Sunday, February 17, 2008

Congress Drops The Ball On US Intel - Again

"It's an OK job, provided you don't want to work for a living." - John Fitzgerald Kennedy, describing Congress while serving there.

JFK had it more right then he knew.

What do you do if you're in Congress and a bill vital to US security against Islamic terrorism is due to expire in a couple of days? Do you work overtime on the people's business you were elected to do and make sure it gets renewed?

Nah. It's time for a ten day vacation!

The bill I'm speaking about, of course, is the Protect America Act which was designed to iron out the difficulties inherent in the 1978 FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) which allows US inteligence personnel to spy on comunications between suspected foreign agents. The original FISA, which was enacted over 30 years ago before the era of modern telecommunications has strictures that simply don't work in the era of e-mail and lightning fast wireless communications such as text messaging. Under certain conditions, the original FISA even requires warrants for our intelligence people to spy on communications between two suspected foreign agents even if they're both on foreign soil.

It's also worth considering that FISA was drafted during the Carter Administration, when our intelligence establishment was being gutted by one of the most ineffectual presidents in our history withthe help of some of the same accomplices in Congress that still sit there today.

The Protect America Act is temporary legislation was designed to bring FISA up to date and close a number of loopholes in the original outdated laws.It was originally passed in August of 2007, but was designed to 'sunset' and end on February 15 of this year.

What was before Congress was legislation to make the Protect America Act permanent and to give legal immunity to telcommunications companies cooperating with US intelligence efforts.

By a vote of 68-29, the Senate last week passed a bipartisan bill to do exactly that. Two interesting sidebars: both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voted against this bill that's vital to US intelligence and voted for an amendment by Chris Dodd (D-CT) to exclude the provision of legal immunity for telecommunications companies that was voted down by a huge majority. And just by coincidence, Clinton, Obama and Dodd all receive substantial support and contributions from the trial lawyers associations.

When the bill was sent to the House, House Republicans demanded the majority bring the Senate bill to the House floor and said they would remain in Washington during the recess to complete the bill, but the Democratic majority chose to adjourn for the President’s Day recess without even considering the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate. And because of that, the current 15-day extension expired at midnight on Saturday.

These same House Democrats found ample time to spend hours on the state of Roger Clemmon's buttocks and what was injected there and to issue partisan contempt citations against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton and ex-White House Council Harriet Miers over the dead issue of the investigation into the firings of U.S. attorneys.

Those issues were apparently more important than updating our laws so that our intelligence community won't be forced to jump through bureaucratic hoops to open new terrorist surveillance cases and do their job properly to protect the country during wartime.

President Bush had it right when he accused the House of being 'irresponsible' and said "House leaders chose politics over protecting the country — and our country is at greater risk as a result."

OK, given the President's record on our borders and his constant shilling for Dubai and the Saudi wahabists in our country, this is a little bit like the pot calling the kettle black - but he's still right on this one. These people are playing politics with our lives.

The Protect America Act is important legislation designed to to close a significant intelligence gap by enabling intelligence professionals to collect, without a court order, foreign intelligence on targets located overseas - known as ‘foreign-to-foreign contacts’ - regardless of how the information is moved.

Not doing it,especially in wartime is absolute idiocy.

Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley put it quite well. "We're making all the time every effort we can on intelligence, and when one of your important tools is taken away from you for a period of time, it's hard to compensate for it," he said. "That's why we call it a 'gap in intelligence.' Gaps are hard to fill."

There is absolutely nothing in the Protect America Act that conflicts with the historic way that America has dealt with the issue of civl liberties during wartime. FDR would have been astounded by the political posturing surrounding what amounts to basic common sense when protecting our country...but unfortunately, this is what the majority of the Democrats seem to have morphed into.

This week, NancyPelosi and her pals will return to their districts and relax for a few days.

Meanwhile, the jihadis aren't taking a vacation from trying to destroy us.

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