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For Immediate Release
February 14, 2008
Fact Sheet: Congress Must Act Now To Ensure That We Have The Tools To Keep America Safe
With Only Two Days Remaining Until Core Intelligence Collection Authorities Under The Protect America Act Expire, Congress Must Act Now To Ensure Our Intelligence Officials Have The Tools They Need And To Provide Liability Protection To Those Who Assisted In Defending America After 9/11
"Our government has no greater responsibility than getting this work done, and there really is no excuse for letting this critical legislation expire. I urge congressional leaders to let the will of the House and the American people prevail, and vote on the Senate bill before adjourning for their recess. Failure to act would harm our ability to monitor new terrorist activities, and could reopen dangerous gaps in our intelligence. Failure to act would also make the private sector less willing to help us protect the country, and this is unacceptable. The House should not leave Washington without passing the Senate bill. I am scheduled to leave tomorrow for a long-planned trip to five African nations. Moments ago, my staff informed the House leadership that I'm prepared to delay my departure, and stay in Washington with them, if it will help them complete their work on this critical bill. Our intelligence professionals are working day and night to keep us safe, and they're waiting to see whether Congress will give them the tools they need to succeed or tie their hands by failing to act."
President George W. Bush, 2/14/08
For the sake of our national security, the House must act and pass the bipartisan Senate FISA modernization bill. The Protect America Act (PAA) has enabled us temporarily to close critical gaps in our intelligence collection, but this vital legislation is set to expire this weekend. The Senate has approved new legislation by a wide, bipartisan majority that will ensure our intelligence professionals have the tools they need to make us safer and that improves on the PAA by providing fair and just liability protection for companies that did the right thing and assisted in defending America after the 9/11 attacks. The House must pass this bipartisan bill now.
If The House Fails To Pass The Bipartisan Senate Bill Immediately, The Protect America Act Will Expire This Saturday And Leave Our Nation At Greater Risk Of A Terrorist Attack
Failure to act will harm our ability to conduct surveillance to detect new threats to our security, including the location, intentions, and capabilities of terrorists and other foreign intelligence targets abroad. The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence would be stripped of the power to authorize new certifications against foreign intelligence targets, including international terrorists, abroad. They could also be stripped of their power to compel the assistance of a private company that is not already helping us.
Failure to act will also make the private sector less willing to help in our efforts to defend the country. Without the retroactive liability protection provided in the bipartisan Senate bill, we may not be able to secure the private sector's cooperation with our intelligence efforts. If the House allows the PAA to expire without replacing it with the Senate bill, existing intelligence activities may be at significant risk. This is because the PAA provides liability protection for our private sector partners assisting in current activities, but those partners are likely to raise questions about whether the liability protection they currently enjoy expires with the PAA. Similar questions could arise regarding whether the PAA's provisions authorizing courts to compel cooperation by the private sector also expire with the Act. At a minimum, the private sector would become less willing to help our efforts to defend the country because of this uncertainty; at worst, they would cease helping us at all. This uncertainty risks creating intelligence gaps and damaging our intelligence professionals' ability to protect the Nation.
Without the tools provided by the PAA, our national security professionals would be forced to pursue new intelligence collection under the outdated framework of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The PAA was passed because operating under this old framework requiring court approval even of targets located overseas led to critical intelligence gaps that were making our Nation less safe. As the Director of National Intelligence put it, our intelligence professionals were "missing a significant amount of foreign intelligence that we should be collecting to protect our country."
The President Has Said He Will Not Accept Another Temporary Extension Of The PAA, And He Is Prepared To Delay His Planned Trip To Africa If That Will Help The House Get Its Work Done
Further temporary extensions of the PAA would create uncertainty and unacceptable risks to our national security. Additional short-term extensions would not give our Intelligence Community the assurance it needs that critical tools under the PAA will be available for years to come. Temporary extensions would also leave our private partners uncertain about whether they would be subject to billion-dollar lawsuits by plaintiffs' lawyers only for doing the right thing and helping us defend the country.
House members have had plenty of time to pass a good bill. Congress has had over six months to discuss and deliberate, and the House has already been given a two-week extension beyond the deadline they set for themselves. If Republicans and Democrats in the Senate can come together on a good piece of legislation, there is no reason why Republicans and Democrats in the House cannot pass the Senate bill immediately.
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