On August 3rd, on a vote of 60 yeas to 28 nays, as a last vote before recessing until September, the Senate passed a Republican "Protect America Act" (S 1927) and defeated a Democrat "Protect America Act" (S 2011). To pass, either of the bills required 60 votes. It was then passed by the House on August 4th by a vote of 227 to 183 and signed by President George W. Bush on August 5th. In introducing the two bills for debate, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada stated that the Senate would "now proceed to debate concurrently S. 2011, now at the desk, and S. 1927, as amended with the changes now at the desk."
Two bills with the same name being debated concurrently? That struck me as a strange procedure so I read the competing bills and the limited debate that took place prior to the vote. In effect, S. 2011 would actually "sunset" or end the ability to collect foreign intelligence about, for example, Al Qaeda's threatened plans to launch a much larger attack than 9/11 on the USA in the near future. In what appeared to be an obvious effort by West Virginia Democrat Sen. John D. Rockefeller, sponsor of S 2011, to deceive the public and other senators, he claimed his bill was what the Director of National Intelligence, former Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, wanted passed.
This effort to deceive members of the Senate was immediately challenged by Republican Senator Christopher Bond of Missouri who rose and announced: "The Director of National Intelligence is sitting right off the floor here, and he has not seen--he has just seen your bill. He does not support it. I ask if the chairman of the Intel Committee would step outside and talk to the Director of National Intelligence to see whether, in fact, he does or does not support the Rockefeller bill or the bill that we introduced on behalf of the DNI, which is now pending as amendment No. 1927."
With 16 Democrat votes, the bill sponsored by the Republican minority squeaked through with the 60 needed votes. The current Democrat leadership and presidential candidates such as Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Barack H. Obama, Joe Biden, Robert Byrd, Russ Feingold, Richard Durbin, Pat Leahy and Carl Levin, voted against S 1927 and for S 2011 which was actually designed to hamstring intelligence gathering. On the following day S 1927 was also briefly discussed and passed in the House of Representatives. Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas observed as debate began: "I support S. 1927, the Protect America Act of 2007. We are a Nation at war with foreign terrorists who are plotting deadly attacks. Al Qaeda recently released a video promising a big surprise in the near future. Yesterday, the Senate passed this national security bill, and the Senate got it right. It is time for the House to do the same.
"This morning, the President called on the House to pass this critical bill, stating, 'Protecting America is our most solemn obligation, and I urge the House to pass this bill without delay.' Mr. Speaker, last night we wasted valuable time considering a bill on the same subject strongly opposed by the Director of National Intelligence. But that debate did serve a purpose. Now we know where the majority of the majority stands. Ninety percent of the majority voted to deny the Director of National Intelligence what he said he needs to prevent future terrorist attacks.
"The majority claimed that its legislation fixed the problem, knowing that the Director had publicly opposed the bill because it would not allow him to carry out his responsibility of protecting the Nation, especially in our heightened threat environment.
"In the 30 years since Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, telecommunications technology has dramatically changed. As a result, the intelligence community is hampered in gathering essential information about terrorists needed to prevent attacks against America. Congress must modernize FISA to address this problem.
"The bill, one, clarifies well-established law that neither the Constitution nor Federal law requires a court order to gather foreign communications from foreign terrorists; two, adopts flexible procedures to collect foreign intelligence from foreign terrorists overseas; three, provides court review of collection procedures for this new authority; and, four, requires semiannual reports to Congress on the use of this new authority.
"Unlike the majority's proposal from last night, this bill does not impose unworkable, bureaucratic requirements that would burden the intelligence community. Regrettably, the Protect America Act includes a 180-day sunset, but terrorists do not sunset their plots to kill Americans, so Congress must enact a permanent change in our laws.
"Mr. Speaker, last April, the Director submitted to Congress a comprehensive proposal to modernize FISA. That proposal already should have been approved. Congress must enact the Director's proposals from April to give the intelligence community the additional tools they need to keep our country safe.
"As we approach the sixth anniversary of the devastating 9/11 attacks, it is critical that we remain vigilant in our war against terrorism. President George Washington once said: 'There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet the enemy.' Heeding his words, we must maintain our commitment to winning the war against terrorism."
It would appear from the antics of the Democrats in the past few days that they now know the majority of the American people do not support their efforts to undermine the war on terror and they have now begun a campaign to pretend to fight the terrorists while actually doing the exact opposite.
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