Bring­ing intelligence into the twenty-first cen­tury

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The For­eign Intelligence Sur­veil­lance Act of 1978 (FISA) should be mod­ern­ized to take into ac­count tech­no­log­i­cal changes that have oc­curred dur­ing the past 29 years — es­pe­cially given the fact that the fail­ure to do so will in­crease the like­li­hood that ter­ror­ists will be able to strike the United States? The is­sue shouldn’t be a mat­ter of par­ti­san de­bate, but the Demo­cratic lead­er­ship in the House and Se­nate ap­pears de­ter­mined to make it into one.

House and Se­nate Repub­li­cans have joined with Pres­i­dent Bush and the di­rec­tor of na­tional intelligence, Mike McCon­nell, to sup­port amend­ing FISA to make it pos­si­ble to wire­tap tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions in­volv- ing sus­pected ter­ror­ists lo­cated out­side the United States with­out ob­tain­ing ju­di­cial ap­proval. Un­for­tu­nately, how­ever, the Demo­cratic lead­er­ship has been block­ing such changes from com­ing to the floor for a vote, thereby jeop­ar­diz­ing the abil­ity of intelligence agen­cies to pre­vent a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

FISA, which es­tab­lished the leg­isla­tive frame­work for court ap­proval to con­duct for­eign intelligence sur­veil­lance of per­sons inside the United States, was specif­i­cally de­signed to ex­clude the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of over­seas sur­veil­lance ac­tiv­i­ties. When the law was en­acted in 1978, lo­cal tele­phone calls were made on a wire; calls made over­seas were made us­ing wire­less net­works. What the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and Republi- cans want to do (and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, un­der pres­sure from the Dai­lyKos and the rest of the left-wing bl­o­go­sphere are op­pos­ing) is to re­form the law to ac­count for the fact that to­day, calls made over­seas are made us­ing a wire, and U.S. intelligence agen­cies lose valu­able time when they have to get a war­rant in or­der to in­ter­cept th­ese calls. The re­quire­ment to ob­tain a war­rant to mon­i­tor a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion in­volv­ing sus­pected al Qaeda op­er­a­tives in Islamabad and Lon­don is non­sen­si­cal. It does noth­ing to en­hance the civil lib­er­ties of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, and in fact in­creases the like­li­hood of a ter­ror­ist at­tack that would con­sti­tute the ul­ti­mate vi­o­la­tion of our lib­er­ties.

Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Mitch McCon­nell and House Repub­li­can leader John Boehner want Congress to re­main in Wash­ing­ton to en­act the rel­a­tively mod­est and sen­si­ble FISA re­forms pushed by the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi have made state­ments in­di­cat­ing a will­ing­ness to com­pro­mise, but they are be­ing pounded from the left-wing blog­gers who are in­struct­ing them not to yield an inch. The Demo­cratic lead­er­ship faces a crit­i­cal de­ci­sion: Will it pan­der to the lu­natic fringe or be­have like re­spon­si­ble adults and work out a sen­si­ble FISA over­haul be­fore Congress leaves town? This much is cer­tain: Al Qaeda won’t be tak­ing an Au­gust vacation.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.