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February 17, 2008

FISA Fearmongering

For the past few days, various news outfits have been passing around a story about a Cato Institute scholar who says that our intelligence collection will be just fine without FISA reform. Here is the Washington Time's version:

Timothy Lee, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, said the last time Congress overhauled FISA — after the September 11 terrorist attacks — President Bush praised the action, saying the new law "recognizes the realities and dangers posed by the modern terrorist."

"Those are the rules we'll be living under after the Protect America Act expires this weekend," Mr. Lee added. "There's no reason to think our nation will be in any more danger in 2008 than it was in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, or 2006."

What Lee fails to mention is that in February or March of last year (we can't be sure because the ruling is secret), a FISA court judge ruled that foreign-to-foreign communications are subject to a warrant requirement if they are carried over the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure. So there's actually a pretty good reason to think our nation will be in more danger in 2008 than in 2006.

That hasn't stopped Democrats and others from claiming that the Bush Administration is just fear-mongering on the issue. That was the claim of congressional Democrats in August, sore at the spanking they'd received after the intelligence community reported a drop in intelligence gathering of 75%. Democrats are trying to to sing that same song again.

Andy McCarthy at the Corner is still on the case and hits back:

It is worth observing that the Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, was the Director of President Clinton's National Security Agency from 1992-'96. He is not a partisan hack. He was a Vice Admiral in the Navy and is an old intelligence pro.

[...]

When you go from no restrictions to no collection absent probable cause, that represents an enormous drop off in capacity. It's that simple. Democrats who claim that people like McConnell are engaged in partisan fear-mongering are talking nonsense. And as McConnell noted this morning, every day we don't fix this problem, the problem — the investigative leads you don't get, the connections you don't make, the things you don't learn but which you should know — metastasizes. Intelligence is dynamic: you can't stop collecting for a day, a week, a month or more and then figure you are picking up right where you left off. What you have lost tends to stay lost.

Democrats frequently claim that President Bush is engaged in a power grab, that he's trying to overturn the Fourth Amendment. House Democrats spent Friday bleating about an "imperial presidency." They're just spreading a different variety of fear, one that they've perpetuated ever since they started referring to the "sElected President" and "King George."


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 10:19 PM

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