Turns out that was bunk:
At a closed-door briefing in mid-July, senior intelligence officials startled lawmakers with some troubling news. American eavesdroppers were collecting just 25 percent of the foreign-based communications they had been receiving a few months earlier.
Congress needed to act quickly, intelligence officials said, to repair a dangerous situation.
The prelude to approval of the plan occurred in January, when the administration agreed to put the wiretapping program under the oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The court is charged with guarding against governmental spying abuses. Officials say one judge issued a ruling in January that allowed the administration to continue the program under the court’s supervision.
A ruling a month or two later — the judge who made it and its exact timing are not clear — restricted the government’s ability to intercept foreign-to-foreign communications passing through telecommunication “switches” on American soil.
The security agency was newly required to seek warrants to monitor at least some of those phone calls and e-mail messages. As a result, the ability to intercept foreign-based communications “kept getting ratcheted down,” said a senior intelligence official who insisted on anonymity because the account involved classified material. “ We were to a point where we were not effectively operating.”
Mr. McConnell, lead negotiator for the administration in lobbying for the bill, said in an interview that the court’s restrictions had made his job much more difficult.
“It was crazy, because I’m sitting here signing out warrants on known Al Qaeda operatives that are killing Americans, doing foreign communications,” he said. “And the only reason I’m signing that warrant is because it touches the U.S. communications infrastructure. That’s what we fixed.”
The argument that we cannot listen in on overseas terror suspects because their call goes through American telecommunication infrastructure is simply a non-starter and has only the effect of protecting terrorists at the expense of innocent people all over the world. There is no rational basis for any other argument.
Here is how CQ sees the issue:
Congress had a duty to act to rectify this problem. Yet, according to James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, they stalled, even after being told of an increasing intelligence gap. Even as late as early July, when the DNI started getting very specific about the gap, Democrats wanted to put off any work on FISA until mid-September. Only after the White House went public with its concerns and demanding some sort of action on the bill did Democrats finally and resentfully agree to get it done before the August recess.
And immediately after that, Democrats accused the White House of "playing the fear card," an asinine allegation. Democrats have castigated this administration of deceiving them and bullying them in order to get themselves off the hook with their base, but in the end, these complaints amount to an admission that Democratic leadership is populated with fools and wimps who can't stand up for their beliefs, whatever they profess their beliefs to be.
Once again we see the danger of pandering to the Daily Kos wing of the Democratic base, which, when you get right down to it, is every bit as irrational and myopic as the religious right part of the Republican base. The truth is they don't care if, for example, embassies are bombed from here to Timbuktu as long as they can scream hysterically about the Bush administration. Any Democrat who kow-tows to the DK line cannot be taken seriously in regards to national defense.