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WORDS FROM WASHINGTON

Not moveing backward on intelligence reform

The federal government has no greater responsibility than to provide for the defense and security of our nation. In the war against international terrorism, our top priority must be preventing another attack on American soil.

To ensure the safety of our communities, we need the ability to monitor the overseas communications of terrorists under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, commonly referred to as "FISA."

FISA was enacted by Congress in 1978, and it had two principle purposes. First, to protect the civil liberties of Americans by requiring the government to first obtain a warrant before collecting electronic intelligence on U.S. citizens in our country. Second, the law specified how intelligence officials working to protect our national security could collect information on foreign persons in foreign places without having to get a warrant.

In August, bipartisanship and common sense prevailed in Congress when Republicans and Democrats updated FISA to reflect the advances in communications technology that have occurred since the law was first enacted nearly 30 years ago, and this update ensured that the intelligence community has the tools it needs to identify and disrupt terrorist plots. Unfortunately, this critical update to FISA was designed to expire after just six months, and now it appears that some Democrats in Congress are trying to abandon some of the key compromises we achieved just two months ago.

Specifically, there is an attempt to add a new provision to FISA that would require our intelligence officials to wait for a court order before they could monitor foreign terrorist suspects in foreign countries. This would be a dramatic and dangerous departure from long-standing practice.

A recent story from The Washington Times, which recounts how efforts to rescue three kidnapped U.S. soldiers in Iraq were delayed for nine hours while intelligence officials debated the need to obtain a FISA court order, provides a compelling example of why we must ensure that FISA gives our intelligence officials the clear, appropriate tools to do their job.

This type of bureaucratic red tape, which puts the lives of our soldiers at heightened risk and jeopardizes our national security, is simply unacceptable, and I will continue to work toward a solution that provides our troops with the tools they need to fulfill their mission safely and protect national security.

Our priority must be on protecting the lives and constitutional rights of Americans, not extending constitutional rights to foreign terrorists in foreign lands.

Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District.

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