Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wiretap Oversight Urged

It's good to see The Center for Democracy and Technology taking yet another strong stand on behalf of individual privacy. I've covered the illegal wiretapping issue pretty extensively here, and it goes without saying that the telecommunications industry does not deserve immunity for the crimes they committed against their customers.

But, as CDT notes, there are numerous other problems with the FISA "reform" bills making their way through congress.

PC World reports:

The legislation, as approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee, would reauthorize warrantless wiretapping of some U.S. residents' telephone and electronic communications in the name of protecting the U.S. against terrorists. One of the most controversial provisions would give telecom carriers immunity from civil lawsuit judgements for assisting the government wiretapping efforts, but CDT officials said Tuesday that there are other important debates raised by the legislation, including the role of the U.S. FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court in overseeing the wiretapping program.

The Senate Intelligence Committee version of the bill, which was put together with help from President George Bush's administration, offers "no meaningful protection" to U.S. residents and limits the involvement of the FISA court in approving wiretapping, CDT said. Several civil liberties groups have called the wiretapping program illegal because it spies on U.S. residents communicating with oversees suspects without court approval.


The CDT would prefer a substitute amendment from the Senate Judiciary Committee that's likely to come before the Senate during debate on the bill. That bill would give the FISA court more oversight of the wiretap orders, would prohibit the bulk collection of international communications and would sunset the bill in four years instead of six, as in the Senate Intelligence version. Even better is a House of Representatives bill, the Restore Act, which would allow ongoing FISA court supervision of the wiretapping program, and would require prior court approval of wiretaps in most cases, CDT said. The House narrowly passed the Restore Act Nov. 15.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

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