Over at Media Matters, Raphael Schweber-Koren takes exception to John Wohlstetter’s claim that reauthorization of the Protect America Act is necessary to “allow the government to continue to monitor communications for counter-terror purposes”:
In fact, the government would retain the authority to monitor the communications of suspected terrorists after the PAA expires, as Media Matters for America has noted. Rather, what would expire are the PAA’s revisions to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which, among other things, expanded the government’s authority to eavesdrop on Americans’ domestic-to-foreign communications without a warrant.
Media Matters is really confusing the issue, which is not whether the government can eavesdrop on suspected terrorists pursuant to a court order. The issue is whether to permit additional eavesdropping for the purpose of identifying potential terrorists, as I’ve noted here. I cited the assessment of Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that FISA, which was enacted during the Cold War, was useless as a tool for identifying potential terrorists prior to the August amendments.