On Friday, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) wrote an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that epitomizes the sort of unvarnished misrepresentations and scare tactics that the apologists for the President and the phone companies have increasingly resorted to in the fight over amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
First, at the top of the op-ed, Bachman asserts that "Attack after attack has been averted because of the Protect America Act." In the body, she explains:
Since 2001, attack after attack has been averted -- including a plot to destroy American-bound airliners with liquid explosives. Indeed, last year, the Heritage Foundation compiled a list of 19 confirmed terror plots against American targets that had been thwarted.
Those 19 thwarted attacks represent untold thousands of American lives saved; of families, communities and cities kept intact, and of a nation kept whole.
What Bachman does not tell her audience is that every one of these examples occurred before the Protect America Act. That's right, all these attacks were thwarted under the same Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act legal regime that she now rails against. The 19 plots listed by Heritage range from December 2001 to March 2007, including the liquid explosive plot of 2006 (which was uncovered by the British). The Protect America Act was signed into law on August 5, 2007. Thus, her examples actually show the opposite of her point: to the extent that surveillance aided in thwarting these attacks, the FISA law prior to the Protect America Act was responsible for those victories, not the temporary law that excluded the courts from meaningful oversight over the Executive.
Second, Bachmann blames the House Democrats for letting the Protect America Act expire. Yet it was the House Democrats who proposed extending the Protect America Act and on February 13, 2007, Rep. Bachmann voted against the extension. The proposed extension failed.
The FISA debate is an important one. The American people deserve Representatives who are going to be straight with them about the facts and the law. Unfortunately, Rep. Bachmann has grossly failed her constituents on both scores.
Luckily, a majority of the House has been willing to address the FISA issue with the seriousness it deserves. On the same day as the op-ed appeared in print, the House passed a bill amending FISA by providing the government with expanded surveillance powers while protecting civil liberties. Representative Michele Bachmann voted against it.