ACLU Slams Wider Spying By NSA, Demands Congress Rein in Spy Powers, Block Telecom Immunity

December 16, 2007 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – This week the Senate will consider making vast changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and will determine whether telecommunications companies should be held liable for their role in President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. The New York Times ran a story today that elaborated on the administration and National Security Agency’s domestic spying partnerships with certain phone companies. The following is a statement from Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

“When the FISA Amendments Act of 2007 comes to the Senate floor this week, Congress has a duty and an opportunity to protect the Fourth Amendment and rein in the executive’s spying power. As the administration uses advances in technology to anchor its requests for more surveillance power, it makes no effort to ensure that Americans’ privacy rights advance proportionately. Congress also has the power to stand up and declare that ‘because the president said so’ is not a legal defense and to block sweeping immunity for the telecom companies. Senators must vote no on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bill, which so disturbingly mirrors the disastrous Protect America Act, to ensure that the president understands that Congress is not a mail order catalog but a co-equal branch of government.

“Today’s article in The New York Times is further proof that the ties between the administration and telecommunications companies are perilously tangled. It seems the basis for the push to expand the FISA is as broad as we feared. The administration has claimed that is seeking merely foreign intelligence and that the intelligence is for national security purposes only. We see now that those claims are a part of a larger and more chilling picture.

“Those who have filed the over 40 legitimate cases against the telecom companies deserve their day in court – especially now that what we thought we knew about the companies’ involvement in domestic spying was, perhaps, just the tip of the iceberg. It becomes clearer and clearer just how in the dark Americans are when it comes to the surveillance they are subject to under this administration. It seems that the more we learn, the less we know.”

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