Monday, July 17, 2006

Don't relax yet! NSA Wiretapping continues: SAFE ACT (Security and Freedom Ensured Act of 2005)

Follow the link above to an excellent Washington Post editorial about a new compromise bill in Congress that appears to require judicial evaluation of National Security Administration wiretaps while actually authorizing the current practices and opening up further abuse:

The bill would, indeed, get the NSA's program in front of judges, in one of two ways. It would transfer lawsuits challenging the program from courts around the country to the super-secret court system that typically handles wiretap applications in national security cases. It would also permit -- but not require -- the administration to seek approval from this court system, created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, for entire surveillance programs, thereby allowing judges to assess their legality.

But the cost of this judicial review would be ever so high. The bill's most dangerous language would effectively repeal FISA's current requirement that all domestic national security surveillance take place under its terms. The "compromise" bill would add to FISA: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to limit the constitutional authority of the President to collect intelligence with respect to foreign powers and agents of foreign powers." It would also, in various places, insert Congress's acknowledgment that the president may have inherent constitutional authority to spy on Americans. Any reasonable court looking at this bill would understand it as withdrawing the nearly three-decade-old legal insistence that FISA is the exclusive legitimate means of spying on Americans. It would therefore legitimize whatever it is the NSA is doing -- and a whole lot more.

I believe the bill referred to above is the SAFE ACT (Security and Freedom Ensured Act of 2005), S. 737 Link and H.R. 1526 link from It is difficult to be sure, but I think this is the bill referred to in the Post editorial. A related bill, S. Res. 398, is a censure of President Bush for his wiretapping excesses lnk. The image is from

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