At a time when partisan gridlock in Washington threatens to send us plunging over the fiscal cliff, it is comforting to know that at least in some areas lawmakers can still reach bipartisan consensus. Not many admittedly, but there are some–such as the Senate’s vote, 73 to 23, to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as amended in 2008, when lawmakers gave their imprimatur to what had been an executive initiative undertaken by President George W. Bush to monitor potential terrorists’ communications after 9/11.
Bush had torn down the wall which had prohibited monitoring foreign terrorists’ communications with people in the U.S. absent a court order. This had become controversial when it was publicly revealed, but Congress stepped in to provide the authority needed. Now Congress has extended that authority, and in so doing, senators turned back numerous attempts by lawmakers on both the far-left and far-right to stop or water down this legislation, which is badly needed by our intelligence agencies.
This shows how, after the initial controversies over the war on terror, a remarkable degree of bipartisan consensus has been reached in favor of measures such as wiretapping, drone strikes and detentions atGuantanamo that were once highly controversial. Other measures, such as “enhanced interrogation” techniques, which could not survive popular scrutiny, have been shelved. But the fact is that President Obama has continued most of the anti-terrorism measures begun under the previous administration and he has done so with the support of the Democratic-controlled Senate. That is good for the fight against terrorism and good for the country in general.