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February 15, 2008

FISA: Hey, Congress, There is a War On!

As Ace posted yesterday, the Democrats have decided that there isn't enough time to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the new FISA law. They've already left Washington for a week-long recess, despite Republican offers to stay in town and work as late as necessary to get the law done. August's temporary patch runs out at midnight tonight.

At that point, various terrorist surveillance efforts and other necessary foreign intelligence collection will be in violation of outdated laws which require that thousands of warrant requests be brought in secret to the FISA court. In a world of wireless communications and disposable phones, the old FISA law will grind our intelligence-gathering operations to a halt. We need a new law and we need it now. There is a war on.

Andy McCarthy, writing over at National Review, describes the problems with FISA reform, and why we absolutely must have it. Democratic obstinacy about this has centered on the issue of telecom immunity for participation in the government's terrorist surveillance programs.

For nearly three years, Democrats and their Bush-bashing allies have politicized national security, inveighing — despite the aforementioned court precedent — that it was a violation of law for the telecoms to comply with the administration’s post-9/11 requests for assistance (requests made when intelligence indicated additional waves of attack were likely; requests about which top Democrats in Congress were fully briefed). Democrats have encouraged the lawsuits as useful tools for portraying the administration as lawless. Not content to leave the telecoms holding the bag, they have taken every opportunity to signal their determination to make the telecoms pay for the Bush administration’s purported sins.

So, if you’re a telecom, why on earth would you cooperate if the Bush administration yet again decided to resort to its constitutional power to protect the country? You might be totally sympathetic — and the telecoms’ prior patriotic service demonstrates that they are. But you’d be opening yourself up to yet another round of multibillion-dollar class-action suits. You’d have no choice but to say, “Mr. President, sorry, but you need a court order.” And, indeed, if Democrats continue their recklessness, someone is eventually going to say, “Y’know, we can’t even trust your court orders — how do we know you’re not going to let someone sue us for complying with them?

It being an election year, I would be remiss if I did not tell you that Senators Clinton and Obama have both repeatedly opposed telecom immunity and responsible FISA reform (although only Obama showed up for Tuesday's vote). As for the probable Republican nominee, I've already said that I may not select a presidential candidate on my ballot this year. Singing his faint praises ("don't you know he's a war hero!") isn't likely to change my mind. But I suspect they'll get better results, and not only from me, by emphasizing just how horrible the opposition is on things like FISA reform.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 06:30 AM

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