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Sunday, 20 July 2008 19:08

Warrantless-search Legislation Moves Forward

Written by  The New American

Surveillance SignThe bill amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would allow the government to engage in massive collection of American citizens’ communications without a search warrant, clearly in violation of the Fourth Amendment, is moving forward in the Senate, after having been passed by the House on June 20. In February, the Senate had passed similar legislation (see Senate vote #25 in “The Freedom Index” in this issue of TNA), but the House did not do likewise and the legislation stalled. More recently a compromise between the Bush administration and congressional leaders breathed new life into the legislation.

Opponents of the bill say that the compromise, like the earlier version, will legalize the illegal warrantless surveillance carried out under the Bush administration’s orders between 2001 and 2007. The bill would also dismiss the approximately 40 lawsuits against telecommunications companies that provided customer information to U.S. government agencies during that period.

On June 25, the Senate voted 80-15 to end a filibuster to block a vote on the bill itself. The Senate is expected to vote for passage of the bill after the July 4 recess.

According to Senator Feingold (D-Wis.), “This legislation is going to be remembered as the legislation in which Congress granted the executive branch the power to sweep up all of our international communications, with very few controls or oversight.” It is, he said, a “get out of jail free” card for those companies that illegally furnished the federal government with telecommunication information after 9/11. Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) called the FISA bill “a gutting of the Fourth Amendment,” and “anti-American, deeply disturbing, and completely unacceptable.”

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