New FISA Compromise Is an Improvement, Still Raises Concerns

March 11, 2008 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – Statement from Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office on the proposed House FISA compromise legislation:

“While we still have concerns about aspects of the new House FISA bill, the American Civil Liberties Union is encouraged by the new draft – particularly the language on state secrets, which would allow the cases to go forward while allowing the telecommunications companies to assert any defenses. We commend House leadership for keeping the courthouse door open. And in particular, we applaud the House for refusing to adopt the overreaching FISA Amendments Act, which would give the executive branch carte blanche to wiretap on US soil and grant complete retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that facilitated years of illegal surveillance. We are also heartened by the role retained by the FISA court in overseeing the program as well as the two-year sunset on the legislation.

“We do, however, continue to have the same reservations we had about the RESTORE Act passed by the House last fall. The provisions in that bill and this new bill allowing for bulk collection of communications and dragnets are inconsistent with Fourth Amendment protections and thus we cannot endorse the bill.

“Nonetheless, we see the House’s new FISA bill as a positive step towards reining in the powers of the flawed Protect America Act rushed through Congress this past August and a clear rejection of the Senate’s problematic approach.

“The recent revelations from a new Verizon whistleblower who tells a story similar to the allegations of the AT&T whistleblower – that telecommunications companies are allowing wholesale access to US customer communications without warrants — coupled with the story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about the reemergence of the total information awareness program make clear that Congress and the courts need to investigate the facts before blanket immunity is even considered.”

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