Cliff May

Among those who disagree: Michael McConnell, America’s top spy, the Director of National Intelligence. Previously, he served as director of the NSA under President Clinton. Before that, he was a vice admiral in the Navy and, for a quarter-century, a U.S. intelligence officer. In other words, he is hardly some partisan hack.

McConnell wrote to the House Intelligence Committee: "We have lost intelligence information this past week as a direct result of the uncertainty created by Congress' failure to act." A requirement now in force – that the government show “probable cause” to a judge in Washington to bug non-Americans overseas -- has “degraded” our intelligence collection capacity, he added.

On February 14, Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, echoed that, saying: “What people have to understand around here, that the quality of the intelligence that we are going to be receiving is going to be degraded. Is going to be degraded. It’s already going to be degraded.”

This week, Rockefeller did a back-flip, co-signing an op-ed in The Washington Post along with three other Democratic members of Congress, asserting that Republicans who say what he said about the degradation of intelligence are “desperate to distract attention from the economy and other policy failures, are trying to use this issue to scare the American people…”

It appears that left-wing groups such as MoveOn.org (which has run ads attacking General David Petraeus as “General Betray Us”) and the ACLU (which wants to extend American privacy protections to terrorists in Waziristan) are once again having their way with Democratic leaders.

There also is this: In the aftermath of 9/11, the government approached some private telecommunications companies and told them their help was needed to find out if more terrorist attacks were on the way. The companies said yes – and now trial lawyers – among the biggest contributors to the Democratic Party -- are suing the companies for billions of dollars.

The Senate bill would provide protection from these lawsuits – and protect the rest us too: Because if there are trials, there is a substantial risk that classified information on intelligence methods would be released publicly, including to our enemies – whatever we call them.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.