Congressman Rob Simmons (R-2nd District)gave what The Day calls a "partial defense" of the Administration's practice of spying on American citizens without obtaining warrants, in which he said that current laws don't meet the challenges of the war on terror:
“First and foremost, we have a problem,” Simmons said of the so-called FISA court, which was created in the 1970s. “Those were the days of rotary phones. Those were the days without the Internet. Those were the days of limited technology and a relatively stable opponent.
“Fast-forward to the post-9/11 period,” he said. “It's an era of cell phones, where terrorists and drug dealers will buy and use a phone for a week and throw it away and get another. It's an era of Blackberries and Internet computers and very, very rapid sophisticated communications operations, for which the FISA court really hasn't kept up to date.” (Mann)
However, Simmons stopped short of actually endorsing the controversial program:
Asked whether Bush's avoidance of the court was the right response, the congressman protested that it was “not a fair question” because it concerned a program “about which I have no specific knowledge.” (Mann)
Democratic challenger Joe Courtney dismissed Simmons's words:
“If the Bush administration or Rob Simmons thinks that FISA's not up to the challenges this country faces, then that needs to be brought back to Congress for ways to fix,” Courtney said. (Mann)
A lot of people I know are very troubled by the idea that our government is wiretapping citizens without obtaining warrants. Others think it's necessary to protect us from another 9-11 style attack. However, even if the latter is true (and it might be, I don't know) the warrants can be obtained retroactively. So why not do so? I still haven't heard a good answer from anyone about that.
Actually, Simmons's vague assertion that FISA is somehow outdated or operates by outdated rules is the closest anyone has come. But then why not fix it?
If Courtney can make Simmons's partial support for wiretapping a campaign issue, he may have a much better chance than in 2002, especially if this story keeps getting bigger, which it has threatened to do.
Can we be both safe and free? I wonder. If not, which would we rather have more of?
Mann, Ted. "Simmons Says FISA Court Is Lagging In War On Terror." The Day 27 January, 2006.