FISA Delays Cede Ground to Enemy (Sen. Jon Kyl)

America is far less secure now than it was just this time last month. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, gaping holes in our ability to monitor terrorist activities were exposed, and Congress acted quickly to modernize our laws to ensure that our intelligence community could keep up with the way terrorists communicate. Because Democratic House leaders allowed a previous law to lapse, U.S. intelligence agents now lack the authority to effectively monitor the communications of new foreign-terrorist targets, even when those terrorists are located overseas. So long as a call is routed through a U.S. telecommunications network – which virtually all calls are these days because of changes in technology – U.S. agents now need to obtain a warrant in order to monitor a call between a Taliban chief in Pakistan and an al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan. This is highly impractical and all but ensures that the bulk of such calls cannot be monitored.

U.S. intelligence agencies need to be allowed to monitor calls between foreign terrorists. And Congress must protect the private companies who cooperate with our intelligence agencies to collect the information. Allowing litigation against these companies not only will promote highly damaging leaks about terrorist surveillance programs; it also will ensure that U.S. agents will not receive full cooperation from the telecommunications companies they rely on for access to these calls.

Over the last several years, congressional Democrats repeatedly stated that they want U.S. intelligence agencies to have full authority to monitor al Qaeda communications. They argue that they simply want such surveillance to be conducted under statutory authority. That authority is now granted by a bipartisan, Senate-passed bill, which provides statutory authority to monitor terrorists, and also provides ample oversight of U.S. intelligence activities. House Democratic leaders have refused to even allow a vote on that bill. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 68 to 29 on February 12.

I strongly urge House Democratic leaders to quickly take up consideration of the bipartisan, Senate-passed bill, and allow its members to register their support or opposition to the bill. Every day that this law remains expired is ground we cede to our enemy on the battlefield. In our war against radical Islamic terrorists, intelligence collection is our number one weapon against stopping attacks before they occur in the first place.

Editor's Note: Watch video Hill pundits Peter Fenn & Frank Donatelli on FISA at The Hill's Pundits Blog.