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Correcting the Record on FISA

In a letter last week to Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell warned that some telecommunications companies have refused to cooperate with surveillance orders.  But less than 24 hours later, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement confirming that telecommunications companies are in fact continuing to cooperate with the government.  

Democrats believe the FISA law should be focused on giving our intelligence community the legal tools necessary to protect our national security, not on protecting the telecommunications companies or the Administration.  

Statement by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence [2/23/08]:
'We learned last night after sending this letter that, as a result of these efforts, new surveillances under existing directives issued pursuant to the Protect America Act will resume, at least for now.'

The authorizations issued under the PAA are in effect for up to one full year. This means that all of the surveillance in effect today can remain in effect for at least six more months.

Los Angeles Times: White House Backtracks on Claims of Lost Intelligence, 2/24/08
'On Friday evening, administration officials told reporters in a conference call that at least one telecommunications company was refusing to provide information that could help track newly suspected terrorists.  But two hours later, administration officials notified congressional officials that the company had agreed to cooperate, according to the Democratic congressional official. As a result, all of the nation's telecommunications companies are now providing all of the intelligence requested by the administration, even without the new law.'

AP, 2/23/08
'The Justice Department and Office of National Intelligence said Saturday that telecommunication companies are now complying with existing surveillance warrants. The agencies' statement reversed their declaration late Friday that some companies had refused to initiate wiretaps against people covered by orders issued under the expired law.'

Statement by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence [2/23/08]:
'In addition, although our private partners are cooperating for the time being, they have expressed understandable misgivings about doing so in light of the on-going uncertainty and have indicated that they may well discontinue cooperation if the uncertainty persists.'

Under FISA, telecommunications companies can be compelled by the FISA court to help with surveillance and have legal protection for compliance.

AP/CBS, 2/23/08
'It is also true that under the law telecoms would be safe from any lawsuits related to current or future wiretaps that invaded a citizen's privacy if they were engaged under a court-ordered warrant - it would be legal. The only wiretaps the telecoms could be liable for in civil cases would be illegal wiretaps - which the administration, under the law, couldn't legally pursue anyway.'