The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has crippled a key part of our anti-terror program. Placing undue power in the hands of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court established under FISA exposes us to increased peril from terrorists. The Court has put new restrictions in place on the ability of US spy agencies to intercept emails and telephone calls of suspected terrorists overseas, according to a report in today's Los Angeles Times. Analysts believe our efforts to track terror suspects are impaired at a time when America is under a heightened risk of attack. The US is often a conduit for international messages between two foreign countries that merely transverse our telecommunications network.
Such forbidden-to-intercept messages include the use of internet sites to support terror groups (a risk highlighted by this recent Weekly Standard article). Apparently, a single FISA judge rejected a government application for a "basket warrant"- a term that refers to court approval for surveillance activity encompassing multiple targets, rather than a warrant focusing on a case-by-case basis for specific terrorism suspects. National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell told a Senate Committee on May 1st that US spy agencies are "actually missing a significant portion of what we should be getting" because of legal obstacles. The LA Times continued:
The issue has become the center of a fierce new debate on Capitol Hill over how to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to get a special court's approval before monitoring communications of people in the U.S. Public records show that the court rejects few of the government's requests: In 2005, for example, it approved 2,072 applications and denied none; in 2006 it approved 2,176 and denied, in part, one.
This week, unable to agree on a broader overhaul, the Bush administration and congressional leaders have turned instead to passing temporary legislation designed to address concerns raised about the recent court ruling. Even so, they remain at odds over the FISA court's role.
Democrats have proposed a temporary fix that would give the FISA court new authority to grant court orders covering "certain aggregated foreign collection while protecting rights and privacy of U.S. persons."
But the Bush administration has pushed for broader language eliminating any requirement for a court order in cases where the target is "reasonably believed to be outside of the United States." Instead, the attorney general would have power to authorize NSA surveillance of foreign targets and to compel Internet and telecommunications companies in the United States to comply with requests for data or access to the communications flowing through their networks.
That provision has prompted significant resistance from Democrats, many of whom have been calling for the resignation of Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales over allegations that he misled Congress or lied to lawmakers in testimony about NSA surveillance activities
Congress has known about this problem since at least May 1st, and has not acted to even approve a temporary fix to the problem. Instead, the Democrat-controlled Congress would rather spend its time engaged in fierce partisan attacks on the Bush Administration. A dereliction of duty on the part of Senator Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose sense of duty apparently extends only to fierce Democratic partisans on the left end of the spectrum, instead of to all of their fellow Americans.
The New York Times mentions the FISA issue in passing without mentioning Congress has known about this failure since MAY 1ST! The Times seemingly gives a pass to the Democratic leadership regarding their failure to respond to the FISA problem, by failing to report on the date that Congress became aware of the failing by the FISA court to protect America from attack All the news fit to print-or just plain old whitewashing by the NYT?