Back to News & Commentary

FISA Fight Sends Congress Into Twilight Zone

Michelle Richardson,
Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
Share This Page
August 3, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, you are now entering the Twilight Zone. The House is in an uproar over this FISA overhaul.

Republicans object to the fact that the public never saw the FISA bills currently barrelling through Congress. Meanwhile, the Democrats are ready to violate their promises for a more open government, and they're gunning to gut FISA, as the president has demanded. And the ACLU is siding with conservative Republicans! (That's not entirely unprecedented - our fact-checkers are furiously tallying how often it's happened - the situation certainly makes for some odd bedfellows.)

Today on The Huffington Post, legislative director Caroline Fredrickson explains the lie that FISA hasn't kept pace with technology:

Any electronic communication you make - email, a telephone call, a text message, your instant messages over Google Talk, AIM or Skype - travels over the same wires and airwaves. Whether the signal is carried over fiber optics, a microwave relay or through a garden variety twisted-pair phone wire, FISA can get at it.

These are the same wires and airwaves that were in place in 1978 when FISA was enacted. So while technology has indeed advanced in strides, as Caroline says, "the fundamental way in which electronic communications are transmitted has not." So to say that the law hasn't kept pace with technology is a cover-up for the truth: The White House is looking to remove all judicial oversight, so it can intercept your overseas phone calls and emails without the troubling obstacle of warrants, or judges. President Bush is looking for a blank check. Caroline adds:

That this Democratic Congress is even considering Director McConnell's proposed changes is, for lack of a better word, a disgrace. Just this week we discovered that even the secret intelligence court has rebuffed the administration's request to scoop up unidentified foreign to U.S. calls through some still-secret dragnet. Congress, ostensibly a level-headed check on executive overreaching, got rolled on the Patriot Act and now is about to get rolled on a brave new world of warrantless wiretapping

We're asking everyone to keep the calls pouring in to Congress as they head for a likely extended session over this critical issue. If you value the oversight the surveillance court has over the president, if you value the privacy of your emails and phone calls, please pick up your own phone today and make your voice heard!

Learn More About the Issues on This Page