“By four to one, a closed-door caucus of House Democrats last Wednesday instructed Speaker
Nancy Pelosi to avoid renewing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).”
What a sorry comment on American politics and the Democratic controlled Congress.
Congress wasted its time holding hearings into whether Roger Clemens used steroids some 5 years ago but refused
to act upon a bill affecting national security. Instead of acting on renewing FISA, the House recessed and went
on vacation. In fairness, the Democrats aren’t the only politicians meddling in trivial issues instead of earning
their salaries by attending to the real needs of America. We also have the spectacle of Senator Arlen Spector
sticking his nose into why the National Football League (NFL) destroyed video tapes taken by the New England
Patriots. This, after the Patriots owned up to their improper videotaping, were fined by the NFL and penalized
by losing a first round draft pick. The Patriot’s coach was similarly fined. End of story? Apparently not,
according to Senator Spector. What makes this properly resolved issue so important that a U.S. Senator has
to waste the taxpayer’s time on it? Shouldn’t he be attending to more important matters?
But back to our Democratic controlled Congress. Again from Reference 1, “A closed-door
caucus of House Democrats last Wednesday took a risky political course. By four to one, they instructed Speaker
Nancy Pelosi to call President Bush’s bluff on extending the Foreign Intelligence Act (FISA) to continue
eavesdropping on suspected foreign terrorists (emphasis mine). Rather than passing the
bill with a minority of the House’s Democratic majority, Pelosi obeyed her caucus and left town for a recess
without renewing the government’s eroding intelligence capability.” (Ref. 1)
“Pelosi could have exercised leadership prerogatives and called up the FISA bill to pass
with unanimous Republican support. Instead, she refused to bring to the floor the bill approved
overwhelmingly by the Senate (emphasis mine).” “The true cause for blocking the bill was the
Senate-passed retroactive immunity from lawsuits for private telecommunications firms asked to eavesdrop by
the government. The nation’s torts bar, vigorously pursuing such suits, has spent months lobbying
hard against immunity (emphasis mine).” (Ref. 1)
“The recess by House Democrats amounts to a judgment that loosing the generous support of
trial lawyers, the Democratic party’s most important financial base, is more dangerous than losing the
anti-terrorists issue to republicans.” (Ref. 1)
“Big money is involved” “66 trial lawyers representing plaintiffs in the
telecommunications suits have contributed $1.5 million to Democratic senators and causes. Of the 29 Democratic
senators who voted against the FISA bill last Tuesday, 24 took money form the trial lawyers.”
The bill on FISA, which included retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies,
passed the Senate by a margin of 68 to 29, with 19 Democratic senators supporting it. Speaker Pelosi could have
chosen to allow the bill to pass in the House with minority Democratic support. “A January 28 letter to the speaker
signed by 21 moderate Democrats urged passage of (the Senate) bill containing immunity. Democrats supporting it
could exceed 40 in a House vote, easy enough for passage.” (Ref. 1)
“Instead, the Democratic leadership Wednesday brought up another bill simply extending
FISA authority, this one for 21 days. Republicans refused to go along because it did not provide phone companies
with the necessary immunity.” The bill failed to pass by a margin of 229 to 191, with 34 Democratic Congressmen
voting against the bill “despite pleas from their leaders.”
In his Saturday morning radio address on the 23rd of February, President Bush addressed the
FISA issue. (Ref. 2)
“House Democratic leaders came under criticism yesterday from President Bush, who said
they are blocking intelligence legislation so lawyers can sue telephone companies for helping the government to
eavesdrop on suspected terrorists.
“He again urged the House to act on Senate-passed legislation needed to renew the
intelligence law that expired last weekend.”
“The Justice Department and Office of National Intelligence said … new surveillance
activities under existing warrants will resume ‘for now,’ but that the delay ‘impaired our ability to cover
foreign intelligence targets, which resulted in missed intelligence information.’
“The statement also said companies may resist orders in the future if Congress does
not pass a law with retroactive immunity.
“The law expired after Congress left on a 10-day recess before reconciling the House and
Senate versions of its replacement.
“When Congress reconvenes on Monday, members of the House have a choice to make: They
can empower the trial bar, or they can empower the intelligence community,” Bush said in his radio address.
“They can help class-action trial lawyers sue for billions of dollars, or they can help our intelligence
officials protect millions of lives.
“It is unfair and unjust to threaten these companies with financial ruin only because they are believed to have
done the right thing and helped their country,” the president said.
Should politics take precedence over national security? Should the question of whether
or not Roger Clemens took steroids years ago occupy the attention of our lawmakers while they ignore the war on
terrorism? Should protecting tort lawyers’ fees be more important than protecting the lives of Americans?
My answer to these questions is that the Democratic politicians are once again playing politics in a time of
war and are failing their responsibilities to the American people. Readers may want to look at the article that
I wrote in 2006, titled Helping the Government Win the War Against Terrorism
(Ref. 3) to find out my original views on FISA with an immunity provision.
- Speaker makes a risky call, Robert D. Novak, Boston Herald, Page 19,
February 19, 2008.
- Bush pushes House to OK intelligence bill, Deb Riechmann, Boston Sunday Globe,
Page A8, February 24, 2008.
- Helping the Government Win the War Against Terrorism, David Burton,
www.sonofeliyahu.com, May 18, 2006.