POLITICS
04/09/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Feingold Calls Out Intel Chief For Saying Dems Want To Imprison Bush

Senator Russ Feingold is calling the Director of National Intelligence out for telling what seemingly amounts to a massive exaggeration if not downright fabrication of the recent FISA debate in Congress.

In a speech at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina this past week, Vice Admiral Mike McConnell told a crowd that, during the debate over the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, members of Senate called for the outright abolition of the Intelligence Community and even the jailing of President Bush.

"We had a bill go into the Senate. It was debated vigorously," said McConnell. "There were some who said we shouldn't have an Intelligence Community. Some have that point of view. Some say the President of the United States violated the process, spied on Americans, should be impeached and should go to jail. I mean, this is democracy, you can say anything you want to say. That was the argument made. The vote was 68 to 29."

And yet, as Feingold notes, and as a review of the press coverage details, neither of the events McConnell refers to actually happened. The debate over FISA was spirited as Feingold and a minority of senators maneuvered to remove a provision granting telecommunications companies immunity for helping the government with warrentless wiretapping.

But as Feingold wrote in a letter to McConnell: "I am not aware of any Senator saying or suggesting that 'we shouldn't have an Intelligence Community' or that President Bush 'should be impeached and should go to jail.'"

In addition to penning the note to McConnell, Feingold has asked the Intelligence Director to produce actual evidence "of all statements made by Senators during the debate that you believe support [your] assertions."

A spokesman for Feingold said there was no timeline for when they expected a response.

Here is the complete text of Feingold's letter:

The Honorable J.M. McConnell
Director of National Intelligence
Washington, D.C. 20511

Dear Director McConnell:

I have received a copy of your March 28, 2008, speech at Furman University. In it, you described Senate action on the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, stating:

"We had a bill go into the Senate. It was debated vigorously. There were some who said we shouldn't have an Intelligence Community. Some have that point of view. Some say the President of the United States violated the process, spied on Americans, should be impeached and should go to jail. I mean, this is democracy, you can say anything you want to say. That was the argument made. The vote was 68 to 29."

As you correctly noted, the bill was the subject of vigorous debate. Many members of the Senate expressed serious concerns about the lack of checks and balances included in the legislation and the potential impact of the new authorities on the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. Many Senators were also concerned that retroactive immunity for companies alleged to have cooperated with the President's warrantless wiretapping program would undermine the rule of law.

However, I am not aware of any Senator saying or suggesting that "we shouldn't have an Intelligence Community" or that President Bush "should be impeached and should go to jail." I would therefore appreciate your providing a list of all statements made by Senators during the debate that you believe support these assertions. If there are no such examples, you should issue an immediate correction and an apology.

While all sides of this debate deserve to be heard, to falsely attribute statements to United States Senators serves only to mislead the American people. It also undermines your credibility and that of the position of Director of National Intelligence.

Sincerely,

Russell D. Feingold
U.S. Senator