Fossella & King Coordinate Effort to Force Vote on Terrorist Surveillance Legislation
Expiration of Key Anti-Terror Tool Will Make America More Vulnerable to Attack
With a Saturday deadline for key anti-terror legislation to expire, Congressmen Vito Fossella (R-NY13) and Peter King (R-NY3) today introduced terrorist surveillance legislation that exactly mirrors the bipartisan Senate bill which passed this week and announced plans to circulate a discharge petition to force House leaders to schedule a vote on the measure.
The lawmakers said they were taking the rare step of coordinating a discharge petition, which allows a bill to be brought to the floor for a vote without the consent of House leaders, because the leadership appears determined to allow the law to expire despite the grave threat it poses to the security of our nation. The Senate passed a permanent FISA modernization bill Tuesday by a vote of 68-29. A 21-day extension of the FISA law was defeated in the House Wednesday by a bipartisan majority, 191-229.
The FISA modernization bill is needed to allow intelligence officials to quickly monitor the communications of suspected terrorists overseas without first obtaining a warrant.
Fossella said, "Allowing this law to expire would be handing al Qaeda's its biggest victory since 9/11 itself. House leaders are about to shut down the ability of intelligence officials to quickly monitor the communications of terrorists overseas. The intelligence community must have every legal tool at its disposal to detect and disrupt terrorists before they can launch a new attack. If the House fails to act by this weekend, terrorists will be able to plot without interference from intelligence officials. We have no choice but to force the leadership to bring this key anti-terror bill to the floor for a vote."
King said, "The war on terror is too important for Congress to play partisan games with FISA. We must give our intelligence professionals the tools they need to protect us, and we must provide legal protection to those Americans who step forward to protect us. This is why I have joined with Congressman Fossella in introducing the stronger Senate bill, which will better protect New York and our nation from the threat of Islamic terrorism."
The lawmakers said they would begin securing verbal support for the discharge petition immediately and would formally circulate it 30 days from today, as dictated by House rules.
On February 5, 2008 Director of National Intelligence McConnell wrote to Senator Christopher (Kit) Bond (R-MO) about the importance of reauthorizing and modernizing the FISA statute. In the letter he outlined the types of information that our intelligence agencies have been able to obtain via FISA authorized activities and stated that "The IC [intelligence community] must be able to continue to collect information of this nature in order to stay ahead terrorist and other threats to the United States."
In August 2007, Congress passed a six-month FISA modernization bill and a shorter extension earlier this year.