Four former senior intelligence officials wrote a strong letter yesterday to Director of National Intelligence McConnell, calling the Administration's hard line on telecom immunity an impediment to negotiations on the pending FISA legislation.
The letter, signed by former Senior Director for Combating Terrorism at the National Security Council Rand Beers, former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council Richard A. Clarke, former Deputy National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick and former assistant general counsel at the CIA Suzanne Spaulding, acknowledges that the "sunset of the Protect America Act (PAA) does not put America at greater risk."
These intelligence professionals note that "[t]elecommunications companies will continue to cooperate with lawful government requests, particularly since FISA orders legally compel cooperation with the government," and find it unclear that "the immunity debate will affect our surveillance capabilities," as McConnell had asserted. Contrary to the Bush Administration's dire claims, the letter notes that the "intelligence community currently has the tools it needs to acquire surveillance of new targets and methods of communication."
The signers find it "unclear that liability protection would significantly improve our surveillance capabilities. It is wrong to make this one issue an immovable impediment to Congress passing strong legislation to protect the American people."
Glenn Greenwald has more commentary.
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