ACLU Urges House Panel to Get Answers From Spy Chief, Says FISA Legislation Needs to Be Fixed, Not Misrepresented

September 18, 2007 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the House Judiciary Committee to grill the Director of National Intelligence Michael “Mike” McConnell at a hearing on recently passed wiretapping legislation. The law, inaccurately named the “Protect America Act,” caused public outcry when it was rushed through Congress before the August recess and overhauled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The hearing was McConnell’s first appearance before Congress after misleading a Senate panel regarding the role the new law played in foiling a terror plot in Germany.

“The Committee must demand straight answers from Mr. McConnell – answers that don’t require a retraction,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU Legislative Consultant. “Americans deserve an honest and open dialogue about this overreaching legislation. The law expires in February but our privacy can’t wait that long. Members need to start turning this ship around now.”

The ACLU has, along with over 60 other groups, sent a letter to congressional leaders outlining seven bedrock principles that it believes must be a part of any FISA legislation that moves forward. The most important being returning FISA oversight to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and putting privacy safeguards in place for any American communications swept up in the surveillance. In addition, the administration has signaled it will continue to push immunity for telecommunications companies that aided in warrantless wiretapping program. The ACLU maintains that telecom amnesty will set a dangerous precedent and rid the companies of any accountability for their role in the unconstitutional program.

“Cutting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court out of the process is at complete odds with the administration’s claim of returning FISA to its original state,” said Richardson. “The original intent of the law has been stripped away and the language broadened to fit the wants of an overzealous administration. The laws governing our privacy should have a debate worthy of the Constitution and must include the protections inherent in the Fourth Amendment. Congress needs to quickly right this wrong.”

To read the coalition letter on FISA, go to:

For more information on the ACLU’s work on FISA, go to:

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