McConnell: Democracy kills

The president's director of national intelligence says the FISA debate means Americans will die.

Published August 23, 2007 10:49AM (EDT)

You'd think that the Bush administration would be pretty happy with the way that changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act have played out. The Democrats caved in, the White House got virtually everything it wanted, and there's a six-month sunset provision in the legislation the president signed, which means that the Republicans can beat the Democrats into submission on the thing -- and simultaneously accuse them of trying to make America less safe -- all over again just in time for the 2008 presidential primaries.

But that's not enough for National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell. Or maybe, come to think of it, it's exactly what he wanted. In an interview with the El Paso Times, McConnell lays the future deaths of Americans at the feet of those who talked about what powers the government should have under FISA. "The fact we're doing it this way means that some Americans are going to die," McConnell says.

Debating the program will cause these deaths, McConnell says, because otherwise the "bad guys" wouldn't know about it at all.

So does that mean McConnell thinks there shouldn't be a debate about this sort of thing? Not exactly. "We used to do these things very differently," he says. "But for whatever reason, you know, it's a democratic process and sunshine's a good thing. We need to have the debate."

Right. Because if we didn't have the debate, we wouldn't have any way to demonize those who dared to ask questions in the first place.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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