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Intel czar admits new surveillance law did not foil terror plot
Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday September 12, 2007

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Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has withdrawn his claim that Congress's recent authorization of expanded electronic surveillance had helped foil a terror plot in Germany.

According to Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, McConnell testified to Sen. Joe Lieberman on Monday that the new law "helped 'facilitate' the arrest of three suspects believed to be planning massive car bombings against American targets in Germany." Intelligence officials quickly raised questions about McConnell's testimony, indicating that the US military had provided the information to the Germans 10 months ago, long before the new law was passed.

Democrats then challenged McConnell's statement, with House Judiciary Chair John Conyers requesting a clarification and House Intelligence Committee Chair Silvestre Reyes sending McConnell a letter asking for a public correction. The letter read, in part, "While revising FISA may provide a tool that could enhance future operations, it was not in play in the Germany case. In fact, FISA, which you repeatedly claim is 'outdated,' was precisely the tool that helped disrupt this plot."

McConnell has now issued a statement adjusting his testimony, and Democrats, who had already complained about being stampeded into passing the new law just before their August recess, are charging him with playing politics on behalf of the White House. The surveillance law was passed on an emergency basis and is due to expire after six months, and McConnell's testimony had been seen as a strong argument for its continued authorization.