Congress Passes NSA Spying Bill (Updated)
Update 7:21 PM: Congress has now passed the Administration's spying bill and landed a huge blow to all Americans' privacy. Thanks to everyone who took action to voice their opposition, and shame on the members of Congress who bowed to the Administration's scaremongering and disregarded the rights and interests of the American people. This is obviously an incredibly disappointing turn in the fight to stop the government's abuse of spying powers, but this is by no means the end of the road.
(Originally posted 8/3) All week, the Bush Administration has been trying to scare Congress into rubberstamping the NSA's warrantless surveillance of ordinary Americans' private communications, and we're hearing that a bill could come to a vote in the House this afternoon. It's absolutely critical that you call Congress now and tell them to vote no on "FISA Modernization," even if you've already done so this week. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are rushing to pass legislation before the August recess next week.
While language of the latest proposed bill isn't public yet and several alternatives are also still in play, Congress shouldn't take any hasty action on this issue. The NSA spying program has been going on for over five years in blatant violation of the laws already on the books, and even the secret FISA court has apparently refused to authorize these activities. Congress shouldn't be bullied into expanding the government's ability to spy on Americans, clearing the way for even more abuse of surveillance powers and invasions of privacy.
Update, 3:59 PM: The bill put forward by House Democrats is now public, and it is a sham compromise that poses a grave danger to Americans' privacy. It threatens to give the government virtually unchecked access to communications networks and Americans' communications without a warrant or meaningful oversight. The House may begin debate on the bill soon -- please take action now before it's too late. It seems that the White House may even reject this overreaching proposal and push for an even more invasive bill before Congress recesses.
The ACLU's Michelle Richardson has authored a great post on the current House situation.
Update, 8/4: Last night, the Senate passed a version of the Administration's proposal, which is even worse than the sham compromise offered up earlier in the day. Marty Lederman has posted initial analysis here. The House is expected to vote today -- tell your representatives to show some backbone and reject this legislation.