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Editorials & National Security Experts on FISA

1.    Time for Legislating, Washington Post

Mr. Bush's pass-it-now-or-the-terrorists-will-win rhetoric is overheated fearmongering. He should agree to a second extension, which would allow intelligence agencies to operate under the existing law. The fact is that even if the law is permitted to expire Saturday, as scheduled, the orders under which surveillance is being conducted would remain in place. Any new orders could be issued by the FISA court, and without the backlog that had slowed the court's operations before the Protect America Act was passed last August.

2.    Bush uses scare tactics to railroad flawed spying act, USA Today

Bush is pressing the House to accept the Senate bill and refusing to temporarily extend the current law, which expires on Saturday. That's irresponsible. The House and Senate need time to negotiate their differences because the House has no telecom immunity provision. Bush's implication that expiration of the law would expose the nation to terrorist danger is worse than disingenuous: The eavesdropping authorizations under the law continue for a year. Crucial decisions about civil liberties in an age of terror shouldn't be driven by fear-mongering.

3.    Spy Legislation, Philadelphia Inquirer

Using scare tactics is no way to work out how the nation should craft the spying tools needed in its fight to detect and thwart terrorist attacks.  It's no surprise, of course, but that's exactly what President Bush did...

4.    A showdown on spying, San Francisco Chronicle

His [President Bush's] pressure tactics have brought on a showdown with the House and Pelosi, who shouldn't permit the president to bend established law in the name of national security.

Experts: Surveillance Will Continue as the House and Senate Negotiate Differences on the FISA Modernization Bill  

The refusal by President Bush and House Republicans to support an extension of last summer's Protect America Act for 21 days so that a House/Senate conference on a FISA modernization bill could be completed does not mean that surveillance activities will cease:

Richard Clarke, Former Chief National Security Council Counterterrorism Advisor
Served in Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush Administrations
'On one issue in particular - FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) - the president misconstrued the truth and manipulated the facts... Simply put, it was wrong for the president to suggest that warrants issued in compliance with FISA would suddenly evaporate with congressional inaction.'  [Philadelphia Inquirer, February 1, 2008]

Mort Halperin, Director of U.S. Advocacy for the Open Society Institute
Served in Johnson, Nixon and Clinton Administrations
'Even if the President permits the PAA to temporarily lapse, the intelligence community will have the authority not only to continue on-going surveillances for a year but to add other surveillances as long as they are consistent with the existing procedures.'  [2/7/08]

Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security
Mr. Wainstein 'said in an interview that if the August bill was allowed to expire in 10 days, intelligence officials would still be able to continue eavesdropping on already approved targets for another year under the law.' [New York Times, 1/23/08]
Kate Martin, Director of the Center for National Security Studies
'If the government learns of new individuals apparently plotting terrorist activities, it can immediately surveil such individuals -- whether they are here or calling here from abroad -- by obtaining a FISA court order...  As officials have confirmed to the Congress, the court can issue an order within literally minutes of being asked and such order can be implemented within minutes.  Or the government can start surveillance without a court order under the always existing FISA emergency authority.' [2/7/08]