ACLU Condemns Senate for Passing Spy Law Changes

August 4, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today condemned the House and Senate for bowing to pressure from the Bush administration and rushing to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  The administration lobbied heavily to alter the legislation before Congress recessed.  The White House pushed for sweeping changes to the spy law after a FISA court judge recently rejected its use of wide-scale, untargeted surveillance.  The bill was passed in the Senate by a vote of 60 to 28, and the House is poised to take up the same legislation late tonight.

“We are deeply disappointed that the president’s tactics of fearmongering have once again forced Congress into submission,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU.  “That a Democratically-controlled Senate would be strong-armed by the Bush administration is astonishing.  This Congress may prove to be as spineless in standing up to the Bush Administration as the one that enacted the Patriot Act or the Military Commissions Act.”  

The legislation that passed would allow for the intelligence agencies to intercept – without a court order – the calls and emails of Americans who are communicating with people abroad, and puts authority for doing so in the hands of the attorney general.  No protections exist for Americans whose calls or emails are vacuumed up, leaving it to the executive branch to collect, sort, and use this information as it sees fit.

“It seems that political cover is more important to our senators than the rights and privacy of those they represent,” added Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.  “The administration is on the verge of reviving a warrantless wiretapping program even broader than the illegal one it conducted before.  Though lawmakers claim these changes are temporary, we’ve just witnessed their lack of backbone today and, unfortunately, may soon see it again.  Luckily, the sunset expires in the midst of primary season – so the voters will be able to keep lawmakers at their word.”

To read the ACLU’s letter to Congressional leadership on FISA changes, go to:
www.aclu.org/safefree/general/31154leg20070731.html

To read the ACLU’s Myths and Facts about FISA, go to:
www.aclu.org/safefree/nsaspying/31144res20070731.html

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