ACLU: Bush's wiretap bill violates Fourth Amendment
The Senate plans to take up legislation as early as this week to rein in the Bush Administration's spying powers by reforming the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says that when Congress rushed through wiretapping legislation this past August, they made a grave mistake.
"The Administration bill basically writes Augustís mistake in stone," she wrote in a press release Tuesday. "It does nothing to protect Americans' communications and violates the Fourth Amendment requirement that courts supervise any spying on American soil."
The Senate will likely choose between two bills. The first, favored by the Bush Administration, would make the current FISA law permanent and would give retroactive immunity to Telecommunications companies that cooperated with government surveillance efforts. The second would attempt to rein in some the Presidentís surveillance flexibility. Fredrickson is adamant that the Senate must reject the Bush proposal and hold telecoms accountable for past indiscretions.
"The bill sent to the president must not let the telecoms off the hook," she said. "We still donít know what they did. We do know, however, that the companies wonít have any incentive to follow the law in the future if they get away without having to answer to their customers about why they violated the law."
The ACLU added that any bill passed must follow the Constitution by protecting American communications by individualized court orders.
In November, the House of Representatives passed a more moderate FISA revision entitled the Responsible Electronic Surveillance that is Overseen, Reviewed, and Effective Act of 2007 (RESTORE Act). The bill, according to New York Representative Jerrold Nadler, "restores and enhances the role of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in monitoring electronic surveillance programs, clarifies that monitoring communications among people in foreign countries does not require court approval, requires FISA warrants when targeting domestic communications, and strengthens protections against 'inadvertent' warrantless surveillance of Americans ostensibly aimed at foreigners abroad."
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