McConnell: 20 Lawyers Worked on FISA Fix
National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell engaged in a long and meaty q and a with the El Paso Times on the FISA Amendment and NSA program.
He mentions a few times that he had "20 lawyers" working on the "fix" and at one point he says they were working on it for two years.
[W]e sent up a version like Monday, we sent up a version on Wednesday, we sent up a version on Thursday. The House leadership, or the Democratic leadership on Thursday took that bill and we talked about it. And my response was there are some things I can't live with in this bill and they said alright we're going to fix them. Now, here's the issue. I never then had a chance to read it for the fix because, again, it's so complex, if you change a word or phrase, or even a paragraph reference, you can cause unintended ...
Q: You have to make sure it's all consistent?
A: Right. So I can't agree to it until it's in writing and my 20 lawyers, who have been doing this for two years, can work through it. So in the final analysis, I was put in the position of making a call on something I hadn't read.So when it came down to crunch time, we got a copy and it had some of the offending language back in it. So I said, 'I can't support it.' And it played out in the House the way it played out in the House.
He also talks about the liability of phone companies for working with the NSA program. (He says we'll need to add an immunity from liability provision to the bill when Congress reconvenes.) He also reviews what happened in the Senate and talks about what the "offending language" was. It had to do with minimization.
He concludes with this rather astonishing claim:
Q. So you're saying that the reporting and the debate in Congress means that some Americans are going to die?
A. That's what I mean. Because we have made it so public.
[Hat tip to reader Scribe.]
Update: The AP reports on the interview, particularly the phone company aspects here. As to the timing FISA Court rulings we've been hearing about:
McConnell said a ruling that went into effect May 31 required the government to get court warrants to monitor communications between two foreigners if the conversation travels on a wire in the U.S. network. Millions of calls each day do, because of the robust nature of the U.S. systems.
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