AP Defends Pelosi’s FISA Delay Tactic

Americans will be in far greater danger of a terrorist attack after midnight Saturday due to House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.), deciding to leave town for a break rather than vote on a surveillance bill that cleared the Senate Tuesday.

Sadly, the good folks at the Associated Press don't seem concerned, for instead of painting an accurate picture of this truly abysmal delay tactic by the left, the wire service chose to defend Pelosi and the Democrats while conveniently ignoring some key facts.

As reported moments ago (emphasis added throughout):

The law [expiring on Saturday] allows the government to initiate wiretaps for up to one year against a wide range of targets. It also explicitly compels telecommunications companies to comply with the orders, and protects them from civil lawsuits that may be filed against them for doing so.

But while the wiretap orders can go on for a year from the time they started, the compliance orders and the liability protections go away when the law expires, says Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

"There is no longer a way to compel the private sector to help us," he said Thursday in an Associated Press interview.

That is not exactly true. Even if the law expires, the government can get an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to compel their cooperation. That court was created 30 years ago for just such a purpose.

Yes, but compelling cooperation does not guarantee it, nor does it protect that corporation from civil suits resulting from said cooperation. This is INDEED the heart of the matter.

(Readers are encouraged to listen to Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R-UT) opinions on this very subject shared with bloggers last Wednesday.)

Yet, that wasn't the only sleight-of-hand by the AP:

The easy solution, say Democratic congressional leaders, is to extend the current law long enough to allow the House and Senate to work out the differences in their respective surveillance bills. The House finished its version in October, but the Senate did not finish until this week, pushing Congress hard up against the deadline.

Excuse me, but this is utter nonsense. Congress has been working on this issue for almost two years. To defend a delay all because the Senate didn't approve its version until Tuesday is disgraceful.

Furthermore, notice how the AP NEVER informs its readers that the vote in the Senate on Tuesday was 68 - 29 in favor of passage:

The law had been set to expire on Feb. 1. The White House reluctantly agreed to a 15-day extension but refuses to approve any more, and has appealed to House leaders to simply approve the version approved by the Senate, which includes the legal immunity for telecom companies the president wants.

The immunity provision protects phone companies that helped the government in its warrantless wiretapping program conducted outside the authority of the FISA court, a feature the House intentionally left out.

Unable to muster the votes to extend the current law, House leaders say they'd rather let it lapse and operate under the old FISA rules than be pressured by the White House into accepting the Senate bill. House Republicans protested with a walkout Thursday.

This led Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to write the following op-ed published in the Washington Post Friday (emphasis added):

For almost two years, we have worked with Congress to modernize FISA and ensure that the intelligence community can effectively collect the information needed to protect our country from attack -- a goal that requires the willing cooperation of the private sector. Unfortunately, there were significant gaps in our ability to collect intelligence on terrorists and other national security threats because the 1978 law had not been modernized to reflect today's global communications technology.

The Protect America Act, passed by Congress last August, temporarily closed the gaps in our intelligence collection, but there was a glaring omission: liability protection for those private-sector firms that helped defend the nation after the Sept. 11 attacks.

[...]

Some have claimed that expiration of the Protect America Act would not significantly affect our operations. Such claims are not supported by the facts. We are already losing capability due to the failure to address liability protection. Without the act in place, vital programs would be plunged into uncertainty and delay, and capabilities would continue to decline. Under the Protect America Act, we obtained valuable insight and understanding, leading to the disruption of planned terrorist attacks. Expiration would lead to the loss of important tools our workforce relies on to discover the locations, intentions and capabilities of terrorists and other foreign intelligence targets abroad. Some critical operations, including our ability to adjust to dynamic terrorist threats that exploit new methods of communication, which sometimes requires assistance from private parties, would probably become impossible. And the difficulties we face in obtaining this essential help from private parties would worsen significantly if the act expires or is merely extended without addressing this issue. Without long-term legislation that includes liability protection, we will be delayed in gathering -- or may simply miss -- intelligence needed to protect the nation.

Wouldn't it be nice if the good folks at AP felt this way rather than defending the Democrats for once again abdicating their solemn responsibility to protect this nation in order to score political points with liberal bloggers and far-left organizations such as MoveOn.org?

Alas, that's really a foolish question, isn't it? After all, for almost five years now, Democrats have continually abdicated their responsibility to protect the nation in order to appease the far-left whilst always getting cover from their media minions.

How sad for all of us that the press uses their power to aid and abet such nefarious behavior rather than exposing it.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.