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Friday, February 29, 2008
FISA Fizzled, Osama, Obama Delighted
February 29, 2008
On February 17, 2008, the US intelligence community lost critical tools that allowed them to monitor terrorist communications because the House Leadership chose not to extend authorization for the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP). The focus of the program is to provide the intelligence community with the tools it needs to protect the United States and its citizens, while also protecting the civil liberties of those impacted by such collection.
FISA was originally passed in 1978 (50 U.S.C. §§ 1801) and the Protect America Act (P.L. 110-55) became law on August 5, 2007, which addressed the changes in technology that have taken place over the past 30 years. The Majority Party has refused repeatedly to consider the Senate’s bipartisan bill in the House, which would update and extend the authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The Senate passed the revised FISA bill on February 12, 2008, by a 68-29 vote.
The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell wrote in an opinion editorial in the Washington Post:
“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. (Mike McConnell, Op-Ed, "A Key Gap In Fighting Terrorism," The Washington Post, 2/15/08)
Is there any doubt that Obamaists are aware that our intelligence capabilities are limited during this time and are more than eager to take advantage of this lapse?
Congressman Ken Calvert and others, in an effort to move this issue forward to the floor, have signed onto H.R. 5440, known as the FISA Amendments Act. H.R. 5440 is the same language as the bi-partisan Senate passed bill.
Consider if immunity is necessary to protect the telecommunications companies that cooperated with the government’s request for surveillance assistance in order to ensure the companies are able to cooperate in the future. The Supreme Court recently rejected a challenge to the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program in the case of Civil Liberties Union v. National Security Agency. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled 2-1 in July that the plaintiffs, led by the ACLU, lacked standing to bring the case.
Consider that if the cooperation of such providers is critical to the government's capacity to pursue electronic surveillance to gather foreign intelligence information, and is also essential for collection of communications records for pattern analysis. If the telecommunication providers who responded to the government's requests or demands for assistance did so in good faith, upon assertions by the government that the demand was lawful and that a court order was not required, would you then conclude the providers should be given relief regarding pending law suits?
Many people are rightly concerned about the privacy issues and the ability of the government to monitor U.S. citizen conversations – this issues is about having the right tools to track terrorists overseas who may be seeking to harm the US
If you agree that FISA should not fizzle, write your House and Senate representative.
Contact Congressman Ken Calvert
Orange County Office
26111 Antonio Parkway, Suite 300
Las Flores, CA 92688
Phone: (949) 888-8498
Fax: (949) 888-8524
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