White House Not Tough Enough on FISA

After breakfast on Monday with National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R.-Okla) and the gaggle (early morning press briefing) with White House Press Secretary Dana Perino Tuesday morning, I couldn’t help but reach one conclusion: when it comes to what Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats are doing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Cole is a lot clearer in his response than is Perino in hers.

In taking after Pelosi and Company on key issues, Cole repeatedly underscored the fact that “they are fighting us on FISA.” House Democrats bottling up a Senate version of the legislation that includes retroactive immunity for telecom companies that assist in surveillance (the measure passed the Senate resoundingly, by a vote of 68-to-29), Cole said, “has more to do with trial lawyers than national security.” He explained that few, if any, telecom companies would assist in surveillance if they did not receive retroactive immunity and thus be saved from lawsuits spearheaded by among the largest of Democratic contributors, the trial lawyers.

The following morning, when I asked Perino if she agreed with Cole’s assessment, the President’s top spokesman told me she “was not ascribing that motivation” but that it would “not help the intelligence community.” She went on to say that failure to pass the measure that includes retroactive immunity could “line the funds of trial lawyers.” 


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