Closing a Loophole in the Current Terrorist Surveillance Law

Published 7:33 am Monday, August 13, 2007

By By Jo Bonner
After weeks of negotiations, the House and Senate passed a Republican proposal to close a loophole that allows foreign terrorists to avoid our intelligence network.
By all accounts, we are in a period of increased risk of terrorist attack. The July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate determined that Al Qaeda's homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the U.S. population. At this time of heightened threats, we are operating under outdated laws n an unacceptable and dangerous situation. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was enacted in 1978 as a tool in fighting the Cold War n a tool that is now technologycally outdated.
Earlier this year, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, there are circumstances in which the government seeks to monitor, for purposes of protecting the nation from terrorist attack, the communications of foreign persons, who are physically located in foreign countries, and the government is required under FISA to obtain a court order to authorize this collection.
In this electronic age with a sophisticated terrorist enemy, our intelligence community must have the agility to find and fight any and all terrorist threats. The outdated FISA law has forced our intelligence community to go through bureaucratic red tape in order to intercept electronic communications among foreign suspects who are outside the United States.
The correction passed by Congress earlier this month allows our intelligence community to immediately conduct warrantless surveillance of foreign targets. As provided under the original FISA law, a FISA court order must still be obtained before any surveillance targeting an American is conducted. It also requires the attorney general, in consultation with the director of national intelligence, to write procedures, which are subject to the FISA court, to ensure the surveillance is directed only at foreign targets. This temporary fix will expire in six months, allowing Congress to develop a longer-term solution.
Officials in this country and in nations around the globe supporting the war against terrorism have made tremendous advances. As September 11, 2001, proved to all of us, a war against terrorism is by no means a conventional conflict. Until that day, no one could have ever imagined that aircraft could be used as weapons against civilian targets here in the United States.
We must continue to ensure this fight never returns to our shores by providing our intelligence community with the tools and capabilities necessary to make America safer and more secure.
Summer Newsletter Released
One of the most effective ways I have found of staying in touch with my constituents in south Alabama has been through the release of district-wide newsletters. These newsletters, which are typically distributed as inserts in each of the daily and weekly newspapers in the six counties of the First District, have proven to be an effective way of providing a central source of information on the latest events in Washington. Moreover, rather than sending these newsletters out as a mass-mailing to your home or post office box, the newspaper insert format enables our office to save the taxpayers thousands of dollars in printing and distribution costs.
My summer/fall 2007 newsletter will be distributed this week, and I hope you and your family received a copy in your local newspaper. However, if you did not receive a copy, you can call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 to request one, and a member of my staff will be happy to mail one to you. Additionally, the newsletter has been posted in Adobe format on my website. You can download this by going to and clicking on the link for my summer/fall 2007 newsletter. Along with my website, this weekly column, my monthly Cyber Report, and my weekly radio show, the district-wide newsletter has proven to be an effective way of sharing my thoughts and concerns regarding events in our nation's capitol with each of you. I hope you enjoy reading through the articles and information provided in this most recent newsletter, and as always, your comments on this and future newsletters are always welcome. My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at .
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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