House Minority Leader John Boehner is just full of interesting statements on the FISA debate:
Because of the Democrats’ inaction, the Protect America Act expired last night at midnight, forcing our intelligence officials to revert to the same terror surveillance laws that failed to protect America from the al-Qaeda terrorist attack on 9/11. Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are still plotting against the United States and our allies, but now our intelligence officials don’t have all the tools they need to protect us. These laws didn’t safeguard America in 2001, so why would House Democrat leaders place our nation at risk by putting them back into effect now?
There’s no polite way to put it: this is a lie. The expiration of the Protect America Act has not left us with “the same terror surveillance laws that failed to protect America from the al-Qaeda terrorist attack on 9/11.” Congress overhauled FISA in October 2001 to deal with deficiencies in our intelligence laws that had been uncovered by the September 11 attacks. As Glen Greenwald points out, the president gave a radio address in October 2001 describing the updated FISA law as follows:
The bill I signed yesterday gives intelligence and law enforcement officials additional tools they need to hunt and capture and punish terrorists. Our enemies operate by highly sophisticated methods and technologies, using the latest means of communication and the new weapon of bioterrorism.
When earlier laws were written, some of these methods did not even exist. The new law recognizes the realities and dangers posed by the modern terrorist. It will help us to prosecute terrorist organizations — and also to detect them before they strike.
Congress made additional revisions to FISA in 2002, 2004, and 2006. All of those changes remain in effect.
There may be legitimate arguments for the White House position. But I think it’s telling how many of the president’s most prominent allies lapse into making arguments that don’t withstand the most elementary fact-checking. Either their ghost-writers are extraordinarily incompetent, or they’re short on arguments that don’t involve twisting the truth.