Sunday, February 17, 2008

Finally a Representative that Represents Me.

Congressman Reyes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote President Bush today regarding the Foreign Intellingence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Congressman Silvestre Reyes, D-TX, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, sent the following letter to President George W. Bush today regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The text of the letter is below:

President George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The Preamble to our Constitution states that one of our highest duties as public officials is to “provide for the common defence.” As an elected Member of Congress, a senior Member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I work everyday to ensure that our defense and intelligence capabilities remain strong in the face of serious threats to our national security.

Because I care so deeply about protecting our country, I take strong offense to your suggestion in recent days that the country will be vulnerable to terrorist attack unless Congress immediately enacts legislation giving you broader powers to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans’ communications and provides legal immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in the Administration’s warrantless surveillance program.

Today, the National Security Agency (NSA) has authority to conduct surveillance in at least three different ways, all of which provide strong capability to monitor the communications of possible terrorists.

First, NSA can use its authority under Executive Order 12333 to conduct surveillance abroad of any known or suspected terrorist. There is no requirement for a warrant. There is no requirement for probable cause. Most of NSA’s collection occurs under this authority.

Second, NSA can use its authority under the Protect America Act, enacted last August, to conduct surveillance here in the U.S of any foreign target. This authority does not “expire” on Saturday, as you have stated. Under the PAA, orders authorizing surveillance may last for one year – until at least August 2008. These orders may cover every terrorist group without limitation. If a new member of the group is identified, or if a new phone number or email address is identified, the NSA may add it to the existing orders, and surveillance can begin immediately. We will not “go dark.”

Third, in the remote possibility that a new terrorist organization emerges that we have never previously identified, the NSA could use existing authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor those communications. Since its establishment nearly 30 years ago, the FISA Court has approved nearly every application for a warrant from the Department of Justice. In an emergency, NSA or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may begin surveillance immediately, and a FISA Court order does not have to be obtained for three days. The former head of FISA operations for the Department of Justice has testified publicly that emergency authorization may be granted in a matter of minutes.

As you know, the 1978 FISA law, which has been modernized and updated numerous times since 9/11, was instrumental in disrupting the terrorist plot in Germany last summer. Those who say that FISA is outdated do not understand the strength of this important tool.

If our nation is left vulnerable in the coming months, it will not be because we don’t have enough domestic spying powers. It will be because your Administration has not done enough to defeat terrorist organizations – including al Qaeda -- that have gained strength since 9/11. We do not have nearly enough linguists to translate the reams of information we currently collect. We do not have enough intelligence officers who can penetrate the hardest targets, such as al Qaeda. We have surged so many intelligence resources into Iraq that we have taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result, you have allowed al Qaeda to reconstitute itself on your watch.

You have also suggested that Congress must grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. As someone who has been briefed on our most sensitive intelligence programs, I can see no argument why the future security of our country depends on whether past actions of telecommunications companies are immunized.

The issue of telecom liability should be carefully considered based on a full review of the documents that your Administration withheld from Congress for eight months. However, it is an insult to the intelligence of the American people to say that we will be vulnerable unless we grant immunity for actions that happened years ago.

Congress has not been sitting on its hands. Last November, the House passed responsible legislation to authorize the NSA to conduct surveillance of foreign terrorists and to provide clarity and legal protection to our private sector partners who assist in that surveillance.

The proper course is now to conference the House bill with the Senate bill that was passed on Tuesday. There are significant differences between these two bills and a conference, in regular order, is the appropriate mechanism to resolve the differences between these two bills. I urge you, Mr. President, to put partisanship aside and allow Republicans in Congress to arrive at a compromise that will protect America and protect our Constitution.

I, for one, do not intend to back down – not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a President, who wants Americans to cower in fear.

We are a strong nation. We cannot allow ourselves to be scared into suspending the Constitution. If we do that, we might as well call the terrorists and tell them that they have won.


Silvestre Reyes
Member of Congress
Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence


Blogger Marshall Art said...

More rhetoric. Doubtless the adminiatration disagrees with Reyes as much as he with them. Wouldn't hurt to be more specific. His words sound as if the things Bush is looking for are being done, but apparently, he only thinks so and Bush disagrees. The point here is if the progress, if there is indeed any, in upgrading our intelligence strategies provides the means Bush is looking for, than he is no more guilty of suspending the Constitution than is Reyes & Co.

How long has Reyes been in his current positions? The intelligence situation has been crap since before Bush was first elected, so shortcomings in translators and certainty in intel is not to be laid at the feet of this president. He's working with what was already there. They've been in the act of making it stronger since 9/11 when the intel depts. still had their thumbs up their butts.

In addition, the rhetoric regarding Bush wanting America to "cower in fear" is blatant partisanhip crap. Bush, as well as the neo-conservative perspective found in the PNAC, merely insists that we be aware of the threats to our country. There is a fine line separating security from paranoia, but it is only in the mind of those opposed to Bush that insist he lives in the realm of cowering fear. It's demogogery and nothing more.

It seems that Reyes is merely engaging in Bush basing for he also has not shown how Bush's policies have threatened anyone's rights or that Bush intends to use his intel gathering techniques for ill. Again, he speaks of things that can be done, yet it is only Bush who is threatening the rights of innocent Americans. Nonsense.

1:43 PM, March 22, 2008  
Blogger Ron said...

How could he be more specific!? He said exactly what laws applied and how we remain safe.

If you think Bush fearmongering is a fantasy you are in a fantasy my friend. Remember what Roosevelt said..the only thing we have to fear is fear it's self. He didn't say things like they are going to kill us all or lookout here comes a mushroom cloud.
No, leaders that really lead give people confidence and inspiration. They also don't ignore those they are trying to lead by blatantly stating they don't care what the polls say citizens want. Not when it is not even close. On a defining issue none the less.

It is not only Bush that will threaten our freedom with these laws. Whoever is the next president will have the power too. I don't care who it is I don't want them to have that kind of power. I want to stick to the Constitution. Why is that such an evil liberal thing Marshal?

2:44 PM, March 30, 2008  

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