FISA Cloture Vote Failed Monday

Yesterday Republican Senate leaders fell well short of the 60 votes needed to end debate on the bipartisan Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill produced last October by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The motion filed by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) failed on a 48-45 vote (with one Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, voting against and four Republicans – Coburn, Dole, Ensign and McCain – not voting.)

Senate Dems want more time to consider the bill, though they have no prospect of gaining agreement among themselves on how best to emasculate our intelligence operations. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv) is a shepherd lost among his stampeding sheep-liberals.

With just three days left before the expiration of the August 2007 amendments to FISA, Democrats are still playing chicken with national security. The August amendments were necessitated by a FISA court ruling last spring that required FISA search warrants for NSA to intercept any electronic communications that were routed through US telecom networks even though both parties to the conversation were overseas and not US citizens. This effectively blinded intelligence gatherers because the communications they needed to intercept were brief, dispersed among many networks, and had to be detected, traced and recorded instantly or lost.

In a January 25, 2008 letter to SSCI Vice Chairman Kit Bond (R-Mo), Director of National Intelligence Adm. Mike McConnell gave examples of the kinds of intelligence the August amendments enabled NSA to gather. The examples included:

• Insight and understanding leading to disruption of planned terrorist attacks;
• Instructions to a foreign terrorist associate about entering the US;
• Terrorist efforts to disguise their appearance; and
• Plans for future terrorist attacks.

(Click here to read the entire letter).

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx) said this morning on the Senate floor, "…the Director of National Intelligence last summer told us that we were missing about two-thirds of the communications between foreign terrorists that were necessary to protect our country, and that’s why we passed the “Protect America Act.” So why in the world we would get locked down in the same sort of bickering and partisan divide rather than come together to solve this in a bipartisan fashion, frankly, escapes me…what is happening on FISA is insane, because we’re resorting to the same old bad habits and not reaching out and solving this problem which is very real and very urgent."

Senate Democrats are apparently willing to let the August FISA amendments expire unless they get their way on telecom immunity. Let’s call it like it is: to score political points, these Democrats (and, apparently, Sen. Specter) are willing to deprive our intelligence gatherers of the ability they now have to disrupt terrorist attacks, prevent terrorists from entering the US and discover terrorists’ disguises.

Those are actions we usually associate with enemies and their agents, not allies or fellow Americans. How far will the liberals go? We may know by Friday. Actually, we may know tomorrow morning.

Unbelievably – with FISA about to expire and without Senate passage of any bill – the House plans to recess tonight for the rest of the week. Pelosi and the Murthacrats just don’t care. Leaving town for the week, with FISA about to expire, is a violation of the House Members’ oath of office.

It’s just as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said this morning on the floor: “And if the House of Representatives chooses to leave tonight, I find that a highly irresponsible act right before the expiration of this very important law…The terrorists are not going to take a vacation a few weeks from now or six months from now or next year.”

Call your senators. Praise those who are demanding that the SSCI bill be passed, and chew out the rest. Call your representatives. Tell them this is no time to take a week off. Make those calls, send those e-mails.