Yesterday, I noted Matthew Continetti’s column in the Weekly Standard for the Democrats’ attempt to spin their failure to make permanent the Protect America Act. In this morning’s Washington Post, Chairmen Jay Rockefeller, Pat Leahy, Sylvestre Reyes and John Conyers have an op-ed that continues the spinning of the issue. Here’s one of the opening declarations in the op-ed:

First, our country did not “go dark” on Feb. 16 when the Protect America Act (PAA) expired. Despite President Bush’s overheated rhetoric on this issue, the government’s orders under that act will last until at least August. These orders could cover every known terrorist group and foreign target. No surveillance stopped. If a new member of a known group, a new phone number or a new e-mail address is identified, U.S. intelligence can add it to the existing orders, and surveillance can begin immediately.

While it’s true that surveillance didn’t come to a standstill, it’s equally true that our surveillance was hampered by not having the PAA in place. That’s because a FISA Appeals Court judge ruled that communications between Pakistan and Afghanistan that passed through American switches are domestic communications and that they require a warrant.

Here’s what Admiral Mike McConnell told Chris Wallace on the subject:

Meanwhile, the ACLU and the tort bar filed lawsuits against the telecommunication companies that had cooperated with the U.S. government in the Terrorist Surveillance Program. Naturally, the telecoms, fearing that they soon would be paying damages, grew wary of cooperation with the government. And some of the FISA judges, the same folks often accused of “rubberstamping” the executive’s wishes, raised the bar that needed to be met before counterterrorist surveillance could begin. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell recently told Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace that by summer 2007, “We were in extremis, because we had lost…about two-thirds of our [surveillance] capability.”

In other words, while it’s true that “our country did not “go dark” on Feb. 16″, it can be accurately said that our capabilities weren’t what they were with the PAA intact. I don’t think that people would like it if they found out that our surveillance capabilities shrunk that dramatically when Pelosi’s Democrats let the PAA expire so they could go on recess. That’s both irresponsible and dangerous.

As Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein acknowledged while speaking to reporters on Feb. 14, “the directives are in force for a year, and with the expiration of the PAA, the directives that are in force remain in force until the end of that year…[W]e’ll be able to continue doing surveillance based on those directives.”

Again, while it’s true that surveillance continued, it’s equally true that it was severely hampered. No amount of spinning will change that.

If President Bush truly believed that the expiration of the Protect America Act caused a danger, he would not have refused our offer of an extension.

President Bush thinks that, when Congress has over six months to renew this bill, they should get the job done. Instead, Democrats conducted one misguided witch hunt into the Bush administration after another. On the day that the Senate passed a bill that renewed the PAA, the House instead voted to hold Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress, a fight they’ll surely lose in the courts. They also conducted hearings into the Roger Clemens steroid scandal.

But if our nation were to suddenly become vulnerable, it would not be because we don’t have sufficient domestic surveillance powers. It would be because the Bush administration has done too little to defeat al-Qaeda, which has reconstituted itself in Pakistan and gained strength throughout the world. Many of our intelligence assets are being used to fight in Iraq instead of taking on Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organization that attacked us on Sept. 11 and that wants to attack us again.

This is a strawman argument. We aren’t arguing about domestic surveillance powers. We’re talking about overseas surveillance powers that FISA now considers domestic surveillance powers. Furthermore, their saying that “Bush administration has done too little to defeat al-Qaeda” is laughable. The truth is that the Democrats wouldn’t have done nearly as much in fighting terrorism as the Bush administration has done.

It’s time for the Democrats to stop spinning their failures. It’s time for them to get their work done for once.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

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