Friday, July 14, 2006

Specter FISA bill looks weak

The devil is indeed in the details.

From a Washington Post editorial:

In an effort to win votes, Mr. Specter has turned the bill from a flawed accountability measure into one that rewrites the rules of domestic surveillance and gives the administration an all but blank check to spy.

The most dangerous provision of the proposal would effectively repeal the current law's requirement that all domestic wiretapping take place under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Mr. Specter's bill would amend it to read: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to limit the constitutional authority of the President to gather foreign intelligence information or monitor the activities and communications of any person reasonably believed to be associated with a foreign enemy of the United States." The effect would be to withdraw Congress's insistence on regulating domestic spying -- and it would thereby help legitimize whatever the administration might be doing.

The bill also would allow the administration to seek permission from the FISA court system for "an electronic surveillance program," that is, surveillance of large numbers of people who aren't individually named in a warrant. Currently, the court can authorize only individual wiretaps and searches in the cases of people against whom the government presents evidence of terrorist or espionage ties. The bill, however, seems to authorize the administration to ask for a warrant for all kinds of "programs" without showing evidence against any individual, instead showing that the program is lawful and targeted at foreign intelligence collection.

Increasingly this looks like a really bad piece of law.

Why is it that Congress always get rolled by the White House in negotiations?

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