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Senator Rockefeller Continues to Shock and Disappoint on FISA

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February 6, 2008

Whoops! This week, on the floor of the Senate, Senator John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) may have accidentally revealed the administration’s true intentions in “updating” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), said about legislation pending:

Unlike traditional FISA applications, which permits the collection of information on one target, the new FISA provision permits a system of collection. The Court’s role in this system of collection is not to consider probable cause on individual targets, but to ensure that the procedures used to collect intelligence are adequate. The Court’s determination of the adequacy of procedures, therefore, impacts all of the electronic communications gathered under the new mechanism, even if it involves thousands of targets.

The court does not determine probable cause but instead the adequacy of procedures used to surveil thousands of targets? It sounds like Mr. Rockefeller and his pals in the administration would like to see the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court relegated to shift manager.

Firedoglake caught the remarks and Ryan Singel at Wired wrote a great piece on what this means, saying, in part:

Rockefeller makes clear that the impending changes to the law aren’t about making it easier for the National Security Agency to listen in on a particular terrorism suspect’s phone calls. Instead, the changes are about letting the nation’s spooks secretly and unilaterally install filters inside America’s phone and internet infrastructure.

Rockefeller joined with Republicans again today by continuing to argue against amendments that would offered by Senators Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) that would guard Americans’ privacy. More and more, we have to wonder whose side Senator Rockefeller is on – the administration’s, the phone companies’ or his constituents‘?

Votes are likely today on key amendments that would implement more privacy protections for Americans’ phone calls and emails but the big show will be the amendment offered by Senator Dodd that would strike the immunity clause in the current SSCI bill and guarantee the public’s day court. Stay tuned.

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