About FISA: Why the Dodd amendment is so important

Repost from Jul 9th, 2008
Today the Senate is voting on the FISA amendment and the Dodd amendment that would exclude retroactive immunity to telecoms for their complicity in this administration’s unconstitutional wiretapping of Americans. There are Democratic Senators and Representatives promoting a myth about FISA.  The myth is that, without the current amendment giving immunity to the telecom industries who cooperated with Bush in illegal warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens, the country will be left “unprotected.”  According to my research and understanding, this is absolute crap.

The original FISA act (not the last one that allows Bush to circumvent the FISA court) is still in effect and would remain so. The original FISA law allows the administration a “grace period” during which they can begin to wiretap without a warrant, but must go to the FISA court and provide evidence of probable cause or imminent danger in order to get a warrant.  They can proceed immediately, however, to wiretap without the warrant during that grace period.  According to my understanding, if they cannot prove probable cause or imminent danger and the FISA court’s does not approve the warrant, only then are they not allowed to use the information collected in a court trial.  If the FISA court approves, the information gathered during the grace period is admissible in a court of law.

Further, the FISA court was created to handle top secret information and issues of national security.  FISA court personnel all have the necessary security clearances to handle and deal with this kind of information.  The FISA court was created for this very purpose.  So don’t let the claims of the Bush administration or others mislead you into believing that this court would jeopardize national security.  Or that the court could not respond quickly enough in such an emergency.

All this baloney about our country being “unprotected” without the telecom immunity is nothing but crap used to scare us into compliance.

GWB and his administration must have telecom immunity or the telecoms could be forced to turn against the administration and testify against the administration for its criminal wiretapping without warrants. That’s the only reason that GWB cares about the telecoms — supression of evidence against him and his administration.  Similar to why he partially pardoned Libby — it shut Libby up until after GWB leaves office. You can rest assured that he will give a full pardon to Libby his very last minute in office.

So, in short, not passing this version of the FISA bill will not put our country in immediate jeopardy.  The expiration of the FISA amendment that is upon us does not negate the original FISA law and all the protections it offers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Intelligence_Surveillance_Act (Wiki)

The act created a court which meets in secret, and approves or denies requests for search warrants. Only the number of warrants applied for, issued and denied, is reported. In 1980 (the first full year after its inception), it approved 322 warrants.[2] This number has steadily grown to 2224 warrants[3] in 2006. In the period 1979-2006 a total of 22,990 applications for warrants were made to the Court of which 22,985 were approved (sometimes with modifications; or with the splitting up, or combining together, of warrants for legal purposes), and only 5 were definitively rejected.[4]

The Act was amended by the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, primarily to include terrorism on behalf of groups that are not specifically backed by a foreign government.

In 2004, FISA was amended to include a “lone wolf” provision. 50 U.S.C. §1801(b)(1)(C). A “lone wolf” is a non-US person who engages in or prepares for international terrorism. The provision amended the definition of “foreign power” to permit the FISA courts to issue surveillance and physical search orders without having to find a connection between the “lone wolf” and a foreign government or terrorist group.[20]

On March 16, 2006, Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006 (S.2455),[27][28] under which the President would be given certain additional limited statutory authority to conduct electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists in the United States subject to enhanced Congressional oversight. Also on March 16, 2006, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced The National Security Surveillance Act of 2006 (S.2453),[29][30] which would amend FISA to grant retroactive amnesty[31] for warrantless surveillance conducted under presidential authority and provide FISA court (FISC) jurisdiction to review, authorize, and oversight “electronic surveillance programs.” On May 24, 2006, Senator Specter and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Improvement and Enhancement Act of 2006 (S.3001) asserting FISA as the exclusive means to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance.

