Morning Bell: Play Time Is Over

Conn Carroll /

President Bush signed a 15-day extension of the Protect America Act Thursday, giving Congress a total of 195 days since the act was first passed in August to come to an agreement on the permanent reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It is time for the left in Congress to stop playing politics with FISA by pandering to their trial lawyer and Bush-hating base, and pass the changes that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV) says are necessary to protect out country.

While even the most partisan on the left admit FISA must be updated to protect our country, they continue to fight Rockefeller’s bipartisan FISA reform since it would protect the American companies that cooperated wtih the Administration after 9/11. The left in Congress made the Protect America Act changes they passed in August temporary to mollify their base that wants to punish anything and anybody associtated with President Bush regardless of the impact to national security.

Congress’ repeated pleas for extensions for debate of the bill make a mockery of their underlying argument that companies should be punished for cooperating with the government on intelligence before technicalities to surveillance laws are fixed. Technology will always be ahead of the written law. Does the left really want our intelligence community to go blind for 190+ days while the Congress dithers everytime technological changes outstrip current law?

Furthermore, US intelligence officers can not afford to be hampered by uncertainty of the law. Serious counterterrorism investigation take years and consume vast amounts of manpower and resources. By not passing a permament fix to FISA that includes immunity, Congress is disrupting the essential cooperation between the telecommuncation industry and intelligence services necessary to create good foreign intelligence.

To date privacy absolutists have been unable to point to any actual harm that individual Americans have suffered due to government surveillance. On the other hand, since the administration’s surveillance program has been adopted (a program a bipartisan panel of Congress was briefed on) the US has thwarted 19 known terrorist attacks. Congress needs to stop playing politics and pass permament FISA reform now. The clock is ticking…

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