Bush Administration: Nevermind, the Sky Isn't Falling After All
Since the expiration of the poorly-named Protect America Act, the White House and its allies have gone to great lengths to argue that we should be absolutely terrified. Those mean ol' Democrats in Congress have refused to give the president everything he wants, and the consequences, they've claimed, will likely be catastrophic. Congressional Republicans even created their own ad on the subject, "with the very straightforward message that the Dems will get us all killed by the gun-waving Muslims."
Well, as it turns out, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, the administration and Republicans on the Hill appear to have been proven wrong. Again. The good news is, the sky still isn't falling.
The Bush administration said yesterday that the government "lost intelligence information" because House Democrats allowed a surveillance law to expire last week, causing some telecommunications companies to refuse to cooperate with terrorism-related wiretapping orders.
But hours later, administration officials told lawmakers that the final holdout among the companies had relented and agreed to fully participate in the surveillance program, according to an official familiar with the issue.The closer one looks, the more it appears the administration's fear-mongering was unfounded. Who would have guessed?
The LAT report had some especially helpful details.
A day after warning that potentially critical terrorism intelligence was being lost because Congress had not finished work on a controversial espionage law, the U.S. attorney general and the national intelligence director said Saturday that the government was receiving the information -- at least temporarily.
On Friday evening, Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell had said in an unusually blunt letter to Congress that the nation "is now more vulnerable to terrorist attack and other foreign threats" because lawmakers had not yet acted on the administration's proposal for the wiretapping law.
But within hours of sending that letter, administration officials told lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees that they had prevailed upon all of the telecommunications companies to continue cooperating with the government's requests for information while negotiations with Congress continue. [...]
"Unfortunately, the delay resulting from this discussion impaired our ability to cover foreign intelligence targets, which resulted in missed intelligence information," Mukasey and McConnell added.
Government officials declined to comment on how much intelligence data may have been lost or how serious it might have been.
One Democratic congressional official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, expressed skepticism that any significant gap had existed, noting that existing rules permit continued monitoring of known terrorists and their associates."This is serious backpedaling by the DNI," said one Democratic congressional official said of McConnell. "He's been saying for the last week that the sky is falling, and the sky is not falling."
Something to consider the next time McConnell and the White House try to scare the bejeezus out of us.