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Democrats press Bush to respond to FISA, surveillance requests

Top Democrats in Congress come up with a strategy to force President Bush to respond to their unanswered questions about the National Security Agency's surveillance program.

Top Democrats in Congress have come up with a strategy to force President Bush to respond to their unanswered questions about the National Security Agency's surveillance program. They seem to be saying: Unless you do, we may not renew your eavesdropping legislation you like so much. Scroll down for the letter they sent yesterday.

It's an interesting approach because it's designed to force Bush to choose what he dislikes the least--more disclosure of a broad and arguably illegal NSA wiretapping plan, or increased legal risk and decreased powers for his surveillance-industrial complex.

Bush can counter, of course, when the recent law nears its 2008 expiration date by accusing the Democrats of being soft on terrorism, a strategy that's worked quite well in the past. (And which has annoyed Democratic voters, and has led to the remarkable accomplishment of the Democratic Congress having an even lower approval rating than the president himself.)

Here's our FAQ on the recent law to expand the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and the law itself.

August 16, 2007
The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Earlier this month, Congress passed S. 1927, an interim response to your Administration's proposal for changes in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). That legislation, which you signed into law, expires in six months. At our request, the House and Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees will be conducting thorough oversight of the implementation of these interim changes, and are working to produce a longer-term response to your proposal for Congress to consider well in advance of the expiration of the current law.

We understand that this work has been hindered by the Administration's continuing refusal to provide all of the documents and other information sought by the committees. Therefore we request a prompt response, at a classified level where necessary, to all outstanding document and information requests by the committees. Although recent efforts by the Director of National Intelligence and other Administration officials to provide some information have been steps in the right direction, much more needs to be done.

A satisfactory response to our request would include materials requested by the committees on both current and previous surveillance programs, legal and other memoranda supporting such programs, applications for surveillance, any pleadings and courts orders involved, as well as all information set forth in the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoena of June 27, 2007. All of this material and information should be available for all members of the committees to review, and be made available to a sufficient number of appropriately cleared staff of the committees.

Prompt action on these requests and full access to this information is critical as the Congress considers modifications to FISA that will ensure effective intelligence gathering in a manner that protects national security and is consistent with fundamental American freedoms.

Thank you for your attention to this request.


Nancy Pelosi
Harry Reid