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October 17, 2007

FISA Fight: Democrats Scramble To Figure Out How To Oppose Amendment Giving Wiretappers Right To Surveil Osama bin Ladin and Other Terrorists Whenver They Like

They're in danger of losing many of those freshmen "moderates" who won in swing districts and have to pretend they give a shit about national security.

- Since Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and GOP leaders announced their motion-to-recommit proposal to ensure that our Intelligence Community can conduct surveillance on Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda, or any other foreign terrorist organization targeting America for attack, Democratic leaders have been scrambling to line up votes from vulnerable Democrats to who are concerned about voting against the common-sense GOP proposal. With the House in disarray, Democratic leaders have delayed action on their bill amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The Majority’s bill says that if a foreign target operating overseas – like Osama Bin Laden – has either had contact with a U. S. person or called a U.S. number, our intelligence officials would be required to obtain a FISA court order to listen into their communications. This is unacceptable, and it jeopardizes the safety and security of the American people. Boehner issued the following statement:

“Our proposal gives Democrats a very simple choice: They can allow our intelligence officials to conduct surveillance on likes of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda or prohibit them from doing so and jeopardize our national security. Every member of the Majority will now have the opportunity to go on record and take a firm position for or against giving our intelligence community all the tools they need to keep America safe.”

In a post titled “Putting Democrats on the Record on Terrorist Surveillance,” Jeff Emanuel from conservative blog Red State said the proposal will allow Democrats to act on their rhetoric:

“Very cut-and-dried, and an opportunity for Democrats who have been calling the War on Terror a war simply against Osama bin Laden a chance to go on the record, before America, and reaffirm their commitment to capturing him and to thwarting (and defeating) his terrorist network.”

This Heritage piece lays out the stakes.

The House of Representatives passed the Protect America Act of 2007 (PAA) on August 4, 2007, and the President signed it into law the next day. Despite the disclaimers by Members of Congress who want to create a more restrictive regime for gathering intelligence on terrorists, the PAA passed because it had bipartisan support and because Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Mike McConnell spoke personally with approximately 260 Members. He explained why the PAA was necessary to remedy the damage caused by an unprecedented and seemingly erroneous decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in May of this year.[4] The decision opened an intelligence gap by effectively requiring the federal government, for the first time ever, to obtain a FISA warrant for any surveillance of persons located overseas if their electronic communications (e.g., emails, cell-phone calls, and text messages) might possibly be routed through the United States.

Because most of the world's largest telecommunications and Internet service providers are located in the United States, this would have required a FISA warrant for surveillance of potentially every person located overseas. No one could know in advance whether any communication by a person located outside the United States might end up being routed through the United States. DNI McConnell disclosed that thousands of individuals overseas are being monitored for terrorist activities. Obtaining approval for each intercept would be nearly impossible.

After approving common-sense improvements in the process before the elections, they are now seeking to repeal the very law they voted for now that they've safely won Congress and have the advantages of incumbency to stave off challengers.

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posted by Ace at 06:52 PM

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