Hill falsely described GOP's previous legislative priority as "passing" FISA -- but it passed 30 years ago

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

The Hill reported that "Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to announce Thursday that the House GOP floor emphasis will transition away from passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act." In fact, FISA became law in 1978, and although it has been amended many times since then, it remains in force today.

In an April 9 article, The Hill reported that "Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to announce Thursday that the House GOP floor emphasis will transition away from passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)." The article later stated that "Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, stressed that the pivot away from security and earmarks was not an indicator that the GOP was giving up pushing for passage of FISA." In fact, FISA became law in 1978, and although it has been amended many times since then, FISA remains in force today. What House Republicans have pushed the House to approve is the Senate version of a bill that would, for the most part, extend until the end of 2013 revisions to FISA enacted by Congress in August 2007 as the Protect America Act (PAA). As The Washington Post reported on February 13, the PAA "expanded the government's authority to intercept -- without a court order -- the phone calls and e-mails of people in the United States communicating with others overseas." The Post article continued: "U.S. intelligence agencies previously had broad leeway to monitor the communications of foreign terrorism suspects but needed warrants to monitor calls intercepted in the United States, regardless of where they originated."

The House passed its own set of proposed amendments to FISA on March 14.

Media Matters for America has documented numerous media outlets and figures conflating FISA and the PAA or falsely suggesting that since the PAA expired in February, the government no longer has the authority to spy on suspected terrorists. In fact, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) noted in a February 13 statement, "the underlying Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which provides for the surveillance of terrorists and provides that in emergencies surveillance can begin without warrant, remains intact and available to our intelligence agencies." Further, a February 14 New York Times article reported regarding the PAA's expiration:

The lapsing of the deadline would have little practical effect on intelligence gathering. Intelligence officials would be able to intercept communications from Qaeda members or other identified terrorist groups for a year after the initial eavesdropping authorization for that particular group.

If a new terrorist group is identified after Saturday [February 16], intelligence officials would not be able to use the broadened eavesdropping authority. They would be able to seek a warrant under the more restrictive standards in place for three decades through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

From the April 9 article in The Hill headlined "Amid economic woes, House GOP to pivot from FISA, earmarks to taxes":

House Republicans are poised to shift their focus from national security to the economy, hoping to rally opposition to what they claim are Democratic plans to raise taxes amid the economic downturn.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to announce Thursday that the House GOP floor emphasis will transition away from passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and earmark reform to "stop the tax hike."

House Republican leaders will make their case to pass a tax bill introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.).

Republicans will use procedural floor tactics to force votes on Walberg's bill, which would make the 2001 tax cuts permanent.

The measure has 125 co-sponsors, none of whom are Democrats.

A recent CBS/New York Times poll found that 37 percent of those surveyed ranked the economy as the most important issue facing the United States. The Iraq war ranked second at 15 percent.

The strategy is detailed in an inaugural "Freedom File" e-mail -- a monthly memo to GOP activists -- from Boehner's political action committee, Freedom Project.

[...]

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, stressed that the pivot away from security and earmarks was not an indicator that the GOP was giving up pushing for passage of FISA or comprehensive earmark reform.

Republicans have noted they have successfully peeled off centrist Democrats during procedural votes on FISA and earmark reform. They have also attracted 10 Democrats to sign on to a discharge petition that would force a floor vote on Rep. Heath Shuler's (D-N.C.) immigration bill, which has more Republican than Democratic co-sponsors.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
Network/Outlet
The Hill
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