February 12, 2008 | By Hugh D'Andrade

FISA Amendments Act News Roundup

Sixty-seven senators chose to side with corporate interests rather than uphold the Constitution today, passing the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) and voting to reject every amendment that would have improved the bill and protected American civil liberties.

For a list of which Senator cast which shameful vote, here is the official tally.

As Senator Dodd put it:

This warrantless wiretapping program was the single largest invasion of privacy in the history of the country and we just sanctioned it by granting retroactive immunity.

He also vowed to continue the fight when the House returns its version of the bill, using "whatever vehicles we can" to oppose immunity.

Glenn Greenwald's blog at Salon provides the appropriate level of outrage, but also points out that the FAA is really a rollback of reforms (login may be required) made in the 1970s after revelations of surveillance abuse at that time:

How far we've come -- really: disgracefully tumbled -- from the days of the Church Committee, which aggressively uncovered surveillance abuses and then drafted legislation to outlaw them and prevent them from ever occurring again. It is, of course, precisely those post-Watergate laws which the Bush administration and their telecom conspirators purposely violated, and for which they are about to receive permanent, lawless protection.

The immunity provisions in the bill are far from the only problem with the bill, as Wired's Threat Level points out:

In addition to providing a get-out-of-court-free card for companies such as AT&T and Verizon, the bill also largely legalizes Bush's secret wiretapping program, by letting the NSA spy inside American telecom and internet infrastructure without getting court approval or having particular targets in mind.

DailyKos commented on the failure of the "exclusivity" amendment to the bill, which would have made FISA the exclusive source of authority for wiretapping, with the headline US Senate commits suicide on national television:

In rejecting the Feinstein "exclusivity" amendment to the FISA revision considered on the Senate floor today -- an amendment that failed by a vote of 57 Ayes to 41 Noes, thanks to another "painless filibuster" of precisely the type we were promised would not be tolerated on this bill -- the Senate has voted to say that although they were passing a law governing surveillance, it was OK if the President decided that he really didn't like the law very much and wished to make up his own instead.

As the battle moves to the House, Firedoglake reminds readers that the House surveillance bill is much better than the Senate's — it does not include the odious provisions for telecom immunity, and has other protections for privacy rights. They've put up a petition urging House leaders to stand strong — sign it here.

Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Representative Conyers weighed in to tell the White House that he still opposes telecom immunity:

...review and consideration of the documents and briefings provided so far leads me to conclude that there is no basis for the broad telecommunications company amnesty provisions advocated by the Administration and contained in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) bill being considered today in the Senate, and that these materials raise more questions than they answer on the issue of amnesty for telecommunications providers.

It ain't over 'til its over -- support the House in the last stand against telecom immunity!


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