All three competing bills were the subject of Judiciary Committee hearings throughout the summer.[32] On September 13, 2006, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve all three mutually exclusive bills, thus, leaving it to the full Senate to resolve.[33]

On July 18, 2006, U.S. Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM) introduced the Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act (H.R. 5825). Wilson’s bill would give the President the authority to authorize electronic surveillance of international phone calls and e-mail linked specifically to identified terrorist groups immediately following or in anticipation of an armed or terrorist attack on the United States. Surveillance beyond the initial authorized period would require a FISA warrant or a presidential certification to Congress. On September 28, 2006 the House of Representatives passed Wilson’s bill and it was referred to the Senate.[34]

An overhaul of the bill, the Protect America Act of 2007 was signed into law on August 5, 2007[5]. It expired on February 17, 2008.   On August 3, 2007, the Senate passed a Republican-sponsored version of FISA (S. 1927) in a vote of 60 to 28. The House followed by passing the bill, 227–183. The Protect America Act of 2007 (Pub.L. 110-55, S. 1927) was then signed into law by George W. Bush on 200708-05.[35]

Under the Protect America Act of 2007, communications that begin or end in a foreign country may be wiretapped by the US government without supervision by the FISA Court. The Act removes from the definition of “electronic surveillance” in FISA any surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States. As such, surveillance of these communications no longer requires a government application to, and order issuing from, the FISA Court.

Within 120 days, the Attorney General must submit to the FISA Court for its approval the procedures by which the government will determine that acquisitions authorized by the Act conform with the Act and do not involve purely domestic communications.

The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 is currently pending in Congress.[6]

This AMENDMENT to FISA is what is being debated in the Senate, not the original FISA law itself.  FISA remains in full force and effect.  Our country’s national security is not threatened.  The administration can surveil according to FISA procedures and obtain a warrant based on the criteria above. 

Ths false crisis of the expiration of the 2007 amendment is being used to coerce Congress into granting RETROACTIVE IMMUNITY to telecom companies for domestic surveillance of Americans that was performed without a FISA warrant. 

Why is this such as issue?  GWB and his administration have violated our 4th Amendment rights.  Through the use of executive privilege, they have refused to provide the evidence and testimony about their activities that would incriminate them.  GWB knows that if the telecoms have immunity from prosecution, he will not have to worry about them turning witness against him and his administration.

This is a cover-up effort on the part of the administration to suppress evidence of their crimes.  And Congress is complicit.

The supposed purposes of granting the telecoms immunity from prosecution is so that the telecoms cannot be sued for complicity by individuals who have been surveilled without a warrant.

Let’s examine that:  FISA surveillance, even with warrants, are not listed by name or any other ID.  They remain under seal.  Only the numbers of warrants issued or rejected is even reported to Congress.  Even Congress has no idea who is being surveilled by this administration.

So, in order for me to bring suit against a telecom, wouldn’t I have to have some evidence that I had been surveilled?  How would I obtain that evidence?

Neither the telecom company or the administration is going to write me a letter of notification saying that I am either currently under surveillance or was at one time under surveillance, so how do I prove the crime has been committed against me in the first place?   Any lawsuit I file will be summarily dismissed for lack of evidence.

The answer is:  I can’t.  That’s why this argument about protecting telecoms from lawsuits is so bogus — a truly false crisis whose real intent is to prevent telecoms from testifying against the administration.

Think about it.

One more tidbit for those of you concerned about this false crisis.

Were you aware that some of the surveillance by some of the telecom companies was discontinued by the telecom companies BECAUSE OUR GOVERNMENT DIDN’T PAY THE BILL?

If it was so critical to our national security, don’t you think somebody in Accounts Payable would have cut the check?

Just a thought….


About Laura Schneider

Retired IT consultant (disabled), musician and animal lover. I support the constitutional concept of Right of Privacy and no discrimination against any person based on race, religion, ideology, gender, sexual preference or disability. I am very concerned about the erosion of our constitutional rights and protections under GWB (and even this administration). I strongly oppose torture, rendition or illegal search and/or seizure (without a warrant) and warrantless wiretapping. I believe that education is our best hope of a bright future for our children. Knowledge is power, and that's the kind of authority (Biblically speaking) that our children must have in order to be successful in a 21st century world.
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