Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Reyes: McConnell Lied When He Claimed New FISA Law Stopped Terrorist Attack On Monday, in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell claimed that the new expansive FISA law adopted by Congress prior to the August recess was responsible for the foiling of an alleged terrorist attack in Germany.

As Think Progress noted yesterday, McConnell’s testimony was later contradicted by an anonymous government official, who said “McConnell might have misspoken,” as the intelligence used to thwart the plan was gathered under the old FISA law:
[T]he official, who has been briefed on the eavesdropping laws and the information given to the Germans, said that those intercepts were recovered last year under the old law.
House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, both issued statements chastising McConnell and urging him to back up his claims.

Today, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the Chairman of the full House Intelligence Committee, wrote a letter to McConnell, confirming that the new FISA law did not play a role and requested a public correction:

I am told by senior American officials that U.S. assistance to German intelligence was based on collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), several months before its modification by Congress in August. Accordingly, the new law did not lead to the arrests of the three terrorist plotters, as you claimed. […]

I therefore urge you to issue a public statement immediately to confirm that the surveillance used to assist in the disruption of German plot was collected pursuant to FISA before the passage of the Protect America Act.

McConnell has yet to publicly concede his false claim.

UPDATE: In a statement released today, McConnell unapologetically acknowledged he lied to the Senate:
During the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on September 10, 2007, I discussed the critical importance to our national security of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and the recent amendments to FISA made by the Protect America Act. The Protect America Act was urgently needed by our intelligence professionals to close critical gaps in our capabilities and permit them to more readily follow terrorist threats, such as the plot uncovered in Germany. However, information contributing to the recent arrests was not collected under authorities provided by the Protect America Act.
Read the statement here. McConnell would be well-advised to officially correct his testimony.

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