ACLU Urges Congress not to Rubberstamp FISA Plan

March 4, 2008 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – With a House vote on domestic spy legislation rumored to occur within days, there are reports of a plan to split the two titles of the terrible bill passed by the Senate that gutted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The Senate bill contains almost no Fourth Amendment protections in its Title I, and its Title II contains immunity for telecommunications companies that illegally aided the president’s warrantlesss wiretapping program. The American Civil Liberties Union urges Congress to not rubberstamp the president’s plan to circumvent the Constitution.

The following can be attributed ACLU lobbyist Michelle Richardson:

“We are deeply concerned about the proposal to break the Senate bill into two separate measures. If the majority uses bifurcation to leverage substantial privacy protections for Americans on wiretapping and adopts changes that allow the lawsuits to proceed, that’s a step in the right direction. However, if this split merely offers members of Congress the chance to vote on a variation of the Senate’s surveillance scheme and full immunity for the telecommunications industry, then it’s just a rubberstamp of the president’s scheme. Congress’ job is to protect the civil liberties of individual Americans and to make sure those who have broken the law are held accountable.

“The House held its ground two weeks ago, and polling shows the American public is clearly against giving the telecommunications firms a get-out-of-jail-free card. Congress should stay strong and not give into the president’s power grab. Otherwise, the courageous act of letting the Protect America Act expire will be squandered.

“We urge Congress to pass legislation that will protect our civil liberties and hold telecommunication companies responsible. The president illegally wiretapped Americans for years without telling Congress. Congress can’t expect to conduct meaningful oversight in the future if they allow the executive to walk all over them now.”

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