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We're in Grave Danger! Wait, No We're Not!

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February 25, 2008

Sunday the L.A. Times reported on Attorney General Mukasey and National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell’s embarrassing backpedaling on their false declarations that U.S. wiretapping abilities have been hindered by House Democrats’ refusal to blindly/dumbly pass the Senate FISA Amendments Act:

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.

The duo actually went on to tell Congress that wiretapping capabilities were hindered or lost while House Democrats and Republications “discussed” the Senate FISA bill. So now deliberation and debate in Congress are part of the problem.

No mention, of course, of House Republicans’ walk-out last week. If they had truly believed the nation was at risk, that every moment counted, would they pull such immature stunts? An act one outlet described as “like the frat boys in Animal House?” We’d like to think not.

And it’s certainly worth mentioning that Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and House Members Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) and John Conyers (d-Mi.) have pointed out as much in an editorial in The Washington Post on Sunday. They write:

So what’s behind the president’s “sky is falling” rhetoric?

It is clear that he and his Republican allies, desperate to distract attention from the economy and other policy failures, are trying to use this issue to scare the American people into believing that congressional Democrats have left America vulnerable to terrorist attack.

But if our nation were to suddenly become vulnerable, it would not be because we don’t have sufficient domestic surveillance powers. It would be because the Bush administration has done too little to defeat al-Qaeda, which has reconstituted itself in Pakistan and gained strength throughout the world. Many of our intelligence assets are being used to fight in Iraq instead of taking on Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organization that attacked us on Sept. 11 and that wants to attack us again.

The president may try to change the topic by talking about surveillance laws, but we aren’t buying it.

We thoroughly agree with these Congressmen, and have said as much. They’re showing true leadership. We hope this isn’t just tough-talk and grandstanding: we hope this is a sign that House Democrats won’t cave into White House pressure the way the Senate did.