security tools do not give our Intelligence Community the long-term certainty they need to do their jobs and protect our Nation. Nor do they give needed certainty to our private partners, whose assistance is so vital to this enterprise. H.R. 5349 fails to recognize that the threat posed by al Qaeda will no more expire in 24 days than it will in three days when the current extension of the PAA lapses. Accordingly, if H.R. 5349 were presented to the President, he would veto the bill.” [Statement of Administration Policy, 2/13/08]
President Bush Said Failing to Pass FISA Puts U.S. in More Danger of a Terrorist Attack. “And this bill comes to the House of Representatives and it was blocked. And by blocking this piece of legislation our country is more in danger of an attack… It matters because the intelligence officials won’t have tools necessary to get as much information as we possibly can to protect you.” [President Bush Statement, 2/15/08]
- But DNI McConnell Said the Issue With the FISA Modernisation Law Is Providing Retroactive Immunity for Telecommunications Companies. “The issue is liability protection for the private sector. We can’t do this mission without their help. Currently there is no retroactive liabily protection for them. They’re being sued for billions of dollars.” [NPR, 2/15/08]
DNI McConnell Said U.S. Was Losing Capability to Protect the Country While Congress Debates FISA. “So what the American people need to appreciate is we are losing capability to protect the country as we debate this without acting on the bill that’s already passed the Senate by a two-thirds majority.” [NPR, 2/15/08]
- But DNI McConnell Testified That Collection of Foreign Terrorist Communications Would Continue for One Year If Protect America Act Expires. Asked if targeting and collection of communications of foreign terrorists now underway will continue if the Protect America Act expires, DNI McConnell said, “The provisions of the bill allow us, once we had submitted to the FISA court the procedures and so on, they’re approved, and we are loaded, from the date that’s approved, we get a year. So some level of collection will go forward if it, in fact, expires on Saturday.” [Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing, 4/14/08]
- But DNI McConnell Agreed that No Current Intelligence Collection Efforts Would Be Shut Off If Protect America Act Lapsed on Saturday. Asked if collection currently ongoing under the Protect America Act will be shut off if the law expires on Saturday, DNI McConnell said, “It would not be turned off. The issue becomes compelling private sector cooperation and then things that change, yes, sir. That’s correct. The way you stated it is correct.” [Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing, 4/14/08]