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A Chilling Word of Warning from a U.S. Congressman By: Gerald Shaw
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, March 21, 2008

Millions of Americans sit comfortably in front of TV screens each day, engrossed in rousing entertainment, sports madness or reality shows -- without the slightest idea they are perilously unprotected from another horrifying terrorist attack.

They can thank the Democratic House of Representatives for failing to pass a sufficient update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA).

“Every day that goes by is one less day of protection,” said U.S. Representative Tom Feeney (R-FL). “The terrorists know this. They watch TV, too.”

The cause of concern is the refusal among House majority members to include an immunity provision in the extended surveillance act to protect telecommunications companies from prosecution and lawsuits they are threatened with for cooperating with the government.

“They did an extension, but did not include immunity, which is a huge problem for our intelligence,” Feeney explained. “American companies will not be able to cooperate with intelligence authorities unless there is a warrant, which can take weeks and months.

“Corporate executives have an obligation to shareholders not to hold them to possible lawsuits.”

Multi-million-dollar class-action lawsuits have already been filed against telecommunication companies for giving personal information to intelligence agencies without warrants.

“It is pretty apparent the only people that stand to gain from refusing to protect companies are terrorists and trial lawyers,” said Feeney. “I can’t think of any other explanation.”

As FISA began to expire in February, House members decided to delay addressing the issue until the last minute. Then they abruptly took a recess for the President’s Day weekend, leaving America’s intelligence operations in serious trouble. Feeney and other angry House members stated they could have taken up the bipartisan bill that had already
been approved by the Senate, which included the immunity provision.

Twenty Democrats joined the Republican minority in approving the Senate bill, showing that some Democrats support full protection under FISA.

On Friday the House met behind closed doors, and finally managed to pass an updated surveillance act, which allows intelligence agencies to intercept communication between terrorists through electronic surveillance.

The only problem is that Democrats refused to include an immunity provision for telecommunications companies, making the bill in many ways useless, but perhaps politically ideal for Democrats. Trial lawyers have been shown to offer a majority of contributions to Democratic office holders.

“The further we get from 9/11, the more politics takes over patriotic judgment I’m afraid,” Feeney said. “If another terrorist attack occurs, much of the blame goes to (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and her political allies.”

President Bush has said he will veto the bill if it comes to his desk without the provision that protects cooperation between communications companies and intelligence agencies. Without that cooperation, intelligence will not be able to uncover the kind of the terrorist
plans already discovered since 9/11, Feeney said.

There is still a chance of including the provision that ensures national security in the war against terrorists. Senate and House leaders may get together for a conference to reach a compromise. If the immunity is granted, the bill will come back to the House for a vote.

FISA was passed in 1978 in the wake of the Watergate scandal to stop government abuse.

“The result was different agencies couldn’t talk to each other,” Feeney said. The breakdown of the intelligence community was noted in the 9/11 Commission Report. “The CIA knew terrorists were in the U.S., but couldn’t tell the FBI.

“The Republican Congress fixed that after 9/11 temporarily until we would take another look at it. Now the Democrats in the House and Pelosi are killing the extension.”

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