Criticism over a U.S. House debate on a Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA) re authorization by Rep. Chris Murphy’s prospective Republican opponent shows the GOP is turning early to divisive fear tactics on issues of national security and fighting terrorism in 2008.

Danbury GOP State Senator David Capiello, in a statement appearing in a New Britain Herald story by Scott Whipple, knocked Murphy and the House leadership for holding up a Senate-approved bill that grants retroactive immunity to telecom companies, leaving the Bush Administration free to spy on Americans in the name of national security without any constitutional safeguards. Abuse of intelligence gathering capabilities contributed, in part, to the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez last year.

Capiello contends that retroactive immunity for telecom companies and warrant-less wiretaps should be allowed despite a 1978 FISA law that provides the government with immediate spying capabilities so long as warrants are obtained within three days of the intelligence gathering. “I hate the idea of it being a campaign issue,” Cappiello was quoted as saying. “I see it as a national security issue. It’s an American issue. I hope it will be resolved so it won’t become a campaign issue.” Capiello appears to be drawing on the playbook of former Cong. Nancy Johnson who swamped the airwaves in 2006 with attacks on Murphy inferring that the Democrat would aid and abet terrorists. By saying “it’s an American issue” Capiello implicitly questions Murphy’s patriotism — the same tactic used by Johnson’s failed re-election campaign.

Murphy is on record as saying “it is dishonest to say that the expiration of the Protect America Act means the country can’t survive. Currently, the attorney general can approve surveillance within minutes; approval from the FISA court can be obtained in three days. The government simply begins the wiretap and goes to FISA court for retroactive approval.”

Rep. Murphy supports modifying the federal FISA law “to meet current threats” but takes issue with the Republicans for exploiting the issue “for partisan political gain.” To Murphy and other House Democrats, Bush and the Republicans are holding up the re authorization in order to protect telecommunication companies for infringing on the privacy for millions of Americans. Democrats are asserting the intelligence gathering is needed without breaking the law and revealing personal information about law-abiding citizens.

Murphy and House Democrats are taking up where Senator Chris Dodd left off in the U.S. Senate. Dodd valiantly opposed telecom immunity in the Senate and for a time was able to delay its passage in a stand against Bush’ intransigence and Majority Leader Harry Reid’s indifference. In January Dodd framed the issue in a statement on the Senate floor: “More and more, Americans are rejecting the false choice that has come to define this administration: security or liberty, but never, ever both. It speaks volumes about the president’s estimation of the American people that he expects them to accept that choice. The truth, though, is that shielding corporations from lawsuits does absolutely nothing for our security. I challenge the president to prove otherwise. I challenge him to show us how putting these companies above the law makes us safer by an iota.”