ACLU Demands Fourth Amendment Protections, Says FISA Fix Must Include Individual Warrants

October 10, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Today, as two key House committees are scheduled to review FISA-related legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union urged lawmakers to keep the Fourth Amendment in FISA and require that the government get individual warrants before monitoring American phone calls and emails. Both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees are scheduled to mark up legislation aimed at fixing the controversial Protect America Act, which broadly expanded the government’s ability to spy on Americans. The bill being marked up is the RESTORE Act, which grants the government the use of “basket” warrants (sometimes called “blanket” or “program” warrants). Basket warrants raise major Fourth Amendment concerns as they do not require specific individuals be the targets of suspicion. The ACLU is asking the Committees to amend the RESTORE Act to include individual warrants.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“Allowing blanket warrants to be reviewed only once a year by a secret court doesn’t come anywhere close to the rigorous privacy safeguards Americans deserve. We urge both committees to examine Representative Rush Holt’s bill, ‘The FISA Modernization Act of 2007’ if they are looking for legislation that can pass constitutional muster.

“Congress is under no obligation to pass either of these bills – it can let the disastrous Protect America Act expire. When the bill expires in February, FISA will still be intact and will allow for surveillance. If Congress is determined to pass legislation to fix the Protect America Act instead of letting it expire, then civil liberties concerns must be addressed. We urge the committees to not let politics trump policy and to stand up for the document they swore to uphold – the Constitution.

“The ACLU adamantly opposes any provision that would give telcom companies amnesty for their role in warrantless wiretapping program. The telecom companies broke the law while aiding the administration in the illegal domestic spying program and should not be let off the hook for their role. The Administration has refused to comply with requests from Congress to provide the legal rationale behind the program, effectively digging its heels in like a spoiled child. Congress should not be in the habit of rewarding the behavior of an overzealous and overreaching executive branch. It certainly should not be offering amnesty to private corporations that violated the Fourth Amendment rights of its customers. The telecom companies broke the law and violated the Constitution and they must face the consequences.”

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