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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: Catching the Enemy
By Master Kenobi on 6/22/2008 1:06:50 PM , Rating: 1
I'd say be glad we arent rounding up every arab and muslim and throwing them into camps like was done to the Japanese in WW2. We seem to have come a long way since then. Wire tapping is absolutely tame in comparison.

RE: Catching the Enemy
By JonnyDough on 6/23/2008 5:49:53 AM , Rating: 2
Since we're making comparisons how about we relate this to the cold war instead? I think we'll throw you in jail for saying crap against the U.S. government in previous posts and on the telephone. We heard you say something bad in a convo with someone, but we won't take it public and discuss who it might have been. But just so you know, if you've contacted anyone who we also suspect we'll be sure to round them up and hold them without a warrant for an indeterminable amount of time as well. Camps? Try "undisclosed location." How do you like that you commie scum?

When making comparisons, it is important to look at ALL parts of history, otherwise your point might be made invalid. This is not akin to WW2 as much as it is to the cold war when we spied on our own citizens, labeled them, and then hung them for treason because we were afraid of every American citizen. You only say "muslim" and "arab" because now you think that terrorists are arab.


The KKK is active.
Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist, and most terrorists are DOMESTIC. Get this through your heads people. 911 was a one time deal, and we have killed THOUSANDS of people overseas for every American that has died since 911 due to this "war". I'm sorry, I thought we were fighting Al Queida. why are we in Iraq again? Oh yeah, that's right...weapons of mass destruction.

RE: Catching the Enemy
By masher2 on 6/23/2008 12:29:00 PM , Rating: 1
> "we have killed THOUSANDS of people overseas for every American that has died since 911 due to this "war". "

3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks. Just counting those, a death toll of "thousands" for every one would mean a minimum of six million people killed. Whoops.

Even if exclude the death toll of 9/11 itself, we've lost 4,000 people in Iraq. That works out to 8 million people we've supposedly killed. Whoops again!

> "when we spied on our own citizens, labeled them, and then hung them for treason because we were afraid of every American citizen"

No one was "hung for treason because we were afraid". If you're referring to the Rosenberg case, they were self-confessed spies, tried for espionage not treason, and executed in the electric chair, not hung. And for very good reason.

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