Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Intentional Manipulation Of The Facts" To Get Surveillance Act Passed

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 — At a closed-door briefing in mid-July, senior intelligence officials startled lawmakers with some troubling news. American eavesdroppers were collecting just 25 percent of the foreign-based communications they had been receiving a few months earlier.

Congress needed to act quickly, intelligence officials said, to repair a dangerous situation.

Some lawmakers were alarmed. Others, jaded by past intelligence warnings, were skeptical.

The report helped set off a furious legislative rush last week that, improbably, broadened the administration’s authority to wiretap terrorism suspects without court oversight.

It was a surprising victory for the politically weakened White House on an issue that had plodded along in Congress for months without a clear sign of urgency or resolution. A flurry of talk in the last three weeks on intelligence gaps, heightened concern over terrorist attacks, burdensome court rulings and Congress’s recess helped turn the debate from a slow boil to a fever pitch.

For months, Democrats had refused to give the administration new wiretapping powers until the White House agreed to turn over documents about the National Security Agency program to eavesdrop on some Americans’ international communications without warrants.

The White House refused to back down, even after Congressional subpoenas were issued. The administration ultimately attracted the support it needed to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act from moderate Democrats who felt pressed to act before the recess. More on this story
hit tracker