The first duty of our government is to defend the country. The United States is currently locked in a Long War with non-state actors who desperately want to kill our civilians. The collection of foreign intelligence is perhaps our best weapon against these groups.
On Aug. 5, 2007, Congress passed temporary reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA) that even the most partisan on the left admit are necessary to defend America. It has now been been 192 days since the House first knew they needed to pass a permanent reform to FISA. It has also been 12 days since the House missed the first deadline Feb. 1, and were granted a 15-day extension to do their job and pass legislation to protect our country. Now they want another 21 days to consider the measure.
Enough is enough. While existing FISA court orders would stay in place should the House fail to meet another deadline, U.S. intelligence services would be forced to obtain individual warrants for all new targets participating in foreign-to-foreign communications. Congressional Quarterly reports that while this will not be an immediate threat, a backlog could build, as happened last summer, that could threaten our security.
CQ further reports that “among experts in national security law, there is no agreement on whether telecommunications companies would continue to be compelled to comply with administration surveillance demands.” This is exactly why the House must agree to the bipartisan Senate bill that passed with immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperated with intelligence services after 9/11. If companies know they will definitely be dragged into court if they help protect our country, then they will not cooperate with our government now or in the future.
The House has had more than half a year to conduct this important debate. They will not learn anything new in another 21 days. It is time for them to act now.