Discussing FISA on The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer (PART 1 of 2)

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lehrer: next, the surveillance program's hang up in congress. judy woodruff has the story. >> woodruff: legislation authorizing the current terrorist surveillance program is set to expire at midnight. standing in the way of its renewal is a fight between president bush and house democrats over granting immunity to telecom companies already facing some 40 lawsuits for voluntarily cooperating with the program. the president says without the program, intelligence agencies will not get the information they need to track terrorists. we get two views on the standoff from congressman steny hoyer of maryland, the house majority leader, and congressman peter hoekstra of michigan, the ranking member on the house select committee on intelligence. gentlemen, we appreciate your joining us, thank you very much. >> thank you, judy. >> woodruff: representative hoekstra, to you first, dow stand by president bush's statement that if this legislation is allowed to expire the government wouldn't be able to get information it needs to track terrorists? >> well, the question is not whether it will expire. we know that it will expire. it will expire this weekend. so we will lose important communications methods. to put this in context, immediately in the aftermath of 9/11, congressional leaders and the administration determined that fisa did not work with the flexibility, the speed and agility that we needed to track terrorists. when this protect america act expires, we are going to go back under the same set of rules and regulations that were in place before 9/11. the administration, the current speaker of the house determined that those rules, that legal framework didn't work in 2001. the dangers to america, our troops and our allies are as great as they were then. and the law will not work now in 2008. it will not work. we will start losing our capabilities will start eroding. we won't lose everything at once. our capabilities will erode over the next faw weeks. >> woodruff: representative hoyer, is that much at stake here? >> i don't think anything is going to erode. the difference will be that the administration for new authority may have to go to the fisa court and can get it, and can act before it get its it in an emergency. but i just simply think peter hoekstra, who is a wonderful member of congress, is wrong on this issue. but more importantly, and i usually don't do this, but let me read from a statement by ben powell, yesterday, general counsel, office of the director of national intelligence said this: just to make sure there is no misunderstanding, we will not for 9 directives that are in place, the expiration of paa, the protect america act, will not then shave back on the surveillance authority under those exact directives. so in other words, every authority in place under the protect america act will continue in being for at least a year. and perhaps as short a time as six months if the directive was given six months ago. but the point is, and i want to give the message to any terrorists who think that we are going down, that in fact, every protection that was in place remains in place. we can vigorously go after the interception of communications harmful to the united states. we wanted, as you know, judy, to extend the legislative authority for 21 days. to a person republicans voted against extending an act which they think is critical, which they say is critical to our national security. the president said he would veto an extension. i can't believe the president would have vetoed legislation which he now says is critical to the protection of the united states it is a contradictory argument that the republicans are making. >> woodruff: well, we'll come back to you representative hoekstra, what about this statement that congressman hoyer just read from the general counsel of the director of national intelligence? >> you got to listen to the words very, very closely. and steny, you may think i'm wrong. but listen to the words. listen to the words you read. it says for any directives under the paa, they will continue. i'm sorry, this is not a static world. this is a very dynamic world. the example is if we find 20 new suicide bombers that left afghanistan that are going to, you know, do their work in spain, you may need a new order. and we're not going to have the flexibility, the agility and the speed to get it done. congress should have stayed in this week. ...