Monday, August 06, 2007

CCR Condems FISA Modernization Law

Democrats Complicit in Broad Expansion of Warrant-less Spying on Americans

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 6 - The "FISA Modernization" bill that passed both houses and was signed into law by the President on Sunday night broadly expands the federal government’s power to conduct surveillance on Americans without a court warrant. The bill went beyond earlier reports that the new law would merely allow the government to listen in to communications between two overseas parties that just happen to route through a switching circuit located in the U.S. Under the new statute the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence may approve listening in on the conversations of Americans so long as the target of the surveillance is “reasonably believed” to be abroad, with no prior review by the courts.

“The Democratically controlled Congress has now joined forces with the Bush Administration in undermining the Constitution,” said CCR Executive Director, Vincent Warren. “Make no mistake, this law is not merely a technical fix, rather it enshrines in law the ability of the NSA to listen in to the conversations and read the emails of millions of Americans.”

This legislative development comes in the wake of recent media reports that a secret ruling by a federal judge who sits on the FISA court reversed a January 10th ruling from the same court that had allowed the administration to carry out the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program in almost exactly the same manner as before. This reversal is supposedly what prompted the Bush administration's current push for “emergency” legislation to expand its wiretapping powers and legitimate the NSA Program and let to the passage of the FISA Modernization Act, although the decision appears to have occurred in April, several months ago.

According to CCR attorney Shayana Kadidal, “This new act effectively deprives federal judges of their rightful role in the warrant process. As agents of accountability and oversight, judges ensure that law enforcement will do a more rigorous job and, in the long view, that makes us all more safe.”

The issue of the constitutionality of the original spy program is still wending its way through the Courts. On August 9th, CCR’s challenge to the program, CCR v. Bush, will be the subject of oral argument before a federal district court in San Francisco.

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