Senate Democrats

Fact and Fiction on FISA

This morning, Vice President Cheney was the latest Administration official to talk about the need for FISA legislation, even as Bush Republicans in the Senate continue to oppose Democrats’ efforts to pass a one-month extension of the law. However, their opposition to a one-month extension puts their credibility at risk. Democrats believe Congress should have the time it needs to debate legislation that improves our nation’s ability to fight terrorism while protecting Americans’ civil liberties and have proposed a one-month extension of the law. Instead of playing politics, Bush Republicans should work with Democrats to give our intelligence professionals the tools they need to keep America more secure.

FICTION: Congress Has Dragged its Feet, Running the Risk of Allowing the Protect America Act to Expire.

  • FACT: Democrats Have Twice Proposed Temporary Extension of the Protect America Act, But Were Blocked by Bush Republicans. Yesterday, Senator Reid said, “I am going to ask consent now that the Senate proceed to the consideration of S. 2541 which is a 30-day extension of the Foreign Intelligence Act we will deal with; that the bill be read three times and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table with no intervening action… I hope we can have this extension so I need not belabor the point, we asked this before we left and I ask again.” However, Senator McConnell objected to his request. [Congressional Record, 1/22/08]  

FICTION: If Protect America Act Is Not Extended Immediately, “Terrorists Will Be Free to Make Phone Calls Without Fear of Being Surveilled by U.S. Intelligence.”

  • FACT: Intelligence Gathering Under the Protect America Act Could Continue At Least Until August Even If it Is Not Extended. According to a press release issued by the office of Senator Rockefeller,expiration of the Protect America Act will not end the government’s ability to collect intelligence under that mechanism. “Moreover, the PAA actually allows intelligence collection to continue until the certifications and directives made by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence expire. Thus, collection can continue until at least August, regardless of whether Congress passes an extension.” [Senator Rockefeller Press Release, 1/15/08]
  • FACT: Intelligence Community Has Many Other Sources of Authority to Continue Communications Surveillance Beyond PAA. “Rockefeller noted that the February 1 expiration of the Protect America Act (PAA) does not end the authority to collect intelligence. In fact, all other collection activities, including collection under other parts of FISA, are unaffected by the expiration of the PAA. United States intelligence agencies have always had, and will continue to have, the ability to collect communications intelligence from a variety of other sources. The Protect America Act is only one source of that authority.” [Senator Rockefeller Press Release, 1/15/08]

FICTION: Republicans Are Putting the Safety of Americans First By Demanding a Permanent Fix to the FISA Law. 

  • FACT: Bush Republicans Are Playing Politics by Decrying Expiration of the Protect America Act At the Same Time that They Oppose Extending It. Yesterday, Senator Bond, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee said, “To stall legislation needed to help our intelligence community prevent attacks and protect American lives is not only irresponsible, it’s also dangerous.” Bond made this comment the same day that Bush Republicans blocked a one-month extension of the Protect America Act. [New York Times, 1/23/08; Congressional Record, 1/22/08]