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Bush on FISA and Turkey


Bush Draws Line in Sand on FISA

As congressional rhetoric over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) grew more incendiary, the White House this morning drew a line in the sand over what it wants in terms of the national security legislation.  The legislation that was passed in August of this year doesn’t expire until February, but Democrats appear eager to take action now.

When I asked Acting Press Secretary Tony Fratto at The White House this morning whether the President was contacting "Blue Dog" Democrats to support President Bush’s version of FISA, he replied that "there were a number of Democrats voting with the President on FISA, in favor of the Protect America Act."

Although Fratto would not specify which lawmakers the President was lobbying, he did say that Mr. Bush "was in communication with a lot of Members of Congress" and would continue this "over the next few weeks, with the House and Senate."

Then Fratto drew the proverbial line in the sand.

"It is clear the President is not going to accept legislation that reopens the intelligence gap," Fratto told me, underscoring the White House insistence on its version of FISA and not that of the Democrats on Capitol Hill.  He also insisted that the final FISA measure must have language with "retroactive [immunity from civil] liability on private firms that assisted the government"  in surveillance — leading to some grumbling from Helen Thomas in the front row of the briefing room.  (The "grande dame" of the White House press corps almost without fail raises the issue of retroactive liability on a daily basis).

As for the present version of FISA now being debated on the House floor, Fratto said, "We do not look favorably on it."  He promised a statement of the administration

Rice Is Working On Turkey, Insists White House

With all the press attention given Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s pronouncements on a Palestinian homeland these past two days, some have wondered:  Why is she spending so much time on this issue when every day brings a blistering broadside from Turkey in a reaction to the House Foreign Affairs Committee vote in favor of the Armenian genocide resolution?

Six days after that vote, five days after HUMAN EVENTS spoke to the Turkish ambassador as he was being recalled to Ankara in protest, that’s what I wondered today.  At the early morning press briefing  at the White House, I asked Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto: Why is Rice so focused on the Palestinian issue when Turkey is on the front-burner?

"I know that Secretary Rice has been in touch with her counterpart in Turkey," said Fratto, who filled in for Press Secretary Dana Perino this morning.  Fratto added that Rice has also sent Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Dan Fried and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman, a past ambassador to Turkey, to Ankara to meet with government officials over the weekend.

"So there is a great deal of communication with the Turks," Fratto insisted to me. 

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