Monday, August 06, 2007

Congress Votes to Expand Unchecked Warrantless Wiretapping

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 6 - Following the Senate's lead, the House of Representatives on Saturday night voted to expand warrantless intelligence surveillance of international communications -- including those between people in the United States and people abroad. The Center for Democracy and Technology strongly opposes the measure.

The legislation, which the President is expect to sign, includes virtually none of the checks and balances that civil liberties advocates had called for to ensure that warrantless surveillance did not result in unchecked snooping on innocent Americans in the United States.

"Congress should be focusing on restoring checks and balances to intelligence surveillance, not on authorizing more warrantless wiretapping of communications that involve people in the United States," CDT President Leslie Harris said. If there is a person in the United States on the line, court authorization should be the rule."

The new warrantless surveillance authority will expire in six months. Immediately after the vote, House speaker Nancy Pelosi declared "unacceptable" many provisions of the bill that had just passed, and called on the chairs of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees to report more comprehensive legislation to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act "as soon as possible."

The White House proposed comprehensive legislation in April to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to permit more warrantless surveillance of international communications and of communications between Americans and foreign embassies in the United States.

Said CDT Senior Counsel and Director of CDT's Program on Freedom, Security and Technology, Gregory T. Nojeim, "the Administration's FISA reform legislation would make court supervision of intelligence surveillance both rarer and less effective in protecting privacy," Nojeim added. "It's up to Congress to chart a new course."


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