John McCain’s loudest applause line at his CPAC appearance yesterday came when he said:

It’s shameful and dangerous that Senate Democrats are blocking an extension of surveillance powers that enable our intelligence and law enforcement to defend our country against radical Islamic extremists.

McCain was referring to efforts by some Senators to include measures in an otherwise bipartisan reform of FISA that would punish US companies that helped US intelligence agencies defend our country after 9/11. Amendments by some of the more leftist members of the Senate to alter other provisions of the bipartisan reform were soundly rejected. The only real obstacle left blocking Senate passage of the bipartisan measure is the insistence by some Democrats that the legislation not include retroactive immunity for businesses that cooperated with government requests to ignore possible technical violations of FISA’s outdated provisions in the wake of 9/11.

Currently the House-passed version of FISA reform does not include this necessary immunity, but in a January 28, letter, 21 Democrats in the Blue Dog Coalition sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) supporting immunity. Also in January, the White House provided the House Intelligence Committee with documents about the NSA program in question as part of an effort to win support for retroactive immunity.

It is time for Congress to stop playing politics with national security and pass sensible legislation that meets the needs of those who protect the country from attack while upholding Americans’ civil liberties. Congress only has one more week before temporary FISA reform expires.

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