Washington, DC - In a meeting today with the office of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the American Civil Liberties Union rebuffed attempts to "modernize" the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The ACLU and other privacy groups and academics met with the DNI at the invitation of the DNI to discuss the broad changes that the Bush Administration and Department of Justice are seeking to make to FISA.
"Congress enacted FISA with the intention of protecting Americans from the very sort of domestic wiretapping the administration has engaged in," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Amending FISA after the fact would only serve to legitimize and reward the president's illegal actions. There is no legitimate need to expand FISA and the argument that this law cannot keep up with technology is flatly false. "
Though the ACLU and other groups met with intelligence officials in good faith, the organization remains skeptical of any attempt to expand or condone warrantless wiretapping within the United States. Congress originally passed FISA to provide the exclusive authority for the wiretapping of American citizens for foreign intelligence purposes. While the administration claims that its proposed FISA changes would "modernize" the law, in truth they would gut the judicial oversight mechanisms carefully crafted to prevent abuse, while expanding the scope of communications that can be intercepted under FISA.
The ACLU noted that, despite many recent hearings about "modernization" and "technology neutrality," the administration has not publicly provided Congress with a single example of how current FISA standards have either prevented the intelligence community from using new technologies, or proven unworkable for the agents tasked with following them.
"When it comes to the extent of the president's warrantless wiretapping program, the public is still in very much in the dark," said Fredrickson. "It's foolish to amend FISA before we fully understand the extent to which it was ignored. Congress still does not have all of the facts of the president's domestic spying. Lawmakers must continue to fight for answers and, while we wait, we simply cannot trust those who break the rules to make the rules."
To read more about the ACLU's concerns with NSA Spying, go to: www.aclu.org/nsaspying