Attorney General Michael Mukasey said today that he was hopeful that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will move through Congress by as early as next week.
In a briefing with reporters, Mukasey said that the consequences of failing to reauthorize the bill before it sunsets early next month would have significant effect on how the government gathers intelligence. In particular, he said it would mean that any outstanding wiretapping authorizations may expire (orders generally last one year) and that the Justice Department would not have the capacity to handle new situations that come up.
Asked whether he was concerned about the continued threat by terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, Mukasey responded, "How concerned am I on a scale of 1 to 10? 11." He said that since taking the helm of the Justice Department, he begins each day with a national security briefing that is "sobering."
And though he thought that over time the effect of such information may lessen, "there is no dimunitive effect," he said. During the briefing, Mukasey addressed questions about the outside monitoring contract the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's office gave to former Attorney General John Ashcroft's consulting firm. He said a review of the guidelines for such outside contracts — which involve monitoring a company forgoing trial by settling a case with the government — was still ongoing and did not know yet whether any changes to the procedures would be made.