Washington, DC – With news that a surveillance bill may be voted on in the House of Representatives as early as tomorrow, the American Civil Liberties Union sternly warned members against voting for the legislation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has worked closely with the White House and has led the effort to gut the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and give the telephone companies what amounts to a pardon for breaking the law.
The following may be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office:
"Congress is poised to once again pass disastrous surveillance legislation, now upping the ante with a thinly-veiled giveaway to some major campaign donors.
"This bill allows for mass and untargeted surveillance of Americans’ communications. The court review is mere window-dressing – all the court would look at is the procedures for the year-long dragnet and not at the who, what and why of the spying. Even this superficial court review has a gaping loophole – ‘exigent’ circumstances can short cut even this perfunctory oversight since any delay in the onset of spying meets the test and by definition going to the court would cause at least a minimal pause. Worse yet, if the court denies an order for any reason, the government is allowed to continue surveillance throughout the appeals process, thereby rendering the role of the judiciary meaningless. In the end, there is no one to answer to; a court review without power is no court review at all."
"The Hoyer/Bush surveillance deal was clearly written with the telephone companies and internet providers at the table and for their benefit. They wanted immunity, and this bill gives it to them.
"The telecom companies simply have to produce a piece of paper we already know exists, resulting in immediate dismissal. That’s not accountability. Loopholes and judicial theater don’t do our Fourth Amendment rights justice. In the end, this is politics. This bill does nothing to keep Americans safe and is a constitutional farce.
"The process by which this deal has come about has been as secretive as the warrantless wiretapping program it is seeking to legitimize. While members and organizations who would seek to fiercely protect the civil liberties of Americans have been denied a seat at the table, one wonders how present the powerful telecom lobby has been.
"Leadership should be leading to protect the Constitution, not bowing to pressure from Republicans, the White House, and the telecommunications companies.
"The ACLU is asking Congress, as the final minutes tick by, to stand up and do the right thing."
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