ACLU Blueprint for FISA, ACLU Urges Congress to Restore Judicial Review

September 25, 2007 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – The ACLU released a blueprint for the ongoing legislative battle over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act today. Director of the Washington Legislative Office Caroline Fredrickson said, “If lawmakers feel compelled to permanently amend FISA, Congress must ensure the legislation restores judicial review and protects the privacy rights of innocent Americans.”

Without congressional reauthorization, the inappropriately named “Protect America Act,” will expire in February, and the Democratic leadership has promised to revisit this unconstitutional law. The ACLU insists if any legislation is passed it should adhere to the following basic blueprint:

  • The government should receive only the information it is authorized to intercept by law, it should not be given direct and unfettered access to telecommunications infrastructure. The telecommunications industry should be responsible for collecting and isolating targeted communications.
  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) must play a meaningful role in ensuring compliance with the law.
  • When the government intercepts a communication to which a person in the U.S. is a party, the NSA should be required to immediately destroy that communication – except in narrowly defined circumstances which would require judicial oversight.
  • Once the government believes that a person under surveillance will have significant contact with someone in the United States, the government should be required to get an order from the FISC to continue that surveillance.
  • Congress should also oppose any attempts to grant telecommunications companies amnesty for helping the NSA spy on innocent Americans.

By following this basic blueprint, lawmakers will protect the privacy rights of innocent Americans and ensure that the law adheres to the Fourth Amendment. Americans have had their phone calls and records illegally released to the government. “If Congress swoops in now to stop the telecoms from being held accountable for their illegal actions, companies will have no reason to follow the law in the future,” said Fredrickson.

The new law passed this summer, allows the government to intercept – without a court order – the calls and emails of Americans who are communicating with people in other countries. Congress passed this law even though the White House still refuses to comply with congressional subpoenas seeking information about the NSA wiretapping program. We still don’t know how many Americans have been spied on or what is being done with the information that is collected.

“The ACLU believes that our nation’s surveillance laws can effectively target terrorists without jeopardizing the rights of innocent Americans. We look forward to working with Congress to make certain America remains both safe and free,” said ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Tim Sparapani.

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