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The Honorable Patrick Leahy
United States Senator
STATEMENT OF SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY
Even as we meet here this morning, the President once again is misusing his bully pulpit, as he speaks again about changing the FISA law. Once again, his purpose is not to help the Congress and the country reach consensus on a sensible law, but to tell the Congress to set aside its legislative process and to merely take the administration's dictation.
It is sad to see the Director of National Intelligence reduced to signing an inflammatory letter one day, and then turning around the next day and having to admit that the surveillance authorized by the Protect American Act has not been interrupted. The only surveillance I know that has been disrupted is when the administration did not pay its bills and the phone companies cut off interceptions.
Of course, FISA has been amended at least a dozen times since September 11, 2001, and the Congress has worked with this administration on each occasion. The impasse now has less to do with the ins and outs of surveillance, and to do more with the Bush-Cheney administration's efforts to avoid accountability for the unlawful surveillance of Americans, which it secretly conducted for almost six years. That is the core dispute, just as it was when this Committee was preparing under Chairman Specter to subpoena phone company records regarding the surveillance and Vice President Cheney intervened with Committee Republicans to prevent action on those subpoenas. The core principle we are working to incorporate in the final bill is court review of the legality, or I believe illegality of that warrantless surveillance of Americans outside of FISA.
That was the purpose of the initial legislation that Senator Specter introduced on this subject. Toward the end of the last Congress, Senator Specter believed he had an agreement from the President that the matter would be submitted to the courts for review. That is still what we are seeking and what the administration is resisting at all costs.
It is most unfortunate that the administration will hold press conferences but not meet with House and Senate leaders on a solution.
I would like to make part of the record the column Chairman Rockefeller and I joined in that appeared in The Washington Post this Monday and a letter from former senior intelligence officers on these matters.
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