ACLU Urges Congress Not to Legalize Warrantless Wiretapping

June 13, 2008 12:00 am

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If Deal Includes Immunity It’s a Gift From Congress to Telecommunications Companies

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union comments on a reported deal on gutting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office:

“This FISA deal looks like the unconstitutional Senate bill in sheep’s clothing. Whatever silk purse Hoyer tries to make of Bond’s sow’s ear and no matter how they try to sell it, the end result of all this negotiating will be exactly what the administration has wanted from the beginning — FISA rewritten to delete court oversight of surveillance and immunity for its pals at the telephone companies.”

“From the language we’ve seen, we’re back at square one, looking at a bill just like the old Senate bill that lacks meaningful judicial involvement. The Fourth Amendment requires prior and individual court review before the government digs into our private conversations. It is clear the next vote will be on a bill that fails this test — by permitting the government to conduct mass untargeted surveillance, sometimes without prior court review, and sometimes with prior court review — and then only when the government unilaterally decides that it is willing and able to answer to the judicial branch.”

“It is also clear that the deal is intentionally designed to grant immunity to companies that facilitated illegal wiretapping. If the only role for the court — be it District or a FISA court — is to determine whether the companies received a request from the Administration, and not to determine whether those requests were legal, it’s a sham review. The president has publicly acknowledged that the companies were repeatedly sent authorizations to turn over Americans phone calls and emails. It is absolutely guaranteed that current and future cases will never determine whether this administration and its friends in the telecom industry broke the law.”

“The ACLU urges Senators to vote against this deal if it is brought to a vote next week.”

To learn more about Senator Kit Bond’s (R-Mo.) FISA proposal, go to:

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