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Critics say compromise bill is anything but

The U.S. House of Representatives quickly passed the FISA Amendments Act yesterday, which if made into law would expand the government's surveillance abilities and grant retroactive immunity to telecoms for their role in post-9/11 mass domestic wiretapping.

The Act, known more formally as H.R. 6304 and born after months of negotiations, represents a “bipartisan compromise” over similar legislation that died on the House floor last February.

Much of the negotiations revolved around the thorny issue of “telecom immunity,” which if included would kill the 40+ lawsuits currently in progress accusing communications providers of assisting the Bush Administration in an illegal, post-9/11 surveillance program. As the bill currently stands, a court review will determine if providers received a presidential order requesting the wiretaps – regardless of whether or not the correct warrants were filed – and then drop all pending litigation if that condition was met.

The “warrantless wiretapping” program, initiated by the Bush Administration in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, ran for almost six years until it was discovered by the New York Times.

With time running out on the country’s surveillance laws – current versions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs the nation’s surveillance activities, are set to expire in August – Congress has little time to negotiate. The Bush Administration previously took a hard-line stance against FISA updates that failed to include a provision for telecom immunity, although it was reported earlier this year that the White House decided to relax its stance.

The FISA Amendments Act “balances the needs of our intelligence community with Americans' civil liberties, and provides critical new oversight and accountability requirements,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

“The House of Representatives today has fallen down on the job,” said the Electronic Frontier Foundation activist Hugh D’Andrade. “By passing the FISA Amendments Act … [the House] voted to give this lame duck President an undeserved parting gift by passing immunity for telecoms that helped the President violate the Constitution by participating in the NSA's massive and illegal spying program.”

“Immunity for telecom giants that secretly assisted in the NSA's warrantless surveillance undermines the rule of law and the privacy of every American,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. “We are deeply disappointed that the House Leadership, which was so courageous in its previous opposition to telecom immunity, caved to the Administration's fear-mongering and put this seriously flawed legislation on the floor for a vote.”

In addition to the aforementioned telecom immunity provisions, the FISA Amendments Bill would:

  • Allow the government to conduct emergency eavesdropping without court approval for up to a week.
  • Allow secret FISA courts to review expiring surveillance orders for up to 30 days before renewing them.
  • Prohibit the government from superseding surveillance rules, even if it invokes war powers.
  • Require court permission to wiretap Americans overseas.
  • Obscure out American citizens’ names when wiretapping conversations between an American citizen and a foreigner.

H.R. 6304 passed the House 239-129, and is slated for the Senate as early as June 23.

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RE: Who follows the Constitution Anyways?
By Ryanman on 6/22/2008 1:34:13 AM , Rating: 3
At no point did I suggest that I'm a badass, that I'm a "rebel", that me arguing with people such as yourself makes my genitals larger or that it matters to anyone.

Nor did I say Bush invented wiretapping. If you notice, I spoke of the entire history of the United States as a whole, from the Civil War, to the New Deal, to WWII, to now. There has been a trend showing the increase in government power. By mincing my words and quoting select passages, you dodge the main question I put forth.

As you said I'm a "kid". I was an idiot who believed god existed back when Clinton was getting sucked off by Lewinski. And you making this into a personal attack about my age when you can't even muster respect and coherence speaks volumes about not only yourself, but people who accept what is told to them.

And as I also said in my reply, that was of course an extremist argument. My main question is: "WHAT if anything will get people to stop accepting domestic surveillance as a necessary evil to prevent terrorism". Our forefathers are rolling in their graves while the American public stares at the TV and continues to be apathetic about their constitutional rights being "raped".

RE: Who follows the Constitution Anyways?
By Reclaimer77 on 6/22/2008 5:02:33 PM , Rating: 1
"WHAT if anything will get people to stop accepting domestic surveillance as a necessary evil to prevent terrorism"

The freedoms we enjoy go both ways. The terrorist living here and learning how to fly planes into buildings were also enjoying our freedoms. How can you possibly stop that without legislation like the Patriot Act and wiretapping ? Would you rather we just rounded up all the dark looking people and throw them in internment camps WWII style ? Thankfully we have a better way now.

The freedoms we enjoy today could very well be because Lincoln, in an effort to save this country, completely discarded the Constitution and did what he had to do to secure the union.

Our forefathers are rolling in their graves while the American public stares at the TV and continues to be apathetic about their constitutional rights being "raped"

I think our forefathers would be damned proud today, and I don't care one bit for your over exaggerating doom and gloom outlook. America has helped defeat fascism. It took 40 years to defeat, mostly, Communism. Here we are 200 years later, after all the wars, death, pain. Triumphant. We stand alone in the world, and everyone knows it. We are the direct embodyment of the principles they left us with.

Do we not have freedom, liberty, equality, and opportunity? All that didn't come from a single piece of paper. All of that can't, and wont, be brought down by a 4 or 8 year term of the President.

Either go live somewhere else, or build a time machine so you can go back 200 years and live like they did. I guess I'm content to be an " apathetic " American who realizes wire tapping isn't the end of the world, and won't effect my life. Because I KNOW why they are doing it. Its to PROTECT me, and the ones I love.

I respect your opinion. I don't like the IDEA of wirtapping either. But people like you who want to pretend the world is Hello Kitty and hold onto ideals while stark realities are presented don't do anyone any good.

RE: Who follows the Constitution Anyways?
By Polynikes on 6/22/2008 5:55:20 PM , Rating: 3
You think our forefathers would be "damned proud" of our current government?

State's rights: died with slavery.

The federal government having limited power? It's practically limitless now. We have an extremely strong central government, which is exactly what the founding fathers DIDN'T want.

Security? I know at least one founding father who wouldn't like today's security situation. You've probably read this quote 800 times, but here, you can read it again:
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

- Ben Franklin

By Reclaimer77 on 6/22/2008 7:48:52 PM , Rating: 1
Ummm wasn't Ben Franklin also the one who said " The Constitution is not a suicide pact " ??

"Death Is Very Likely The Single Best Invention Of Life" -- Steve Jobs
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