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Reyes to President Bush Re: FISA

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://newspapertree.com/news/2099 Reyes to President Bush Re: FISA special to NPT Posted on February 15, 2008 Editor s note: U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 15, 2008
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      http://newspapertree.com/news/2099

      Reyes to President Bush Re: FISA

      special to NPT

      Posted on February 15, 2008

      Editor's note: U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, 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).

      ***

      President George W. Bush

      The White House

      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.

      Sincerely,

      Silvestre Reyes

      Member of Congress

      Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
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