The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 14, 2008

Statement on Protect America Act

     Fact sheet In Focus: Defense

Democratic leaders said today that if the Protect America Act expires, there will be no impact on our intelligence gathering capabilities, and no cost to our national security.  They are wrong.

Although PAA authorizations permitting current intelligence activities will not immediately expire with expiration of the Act, Senator Reid is wrong and irresponsibly misleading to say that we will be just as safe if the PAA expires as we are with the PAA in effect.  The House’s willingness to permit the PAA to expire without passing the bipartisan Senate bill will harm our ability to conduct surveillance to detect new threats to our security, including the locations, 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.   And they could be stripped of their power to compel the assistance of a private company not already helping us. This means that surveilling new terrorist threats will require the Intelligence Community to go back to the old pre-PAA process of seeking court approvals that created the dangerous intelligence gap that we temporarily closed with passage of the PAA last August.  The Intelligence Community will be stuck with the authorities it currently has and would be hampered in its ability to protect us from new terrorist threats that emerge.  This risks creating new intelligence gaps, which damages our national security and makes no sense if the first priority is making sure our citizens are safe.    

The House’s failure to act will also raise risks with respect to current intelligence activities.  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.  And if we don’t have their cooperation, we don’t have a program.

The terrorist threats to our nation are very real and grave, and inaction by the House in the face of these risks is unacceptable.

Democrat leaders know that if they put the Senate bill on the House floor today, it would pass with bipartisan support.  Make no mistake – letting the PAA expire without replacing it with the bipartisan Senate bill results in greater risk to our national security, and it is irresponsible and false for Democrats to suggest otherwise.

Democratic Assertions:

Statement:  After Republicans refused to work with Democrats to extend the Protect America Act for 21 days, House and Senate leaders are continuing to work to craft legislation that modernizes FISA and protects America and Americans’ civil liberties. 

Statement:  In the interim, it is important to note that the intelligence community will still have all the tools it needs to continue current surveillance and begin new surveillance on any terrorist threat.

Statement:  The intelligence community has expansive authorizations for wide ranging surveillance that will still be in effect for at least another six months.  If any new surveillance needs to begin, the FISA court can approve a request within minutes.  In the case of an emergency, surveillance can begin immediately and FISA approval can be obtained later.

Statement:  “The House already passed a carefully crafted bill – in November 2007 - that will modernize FISA, give the intelligence community the tools it needs to track terrorists and protect the constitutional rights of innocent Americans. Our efforts to bridge the gap between the Senate, White House and the House and pass this legislation are ongoing.”


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