An item in The Washington Post, titled "Aye to Spy?" falsely claimed that "[t]he current FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] authorization will expire on Friday [February 1]." In fact, FISA does not "expire" on February 1; rather, the August 2007 revisions to FISA made through the Protect America Act are set to expire, but FISA will remain in effect.
The January 28 Washington Post "[I]nsider's guide to the upcoming week," included an item titled "Aye to Spy?" that falsely claimed that the Senate would vote later that day on "whether to cut off debate about reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA]." The item later claimed that "[t]he current FISA authorization will expire on Friday [February 1]." In fact, FISA is not set to "expire" on February 1, as Media Matters for America has noted. Rather, the August 2007 revisions to FISA made through the Protect America Act (PAA) -- which, in effect, expanded the government's powers to eavesdrop on Americans' domestic-to-foreign communications without a warrant -- are set to expire. According to the PAA's "transition procedures," after those revisions expire on February 1, all new authorizations for surveillance would be governed by the FISA statute as it existed prior to the PAA revisions, while all current authorizations would remain in effect until their scheduled expiration date. Before Congress amended FISA in August 2007, the government had the authority to listen in on the communications of suspected terrorists if, under most circumstances, it obtained a court order to eavesdrop on communications either intercepted in the United States or acquired by intentionally targeting the communications of a particular, known U.S. person who is in the United States.*
Media Matters has repeatedly noted that, contrary to claims by President Bush and administration supporters, critics of the administration's eavesdropping program have not said that the government should refrain from spying on terrorists; rather, those critics, including numerous members of Congress, have said that the president should be required to obtain warrants before eavesdropping on conversations involving people in the United States.
From the January 28 Washington Post "[I]nsider's guide to the upcoming week":
Aye to Spy? This afternoon, the Senate will vote on whether to cut off debate about reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is working against the motion, and it is expected that Republicans will not have the 60 votes needed to end the discussion. One sticking point for the Democrats continues to be Republicans' insistence on immunity for telecom companies facing lawsuits for their alleged role in the government's warrantless eavesdropping program.
The current FISA authorization will expire on Friday, and Bush warned Congress not to try sending him another temporary extension.