House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled two pro forma sessions this week to prevent President Bush from calling a special session to address the vital FISA reforms that Congress allowed to lapse last week so that Pelosi could leave Washington early to attend her daughters wedding. When Congress left on vacation they also left our country’s intelligence community without the tools necessary to protect us. Pelosi has called any suggestions that the expiration of the FISA reforms endangers our country “fear-mongering” but the facts suggest otherwise:
- Strong majorities in both chambers of Congress acknowledge the need to bring FISA into the 21st century. Only far-leftists like Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) oppose the new reforms on civil liberty grounds.
- The only dispute holding up FISA reform is whether to include language protecting telecommunication companies that cooperated with U.S. intelligence needs after 9/11.
- Trial lawyers have contributed $1.5 million to Democrats and other groups to preserve their hope of cashing in on some of the $40 billion in lawsuits they have filed against telecommunication companies. Telecom companies have given only 53% of their money to Republicans and the other 47% to Democrats. Trial lawyers have given 77% of their money to Democrats.
- Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has said that lack of liability protection for telecoms will make it very difficult for the intelligence community to secure private-sector partners in the future. He has also said the expiration of the temporary FISA reforms would “lead to the loss of important tools our workforce relies on.” McConnell was the Director of President Clinton’s National Security Agency from 1992-’96.
- Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami says: “Under FISA, the attorney general can approve surveillance in minutes. Surveillance can begin immediately, and approval of the FISA court can be obtained within three days.” – But as the Wall Street Journal reports, no telecom company would ever comply with an intelligence agency request before they received a court order since they know trial lawyers will sue them under FISA’s antiquated rules. Worse, investors would sue them for putting the company at legal risk.
On some level Pelosi does know the expiration of FISA reforms harms our country’s security. Otherwise she would not have “instructed committee chairs to work on resolving differences with the Senate” bill. If there was no danger, then why the order to committee chairs to keep working?