ACLU Condemns Administration's Circumvention of Spy Judge
WASHINGTON - AUGUST 3 - Following reports that a judge overruled the Bush Administration’s wiretapping procedures, the American Civil Liberties Union today slammed the White House for attempting to rush new domestic spying legislation through Congress this week. The alleged ruling by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge against a “basket warrant” led the administration to begin fiercely lobbying Congress to make sweeping changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) before Congress recesses.
"A campaign of fear and misinformation has spread on Capitol Hill that needs to be stopped," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "When a judge rules against the government, we shouldn't just rush to change the law. We can't allow an administration that breaks the laws to simply bully lawmakers into rewriting them. Congress must stop caving in and start standing up to this administration."
For months, the Bush administration has been shopping its proposed FISA changes around Congress. Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, has been heavily involved in the lobbying for gutting FISA. Late last night, Senators Christopher Bond (R-MO) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced legislation that is very similar to the administration’s proposal. The senators’ bill would permit the wiretapping of Americans without warrants and without judicial review. Its proposed changes are sweeping. As long as the National Security Agency targets someone overseas, whether that person is sending or receiving information via the phone or email, the communications of Americans on the other end will be caught up in the surveillance dragnet.
Also yesterday, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), released his plan for an interim FISA fix. His proposal would also allow mass collection of Americans’ communications, would permit the vast amount of data to be subsequently datamined. This would bury any useful intelligence and would guarantee the collection and retention of countless phone calls and emails in the event that one party is within the United States. In addition, Senator Rockefeller proposes a sunset provision to re-examine the changes in six months. The Patriot Act reauthorization debacle makes clear that sunsets are a bad idea.
“This administration’s continued aversion to oversight and the rule of law shows a remarkable lack of respect for the American people,” added Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The FISA court is notorious for rubberstamping most applications for warrants. The moment that one judge says no, the administration calls foul and attempts to browbeat Congress into passing legislation that will give them carte blanche authority to wiretap Americans. Lawmakers must reject this political ambush and carefully consider any changes to FISA.”