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
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
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:
H.R. 6304 passed the House 239-129,
and is slated for the Senate as early as June 23.
quote: [D]umerok said: We haven't had a terrorist attack since I turned 18 years old (September 17, 2001). Therefore, my reaching adulthood is solely responsible for the lasting security America has enjoyed over the past 6.5 years. You're welcome.
quote: Foiled Terrorist Plots Since 9/11 (CBS/AP): Some of the cases of plots that U.S. authorities say they have foiled since Sept. 11, 2001 include: December 2001: Richard Reid, a British citizen and self-described follower of Osama bin Laden, foiled an attempt to blow up a Paris-to-Miami flight with explosives hidden in his shoes. He pleaded guilty in 2002. May 2002: Jose Padilla is arrested in Chicago on a return trip from Pakistan. Initially held as an enemy combatant and accused of planning to build a "dirty bomb," he was formally charged with aiding foreign jihadists in a Miami court in 2005. His trial began May 14. September 2002: The "Lackawanna Six," American citizens of Yemeni descent living near Buffalo, N.Y., are arrested for allegedly having attended an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks. The six pleaded guilty in 2003 to providing material support to a terrorist organization. May 2003: Iyman Faris of Columbus, Ohio, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Kashmir, pleads guilty to supporting al-Qaida. He was accused of planning to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. He is sentenced to 20 years. June 2003: In Virginia, the FBI charges a group of men with being part of a conspiracy to support holy war overseas. In all, 11 men eventually were convicted in what the government described as a "Virginia jihad network" that used paintball games as a form of training. August 2004: U.S. authorities issue alert, announce evidence of a years-long plot to attack the New York Stock Exchange and other financial institutions in New York, Washington and Newark, N.J. They later accuse plotters of also planning attacks in England. Eventually, five men pleaded guilty in London, where alleged ringleader Dhiren Barot was convicted. At least one other man is awaiting trial. August 2004: Two men are arrested on the eve of the Republican Convention in New York for allegedly plotting to blow up a busy subway station. James Elshafay, a U.S. citizen, eventually pleaded guilty and testified against the other man, Shahawar Matin Siraj, a Pakistani. Siraj was sentenced to 30 years in prison; Elshavy to five. August 2004: Authorities arrest two leaders of a mosque in Albany, N.Y., and charge them with aiding in a purported plot to buy a shoulder-fired grenade launcher to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat. The former imam of the Masjid As-Salam mosque, Kurdish refugee Yassin Aref, and Mohammed Hossain, a mosque founder, were later found guilty to counts relating to money laundering and conspiracy. June 2005: A Pakistani immigrant and his American-born son in Lodi, Calif., are arrested for allegedly lying to the FBI about the younger man's training at a jihadist camp in Pakistan. Hamid Hayat, the son, was found guilty of supporting terrorism and lying to the FBI. He is seeking a new trial. The case against Umer Hayat, the father, ended in a mistrial; he later pleaded guilty to lying to a customs agent about trying to carry $28,000 into Pakistan. August 2005: Four California men, one the founder of a radical Islamic prison group, are indicted for allegedly conspiring to attack Los Angeles-area military bases, synagogues and other targets. The men have pleaded not guilty and await trial. February 2006: Three men are arrested in Toledo, Ohio, for allegedly providing material support to terrorists. One of the men is accused of downloading videos on the use of suicide-bomb vests. April 2006: Two Georgia men are charged with material support of terrorism after allegedly videotaping buildings in the Washington area, including the Capitol and the World Bank, and sending the video to a London extremist active on jihadist Web sites. June 2006: The FBI announces the arrests of seven men in Miami and Atlanta in what officials called the early stages of a plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, and destroy FBI offices and other buildings. All pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. July 2006: U.S. authorities announce the arrest of Assem Hammoud, a Lebanese man they claim was plotting to bomb New York City train tunnels to flood the financial district. March 2007: A Pentagon transcript is released indicating that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, confessed to that attack and a string of other terror plots, including that of Reid, during a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. May 2007: Six men were arrested in an alleged plot to unleash a bloody rampage on Fort Dix in New Jersey. Five are charged with conspiring to kill military personnel and could face life in prison if convicted. The sixth faces up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted of weapons charges. June 2007: Four Muslim men planned to destroy John F. Kennedy International Airport, kill thousands of people and trigger an economic catastrophe by blowing up a jet fuel artery that runs through residential neighborhoods. Three men were arrested and one was being sought in Trinidad.