Surveillance Program Authorization Expires

"By blocking this piece of legislation, our country is more in danger of an attack."

So says President Bush as the law authorizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program is set to expire today:


With a government eavesdropping law about to expire, Washington is awash in accusations over who's to blame.

President Bush said Friday that "our country is in more danger of an attack" because of Congress' failure to adopt a Senate bill that would have renewed a law that made it easier for the government to spy on foreign phone calls and e-mails that pass through the United States.

That bill also would have shielded from lawsuits telecommunications companies that helped the government wiretap U.S. computer and phone lines after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks without clearance from a secret court that was established specifically to oversee such activities. In its competing version of the legislation, the House intentionally left out that feature.

"American citizens must understand, clearly understand that there's still a threat on the homeland. There's still an enemy which would like to do us harm," Bush said. "We've got to give our professionals the tools they need, to be able to figure out what the enemy is up to so we can stop it."
How important is the TSP to our efforts to interdict a terrorist attack on the US? Many in the intelligence community believe that the Terrorist Surveillance Program has been invaluable in tracking the movements of known terrorists, helping us understand the connections between various terrorist cells, and in making it very difficult for terrorists to communicate freely with one another.
 
But as far as directly foiling a terrorist attack, the program has never been able to make that claim. It was never set up to do such a thing anyway. When the president warns that we are in increased danger of an attack if the program is allowed to expire, he is correct. During the time that the program will be suspended, terrorists may be able to develop new networks for logistics and communication while standing a better chance of being able to set up shop in another country without being detected.

Why Telecom immunity? First, the idea that the average citizen is going to sue the big Telecoms is ludicrous. The legal action will be taken by the ACLU and other civil liberty absolutists who could care less about average citizens and only seek to punish the Telecoms for cooperating with the government. And they will also seek to destroy the TSP by forcing the government to reveal exactly how the program works - information that is among the most closely guarded in government.

The TSP has been a very useful tool in keeping the US safe from attack. It has oversight, is vetted constantly to assure it targets terrorists and not ordinary citizens, and is protective of privacy and civil liberties according to two separate panels that have examined its inner workings. 

Opposition to the program exaggerates its dangers and is politically motivated. Lest you doubt this, one need only look at the Democratic candidates for president. While both Clinton and Obama oppose Telecom immunity, neither one has said they will scrap the program if elected.
"By blocking this piece of legislation, our country is more in danger of an attack."

So says President Bush as the law authorizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program is set to expire today:


With a government eavesdropping law about to expire, Washington is awash in accusations over who's to blame.

President Bush said Friday that "our country is in more danger of an attack" because of Congress' failure to adopt a Senate bill that would have renewed a law that made it easier for the government to spy on foreign phone calls and e-mails that pass through the United States.

That bill also would have shielded from lawsuits telecommunications companies that helped the government wiretap U.S. computer and phone lines after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks without clearance from a secret court that was established specifically to oversee such activities. In its competing version of the legislation, the House intentionally left out that feature.

"American citizens must understand, clearly understand that there's still a threat on the homeland. There's still an enemy which would like to do us harm," Bush said. "We've got to give our professionals the tools they need, to be able to figure out what the enemy is up to so we can stop it."
How important is the TSP to our efforts to interdict a terrorist attack on the US? Many in the intelligence community believe that the Terrorist Surveillance Program has been invaluable in tracking the movements of known terrorists, helping us understand the connections between various terrorist cells, and in making it very difficult for terrorists to communicate freely with one another.
 
But as far as directly foiling a terrorist attack, the program has never been able to make that claim. It was never set up to do such a thing anyway. When the president warns that we are in increased danger of an attack if the program is allowed to expire, he is correct. During the time that the program will be suspended, terrorists may be able to develop new networks for logistics and communication while standing a better chance of being able to set up shop in another country without being detected.

Why Telecom immunity? First, the idea that the average citizen is going to sue the big Telecoms is ludicrous. The legal action will be taken by the ACLU and other civil liberty absolutists who could care less about average citizens and only seek to punish the Telecoms for cooperating with the government. And they will also seek to destroy the TSP by forcing the government to reveal exactly how the program works - information that is among the most closely guarded in government.

The TSP has been a very useful tool in keeping the US safe from attack. It has oversight, is vetted constantly to assure it targets terrorists and not ordinary citizens, and is protective of privacy and civil liberties according to two separate panels that have examined its inner workings. 

Opposition to the program exaggerates its dangers and is politically motivated. Lest you doubt this, one need only look at the Democratic candidates for president. While both Clinton and Obama oppose Telecom immunity, neither one has said they will scrap the program if elected.