Apparently before Congress goes into recess this week they may vote on H Res 3138--the Wilson FISA modernization bill.
offered by Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM) that would expand the National Security Agency's (NSA's) access to the telephone conversations and e-mail communications of Americans who have no connection to Al Qaeda or terrorism.
2) Look up your representative's direct number here
*Why is this bill troubling?*The Wilson bill changes the definitions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in order to allow the NSA to acquire millions of Americans' international communications without any warrant oroversight. Under the new definition, the NSA would not need a warrant to conduct "vacuum cleaner surveillance," seizing whole streams of Americans' international phone calls and e-mails, so long as it does not "intentionally direct surveillance at a particular known person in the U.S." when it initially acquires those private conversations.
On Saturday, the /New York Times/
revealed that the 2004 dispute within the Bush administration over the program hinged on a data mining component that collected millions of our telephone records from telecommunications companies without FISA warrants.
The bill would also allow the NSA to seize Americans' domestic communications without a warrant, if the NSA does not "reasonably believe" (READ: "does not bother to check") that the caller or the recipient is located in the U.S.
The administration has publicly claimed that Congress needs to fix a "foreign to foreign" issue "loophole" to ensure that certain foreign-to-foreign communications that are rerouted through the U.S. would not require a warrant. Representatives Schiff , Flake , Harman and others have introduced language that would make that clear.
But Wilson's bill to amend FISA is a sea change in the law and the rights of Americans.
*Suggested talking points on Rep. Heather Wilson's bill, HR 3138:*
1) We have seen from the FBI's abuses of its warrantless national security letter power that warrantless searches lead to abuses . There should be no warrantless wiretapping of Americans. Checks and balancesare necessary.
2) President Bush and others continuously mislead the public by stressing that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was written in 1978, and it fails to mention that it has been updated dozens of times in order to give the impression that it is outdated. Congress needs to be informed of what the President has been doing to circumvent FISA requirements that were designed to protect Americans' privacy.
3) Congress needs to complete its investigation of the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, or programs, and force the administration to reveal documents the Justice Department prepared at the onset of the program.
(See Center for Democracy & Technology's Most Wanted Surveillance Documents ,
and Most Wanted Surveillance Answers.
4) The administration has not complied with congressional subpoenas seeking critical information about the program. It's too soon to pass legislation involving that program.
5) I'm concerned that Representative Wilson's FISA modernization bill H.R. 3138, which she claims is needed to close loopholes, creates a gigantic loophole in our Fourth Amendment privacy rights by vastlyexpanding warrantless surveillance of people in the US, with no connection to a suspected terrorist. Even warrantless domestic surveillance would slip through Wilson's gaping loophole by giving the NSA the ability to decide that our phone calls and emails aren't domestic--even when we're communicating with people who are within the United States.
Visit BORDC's legislation page
for more information on this bill. Find more information on warrantless domestic surveillance here.
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