Congress caves to Bush on spy program

The House handed President Bush a victory Saturday, voting to expand the government’s abilities to eavesdrop without warrants on foreign suspects whose communications pass through the United States.

The 227-183 vote, which followed the Senate’s approval Friday, sends the bill to Bush for his signature.

Late Saturday, Bush said, “The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, has assured me that this bill gives him what he needs to continue to protect the country, and therefore I will sign this legislation as soon as it gets to my desk.”

The administration said the measure is needed to speed the National Security Agency’s ability to intercept phone calls, e-mails and other communications involving foreign nationals “reasonably believed to be outside the United States.” Civil liberties groups and many Democrats said it goes too far, possibly enabling the government to wiretap U.S. residents communicating with overseas parties without adequate oversight from courts or Congress.

The bill updates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. It gives the government leeway to intercept, without warrants, communications between foreigners that are routed through equipment in United States, provided that “foreign intelligence information” is at stake. Bush describes the effort as an anti-terrorist program, but the bill is not limited to terror suspects and could have wider applications, some lawmakers said.

The government long has had substantial powers to intercept purely foreign communications that don’t touch U.S. soil.

If a U.S. resident becomes the chief target of surveillance, the government would have to obtain a warrant from the special FISA court.

Congressional Democrats won a few concessions in negotiations earlier in the week. New wiretaps must be approved by the director of national intelligence and the attorney general, not just the attorney general. Congress has battled with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on several issues, and some Democrats have accused him of perjury.

The new law also will expire in six months unless Congress renews it. The administration wanted the changes to be permanent.

Many congressional Democrats wanted tighter restrictions on government surveillance, but yielded in the face of Bush’s veto threats and the impending August recess.

“This bill would grant the attorney general the ability to wiretap anybody, any place, any time without court review, without any checks and balances,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., during the debate preceding the vote. “I think this unwarranted, unprecedented measure would simply eviscerate the 4th Amendment,” which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

Republicans disputed her description. “It does nothing to tear up the Constitution,” said Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif.

If an American’s communications are swept up in surveillance of a foreigner, he said, “we go through a process called minimization” and get rid of the records unless there is reason to suspect the American is a threat.

The administration began pressing for changes to the law after a recent ruling by the FISA court. That decision barred the government from eavesdropping without warrants on foreign suspects whose messages were being routed through U.S. communications carriers, including Internet sites.

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On the Net:

The roll call vote for the surveillance bill can be found at:

S. 1927: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2007/roll836.xml

4 Responses to "Congress caves to Bush on spy program"

  1. gene  August 5, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    I agree (Paolo) their “all” in bed together. Joe public has no ideal what is happening in the now, he remains a brain dead zombie looking for something to eat. I expect Bush and his gain of criminals to pull some deadly fabricated action that will usher in martial law. At which point they will begin to round of dissidents. I hope to hell I am wrong but incase this is the case, my (9mm) is always ready.

    I will not go quietly!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Sandra Price  August 5, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    I’m with you guys. Head over to the commentary by Rob Kezelis and read his opinion of this situation. I’ve know Rob for years and he is spot on with his comments. <——. It’s right over on the left. I’ll let you figure that out.

  3. Sandra Price  August 5, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    I’m listening to a radio program over the internet by Jim Babka of DownsizeDC.org. He will be presenting an action alert on what we can do to repeal this terrible action. I will come back in the morning with the alert and also head for Rob Kezelis’s commentary with the information.

    I get a lot of information from DownsizeDC.org. and now he is on radio I am thrilled as he has many callers to his show. I would love to have Doug Thompson do an hour show a week where we can call in and ask him questions. I will write something up to see if he is interest when he gets back from his working holiday.

  4. Paolo  August 5, 2007 at 11:24 am

    The Dems and the Reps: two wings of the same Imperial Party.

    For the record, here is the exact wording of the Fourth Amendment:

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    Obviously, this law is unconstitutional–not that this troubles the leadership of either party, these days.

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