ACLU Warns Congress Against Rushing Spy Law Changes

July 31, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@dcaclu.org

Washington, DC - The American Civil Liberties Union today warned Congress to resist the Bush administration’s attempts to rush problematic spying changes through the House and Senate before the congressional recess begins next week. The administration has reinvigorated its attempts to "modernize" the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and is leaning on Congress to pass legislation before lawmakers finish investigating the illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

"This isn't a quick fix, it's a complete overhaul of FISA," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "Congress needs to take its time before it implements another piece of anti-terrorism legislation it will regret, like the Patriot Act. The Bush administration clearly has abused the FISA powers it already has and clearly wants to go back to the good old days of warrantless wiretapping and domestic spying. After being caught trying to steal an inch, the administration now has the gall to ask for the whole mile. Congress must stop this bill in its tracks."

The administration’s proposed FISA changes would allow the government to vacuum up all international communications without a warrant and only later go back for a court order if it can sift through the mass of communications to cobble together some probable cause. This is backwards. It would also eliminate crucial oversight as the administration claims that seeking approval from FISA judges can be "burdensome." The ACLU noted that there is no paperwork exception to the Fourth Amendment and all searches must be conducted with judicial review.

"National security is at the forefront of everybody’s mind, but legislating in the dark will not make us safer," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "FISA has been updated no less than 50 times since it was passed in 1978 - 20 of those changes occurring after September 11th, 2001. Allowing the administration to bulldoze this law through follows in the pattern of the disastrous Patriot Act and will signal that Congress is at the mercy of the executive branch. The FISA court is not an impediment to the administration in its current capacity. If the administration needs warrants while Congress is in recess, it knows where it can get them."

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

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

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