House Democrats Call Bush’s FISA Bluff

Yesterday, House Democrats finally said "enough" and called George Bush's bluff. The President had threatened to leave the country in an intelligence blackout if Congress did not accede to his demands for sweeping warrantless surveillance and telecom immunity. But this time, for the first time, Democrats said, "we don't believe you." That moment of courage may well define the fall campaign.

This President has falsely cried "wolf" too many times. Statements from Speaker Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Reyes dismissed as irresponsible and false fear mongering the President's claims that the expiration of the notoriously unconstitutional "Protect American Act" would preclude the government from continuing necessary foreign surveillance. From Chairman Reyes:

I, for one, do not intend to back down - not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a President, who wants Americans to cower in fear.
We are a strong nation. We cannot allow ourselves to be scared into suspending the Constitution. If we do that, we might as well call the terrorists and tell them that they have won.
As Glenn Greenwald (and many others) explained, "we're not all going to die under FISA." By statute, existing surveillance efforts are allowed to continue for a year.

By statute, related new surveillance under the existing efforts can be added during that period.

By statute, unrelated new surveillance can be initiated under the pre-existing FISA provisions which remain in effect when the PAA expires.

And, telecom entities who follow lawful FISA requests are, as they always have been, immune for those actions.

In short, there is no break in surveillance coverage and no danger of non-cooperation by telecoms.

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