ACLU Urges Congress to Stand for a Constitutional FISA

January 30, 2008 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – As both the Senate and House consider legislation on government spying on Americans, the ACLU urges members of Congress not to cave in to White House requests for immunity for telecommunications providers and asks for a no vote on any bill with warrantless wiretapping.

The ACLU asks Congress to let the overreaching and unconstitutional powers of the Protect America Act expire and allow the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to do its job.

“Senators and members of Congress should fight a so-called compromise that includes complete immunity to telecommunications companies that, for five years or more, illegally helped the government spy on our phone calls and emails,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Immunity would prevent Americans from having their day in court to protect their privacy rights.”

Fredrickson explained that one key agreement being negotiated is which Senate amendments will require a 50-vote threshold, and which will require 60 votes. The ACLU urges a 50-vote threshold on key amendments authored by civil liberties champions Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT).

“The Bush administration is clearly worried that if the telecoms have to defend themselves in court, the truth will come out about how much illegal spying the president actually ordered. No administration has fought harder to conceal the truth, and Congress should not help by giving the immunity to the telecoms – even though a few members have finally been given access to a few documents,” Fredrickson said.

But no matter what FISA legislation moves forward, if any, the ACLU urges Congress to insist that the bill sent to the president does not allow for massive untargeted dragnets that scoop up all of our international calls and emails.

The ACLU commends the senators and representatives who have been leading the charge for a constitutional FISA – including Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ).

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