View Full Version : White House: We're Not Hyping Terror Fears To Expand Powers

10-10-2007, 03:55 PM
White House: We're not hyping terror fears to expand spy powers


(Gold9472: What's that saying about not believing something until they deny it?)

Nick Juliano
Published: Tuesday October 9, 2007

As House Democrats released their plan to amend a foreign surveillance law Tuesday, the White House issued an ominous yet unspecific terror warning, setting up a possible repeat of this summer's fight over spying, in which President Bush prevailed amid fresh fears of an al Qaeda bomb plot.

A White House reporter noted the timing of a Department of Homeland Security strategy that warned al Qaeda was stepping up its efforts to put operatives within the US. An administration spokeswoman faced questions over whether the report was timed to coincide with Congress's debate over surveillance.

"No," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said during a press briefing Tuesday, hours after Democrats released a proposal to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Her steadfastness did not last.

"Not that I'm aware of," Perino quickly clarified. " It's not unusual for a strategy document to be updated every five years. ... As soon as it was finished and all the i's were dotted and the t's were crossed, we were able to get that information out to you today."

The FISA update unveiled Tuesday was designed as a fix to a temporary measure approved just before Congress left for a month-long recess in August. Then, as now, the White House, intelligence agencies and Republican lawmakers warned of gaps in the law that hindered America's efforts to spy on al Qaeda, and some warned of vague threats of a bomb plot aimed at the Capitol. (A prominent Democratic congresswoman later said such a threat was "bogus," but lawmakers did not know that at the time.)

At Tuesday's White House press conference, Perino was pressed for assurances that the DHS report's release was just a "coincidence."

"I have not heard anything otherwise, no," she said. "There is a FISA debate coming up. We would have liked to end that debate in August. ... Unfortunately Congress only gave us a six-month window so we have to take that up again."

Furthermore, Perino said, the 62-page report is an overal review of DHS's strategy against terrorism and other threats, such as natural disasters, and she noted the report includes lessons from the government's much-maligned response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"It's an appropriate time to update the document," she said.

The DHS report incorporated a national intelligence estimate released earlier this year that warned of a continuing threat from al Qaeda. The strategy document calls for "additional reforms" to FISA, which it says needs to be "permanently amended."

DHS also calls for "break(ing) down information barriers" between federal, state and local agencies and the private sector. One such barrier could be pending litigation against telecommunications companies alleged to have helped the National Security Agency warrantlessly wiretap Americans. The administration has said telecom communities must have legal immunity, although Democrats have refused to include such a provision in the bill announced Tuesday.

The following video is from C-SPAN 1, broadcast on October 9, 2007.

Video At Source