In a Washington Post op-ed today, former CIA director Michael Hayden and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey warn that terminating the USA Patriot Act will threaten key tools used in the war on terror.Hayden and Mukasey – both of whom served under President George W. Bush – urge Congress to renew the 2001 bill, arguing that any elimination or restriction of the Patriot Act’s much-maligned surveillance provisions will make the U.S. more vulnerable to intelligence breakdowns and small-scale terrorism.
From the piece:
“The older [terrorist] plots were complex and relatively slow-moving. Anchored abroad, they had multiple threads that could be unwound by U.S. or foreign intelligence. New efforts are likely to feature home-grown actors with few if any foreign ties – people who are U.S. citizens or here legally. These plots are best eliminated by quick action under those provisions of the USA Patriot Act that deal with business records, lone-wolf threats, calling records and roving wiretaps. Yet those are precisely the provisions that some in the Senate propose to hobble or eliminate in legislation sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)…
The net effect of imposing sunset provisions, changing presumptions and adding layers of review and other administrative and judicial burdens on use of these intelligence tools, absent evidence that any of them has been abused – and there has been none – is that intelligence professionals will regard these regimens as transitory. Confidence and initiative will be degraded. The wall between intelligence-gathering and criminal investigation, thought before Sept. 11 to have been required by statute or the Constitution, but realised afterward to have been unnecessary, will be rebuilt. If intelligence bureaucracies are taught that they incur only burdens and risk criticism by seeking to gather intelligence, they will revert to pre-Sept. 11 mode, and await the next cycle of criticism for failing to connect “dots” they have been discouraged from gathering. The existing procedures for obtaining even an “emergency” authorization under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act already generate reams of documentation through several layers of bureaucracy; there is no need to find out how many more straws the camel’s back can bear.”
The op-ed comes as U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) opens Congressional hearings today on domestic terrorism and “Muslim American radicalization.” The Senate Judiciary Committee resumed debate over an extension of the Patriot Act this week.
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