Earlier this week, in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell claimed the new expansive FISA legislation passed by Congress prior to the August recess — the so-called Protect America Act — had helped to thwart a an alleged terror plot in Germany.
A government official later told the New York Times that McConnell was wrong, and that the intelligence had been collected under the old FISA law which required warrants. A chorus of House Democrats immediately raised concerns about McConnell’s claims.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) demanded McConnell back up his sworn statement. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) said the Protect America Act “played no role in uncovering the recent German terrorist plot.” House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes urge McConnell “to issue a public statement immediately” correcting his remarks.
In a statement released today, McConnell unapologetically acknowledged he lied to the Senate:
During the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on September 10, 2007, I discussed the critical importance to our national security of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and the recent amendments to FISA made by the Protect America Act. The Protect America Act was urgently needed by our intelligence professionals to close critical gaps in our capabilities and permit them to more readily follow terrorist threats, such as the plot uncovered in Germany. However, information contributing to the recent arrests was not collected under authorities provided by the Protect America Act.
Read the statement here. McConnell would be well-advised to officially correct his testimony.
Note that in the statement, McConnell does not apologize, but rather uses it as another opportunity to call for Congress to authorize the “unnecessary and dangerous” expansion of the administration’s spying power.
UPDATE: Here’s exactly what McConnell said in his Senate testimony:
MCCONNELL: [The new FISA law] was passed, as you well know, and we’re very pleased with that. And we’re better prepared now to continue our mission; specifically Germany, significant contributions. It allowed us to see and understand all the connections with –
LIEBERMAN: The newly adopted law facilitated that during August?
MCCONNELL: Yes, sir, it did. [Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 9/10/07]