Friday, September 29, 2006

Warrantless Wiretapping action in Congress

The House of Representatives just passed HR 5825 on a party line vote, short title, the Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act. Senate companion bill is still to be voted on, just being placed on the Calendar.

The House bill is H.R. 5825 (link);

The Senate bill is S. 3931 (link). (titled the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006).

Under the [House] measure, the president would be authorized to conduct such wiretaps if he:

• Notifies the House and Senate intelligence committees and congressional leaders.

• Believes an attack is imminent and later explains the reason and names the individuals and groups involved.

• Renews his certification every 90 days.

The Senate also could vote on a similar bill before Congress recesses at the end of the week.

Nice summary by LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer Fri Sep 29, at Yahoo News.

Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, charged: "Hidden in the fine print are provisions which grant the administration authority to maintain permanent records on innocent U.S. citizens, granting the administration new authority to demand personal records without court review, and terminating any and all legal challenges to unlawful wiretapping."

Shortly after the September 11 attacks, Bush secretly ordered the National Security Agency to monitor the international telephone conversations and e-mails of U.S. citizens without court warrants while in pursuit of suspected terrorists.

The program was publicly disclosed last December, prompting critics to charge Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires warrants for all electronic eavesdropping inside the United States.

Bush argues he has inherent powers to protect the country.

A federal judge last month declared the program unconstitutional. Bush appealed. The case is expected to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. The new legislation, if it becomes law, would likely be challenged in court as well.

From the Boston Globe article linked in the title of this post, written by Thomas Ferraro Sept. 28, 2006. For a OOTJ blog report on the Federal decision on wiretapping, see here, and here for a post on the related SAFE Act (Security and Freedom Ensured Act of 2005), S. 737 and H.R. 1526).

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