Welcome to the worst week of Admiral Mike McConnell's life.
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Before the week is out, the director of national intelligence will appear before the House judiciary and intelligence committees to defend the Protect America Act -- August's McConnell-pushed relaxation of restrictions on surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Even before the act passed, prominent Democrats vowed to roll back FISA changes that many on the left consider ill-advised, including the abandonment of individualized suspicion.
McConnell once enjoyed a sterling reputation as a non-partisan defense professional. That's all over, thanks to a string of events in the past couple months.
House Democrats believe McConnell negotiated with them on the Protect America Act in bad faith, reaching an agreement with them on a FISA compromise just before the August recess, only to see McConnell fall silent as the White House scotched it. (McConnell denies any such deal existed.) Then, in an interview with the El Paso Times, McConnell chastised Congress for allegedly revealing classified information during the surveillance debate -- only to go on to do so himself. (For good measure, he added that "some Americans are going to die" because of loose Congressional lips.) Perhaps most egregiously, McConnell told the Senate Government Affairs Committee last week -- completely contrary to the facts -- that the Protect America Act was responsible for the apprehension of three German terrorist suspects earlier this month, and then waited two days to retract his false statement.
All this was enough to prompt the former top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Jane Harman (D-CA), to remark, "Jane to Mike: Please stop. You're undermining the authorities of your office."