That’s the best way to describe this op-ed in the WSJ by Kit Bond, Peter Hoekstra and Lamar Smith. Their op-ed is in response to the Washington Post op-ed that I posted about here. Here’s what Mssrs. Leahy, Rockefeller, Conyers and Reyes said about the PAA lapsing:

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.

Here’s the rebuttal from Mssrs. Bond, Hoekstra and Smith:

We are less safe today and will remain so until Congress clears up the legal uncertainty for companies that assist in collecting intelligence for the government, and until it gives explicit permission to our intelligence agencies to intercept, without a warrant, foreign communications that pass through the U.S. Here’s why:

– Intercepting terrorist communications requires the cooperation of our telecommunications companies. They’re already being sued for having cooperated with the government after 9/11. So without explicit protection for future actions (and civil liability protection for the help they provided in the past), those companies critical to collecting actionable intelligence could be sidelined in the fight.

It has already happened, briefly. “[W]e have lost intelligence information this past week as a direct result of the uncertainty created by Congress’ failure to act,” Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote in a letter dated Feb. 22 to Mr. Reyes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

– The old FISA law does not adequately protect the U.S., which is why it was revised by the Protect America Act last summer. The problem is that, although it has a few work-around-provisions, such as allowing intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance for up to 72 hours without a warrant, FISA ultimately requires those agencies to jump through too many legal hurdles. Those include the Fourth Amendment’s “probable cause” requirements, protections never intended for suspected terrorists’ communications that are routed through the U.S.

It’s accurate to say that Mssrs. Bond, Hoekstra and Smith rebutted each of the points made in the D’s op-ed the previous day.

One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is that trial attorneys are suing telecommunications companies for assisting the NSA immediately after 9/11. How disgusting is that? If ever there was a time when people should cut others some slack, it’s right after 9/11 when the telecommunications companies were doing their best to prevent other terrorist attacks.

Normally, I’d say that it’s just another target for attorneys looking for deep-pocketed companies to sue but I don’t think that that’s their motivation this time. Yes, I think that’s part of their motivation but I think the biggest motivation is to cripple the NSA’s ability to surveil. I suspect that this is Plan B, with Plan A being ACLU v. NSA. This paragraph tells me that that’s the case:

Telecommunications companies are for now, after intense negotiations, cooperating with the government under the assumption that protections granted to them under the Protect America Act will be upheld in court, even though the law is now defunct. But there is no guarantee that the courts will do any such thing. There is also no guarantee that corporate executives, under pressure from their legal counsels and shareholders to limit liabilities, will continue to cooperate.

That last sentence says everything, doesn’t it? I wouldn’t blame these executives if they chose not to cooperate. Instead, I’d blame the ACLU for crippling our intelligence gathering capabilities. If, God forbid, there was another terrorist attack because of that, I’d blast them mercilessly.

In the final analysis, this bill hasn’t become law because the Democrats are pandering to the trial lawyers so they keep the campaign contributions flowing freely and because the ACLU wing of the Democratic Party wants to cripple our intelligence gathering capability.

This November, let’s remind voters that Democrats placed a higher priority on pandering to the ACLU and trial attorneys instead of protecting America from terrorist attacks.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

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