I'll believe it when I see it. From Talking Points Memo.
What happened? The administration did everything right. The invocation of "countless American lives" hanging in the balance, the specter of terrorists delightedly chatting away undetected, the urgency emphasized by a threat to delay a long-scheduled presidential trip to Africa in order to secure the nation against attack.
That's right, the Protect America Act, the surveillance bill the administration pushed through Congress last August in a brilliantly executed squeeze play, will expire at midnight. The House should have already folded by now and simply passed the Senate's surveillance bill, complete with retroactive immunity for the telecoms. But the Dems haven't; they're sticking to the bill they passed months ago. What gives?
It might have something to do with the fact that the lapsing of the Protect America Act (PAA) won't substantially affect things at all. The old FISA law will kick back into effect. And authorizations granted under the PAA in the last six months to wiretap entire terrorist groups will stick for an entire year. In the words of House intelligence committee Chair Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), "Things will be fine."
In a conference call with journalists yesterday, Kenneth L. Wainstein, the head of the Justice Department's national security division, did his best to back up the president's warnings, but, according to The Washington Post, all he could come up with was that expiration of the law would require "more paperwork and time." The humanity!