On his CNN Headline News show last night, conservative talking head Glenn Beck fumed about the House leadership’s decision to let the Protect America Act (PAA) expire this weekend. This was “an extension requested by the president,” exclaimed Beck.
Beck then jumped on President Bush’s fearmongering bandwagon, claiming that the House leadership — specifically Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — would be responsible for the death of Americans:
BECK: He feels — and I happen to agree with him — that this congressional game-playing by Nancy Pelosi will end up killing Americans.
Like Bush, Beck is overhyping the consequences of the law’s expiration.
In fact, not only will surveillance begun under the law be able to continue, but intelligence officials can initiate new surveillance against suspected terrorists by simply getting a warrant through the FISA court. The warrants can even be obtained after the surveillance has begun.
Intelligence experts, like the Cato Institute’s Timothy Lee, believe the expiration of the Protect America Act doesn’t deserve the vapors the right wing is getting over it:
“There’s no reason to think our nation will be in any more danger in 2008 than it was in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, or 2006,” [said Lee].
Ben Wittes of the Brookings Institution said because existing warrantless surveillance begun under the temporary laws could continue for up to a year, the “sky is not falling at all.”
If Beck really thinks the expiration of the PAA will cause Americans to die, he should bring it up with the president and his allies in Congress who blocked another temporary extension of the law.
Now, after 9/11, you remember we came up with all kinds of new — aggressive, new laws to combat a new kind of enemy. One of them was the Patriot Act. Another one was the Protection — Protest America Act. This was an extension of our eavesdropping. It helped our government listen in and find terrorists.
Well, over the weekend, the House failed to pass this Bill, which would have prevented the Protect America Act from lapsing, an extension requested by the president. It`s got a six-month sunset over and over again. He feels — and I happen to agree with him — that this congressional game-playing by Nancy Pelosi will end up killing Americans.
Now, what could be even more terrifying than that fact is that congress may be acting with reelection in mind and not your safety. Critics are saying now that the House caved to special interest groups, mostly trial lawyers who want their rights to sue these big, huge phone companies that release sensitive information to the government.