ACLU Urges Congress Not to Repeat History With FISA

December 13, 2007 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell, and Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, were scheduled to hold a closed congressional briefing today with legislation aimed at amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The Senate is expected to vote in the coming days on FISA legislation largely shaped by the White House and passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The bill includes a provision that would give immunity to telecommunications companies who aided in the administration’s domestic spying. Also today, a bill introduced by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) that would substitute the government as the plaintiff in cases currently pending against the telecoms was voted down in a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“They say history repeats itself and, if Congress isn’t careful, sadly it will prove this saying true,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “What ever happened to once bitten, twice shy? Last summer, both houses of Congress blindly followed the administration and Director McConnell and passed legislation that stripped Fourth Amendment protections from Americans. Now, with Congress staring down a February 1st deadline, the administration is once again beating the war drums and sending its ambassadors to the Hill. Members of Congress should not again be so easily intimidated. They have the chance to rewrite history and they should seize it.”

Director McConnell played a central role in negotiations around the so-called Protect America Act (PAA), rushed through Congress in August. Acting on behalf of the White House, McConnell worked to convince members to “modernize” FISA by spinning a story about American soldiers put in harm’s way because of crucial gaps in FISA (when it was in reality the only gaps were due to bureaucratic blunders at the Justice Department). McConnell also made inflated claims about the amount of time spent on FISA warrants and, perhaps most disturbing, exaggerated a terrorist threat against the United States. Many members of Congress including Senators Rockefeller and Feinstein, publicly criticized Director McConnell ‘s overstated claims during the days leading to the passage of the PAA

“It would be a huge mistake for Congress to let itself be hoodwinked once again by the administration,” said Fredrickson “Members have an obligation to uphold the Constitution and Fourth Amendment – especially when both are so easily ignored by the executive branch. We urge lawmakers to be wary of the administration’s bag of tricks. Director McConnell sold members of Congress a lemon in August. Why should they listen to him now?”

For more information about FISA, go to:

For an outline of Director McConnell’s myths and facts, go to:

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