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Scare Tactics and Our Surveillance Bill

It is clear that he and his Republican allies, desperate to distract attention from the economy and other policy failures, are trying to use this issue to scare the American people into believing that congressional Democrats have left America vulnerable to terrorist attack.

But if our nation were to suddenly become vulnerable, it would not be because we don't have sufficient domestic surveillance powers. It would be because the Bush administration has done too little to defeat al-Qaeda, which has reconstituted itself in Pakistan and gained strength throughout the world. Many of our intelligence assets are being used to fight in Iraq instead of taking on Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organization that attacked us on Sept. 11 and that wants to attack us again.

The president may try to change the topic by talking about surveillance laws, but we aren't buying it.

We are motivated to pass legislation governing surveillance because we believe this activity must be carefully regulated to protect Americans' constitutional rights. Companies that provide lawful assistance to the government in surveillance activities should be legally protected for doing so.

We are already working to reconcile the House and Senate bills and hope that our Republican colleagues will join us in the coming weeks to craft final, bipartisan legislation. A key objective of our effort is to build support for a law that gives our intelligence professionals not only the tools they need but also confidence that the legislation they will be implementing has the broad support of Congress and the American public.

If the president thinks he can use this as a wedge issue to divide Democrats, he is wrong. We are united in our determination to produce responsible legislation that will protect America and protect our Constitution.

Jay Rockefeller, Patrick Leahy, Silvestre Reyes and John Conyers are chairmen, respectively, of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Judiciary Committee.

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