Perino: FISA Bill Simply ‘Returns Law To Its Original Intent’

Yesterday, President Bush signed into law an expansion of his domestic spying powers, legislation that the Washington Post called “as reckless as it was unnecessary.” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino appeared on Fox and Friends this morning to defend the new law, saying it was the “bare minimum of what Mike McConnell, the DNI, said he needed.”

She added, “And I see today that some people are saying that this is a wild expansion of powers for the president. That could not be further from the truth. Only in a Democratic spin room could they come up with expansion of powers when you have to — when what we actually did was return the law to its original intent.” Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/08/perinofisa.320.240.flv]

Perino is the one who has been spending too much time in the spin room. The White House-backed legislation goes far beyond the original intent of FISA. It gives Gonzales “sole authority” to spy on people “reasonably believed to be outside the United States.” Instead of the FISA court overseeing the program and ensuring the protection of Americans’ civil liberties, Gonzales and McConnell have full responsibility. The role of of the court is nothing more than a “rubber stamp.”

Additionally, the White House rejected a narrower bill agreed to by both McConnell and the congressional leadership, which contained “three points” McConnell said the Bush administration “needed.” “We had an agreement with DNI McConnell,” said Stacey Bernards, spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), “and then the White House quashed the agreement.”

Read more about FISA in today’s Progress Report, and sign up to receive it in your inbox each day HERE.

Transcript:

KILMEADE: Hey, Dana, first off, why do you think both sides came together right now when you guys can’t get together on anything up until now?

PERINO: Well, I think it’s because people finally understood that the director of national intelligence was extremely serious when he said, I have to have this.

Now, remember, this is a bare minimum of what Mike McConnell, the DNI, said he needed. And it was a real fight with the Democrats to get them to pull it across the line. We did have some help from some senators, like Senator Mikulski and Senator Feinstein to help pull this across the line, but it was down to the wire. And the work isn’t done yet. One of the things the president said yesterday is, When you come back in September, we’ve got more work to do. This law needs to be further modernized and we need to provide liability protection for companies who are alleged to have helped the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

CARLSON: Dana, that was my question, because it’s being called modernizing the law. How is it different from what FISA was before? And what changes are still needed?

PERINO: I think that what happened is in 1978 no one could have imagined that we would all have — be using cell phones and the Internet like we are today. And so, over time, we all start using this technology but the laws haven’t kept up-to-date. And so, we just needed to — to change that definition.

And I see today that some people are saying that this is a wild expansion of powers for the president. That could not be further from the truth. Only in a Democratic spin room could they come up with expansion of powers when you have to — when what we actually did was return the law to its original intent, which was you don’t need a warrant to go after foreigners you reasonably believe to be overseas.