AT&T whistle blower Mark Klein succinctly pins down the basics of the snooping allegations the EFF’s pursuing against AT&T in two minutes.
The New York Times has an editorial that nails the issue with more detail but I have paraphrased that article here for your condensed reading pleasure.
The White House and Democratic and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill announced a “compromise” on a domestic spying bill that is decidedly NOT a compromise. The White House and Republicans lap dogs want to keep courts from reviewing the legality of domestic spying programs and to give legal immunity to the telecommunications companies that broke the law by helping Mr. Bush carry out his warrantless wiretapping operation.
The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, requires the government to get a warrant to intercept communications between anyone in this country and anyone outside it. The FISA court has approved all but a small handful of the thousands of warrants requested by the government so anybody claimg the government’s hands are tied is ignorant or lying. (President Bush, I’m looking at you)
Still, after Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush bypassed the FISA court and authorized the interception of international calls and e-mail messages without a warrant. Once news about this got out in 2005 Bush falsely claimed that FISA did not allow the United States to act quickly enough to stop terrorists. Not surprisingly that was complete crap because FISA always gave the government the power to listen first and then get a warrant later (up to 48 hours later).
FISA did require a technology update since it required a warrant to eavesdrop on foreign communications that go through American computers, but it was an easy fix. Unfortunately when Congress made the fix last year, they once again curled into a pathetic fetal position and let the White House add amendments that seriously diluted the courts’ ability to restrain the government from spying on its own citizens. Typical really.
That law expires on Aug. 3, and Bush is trying to not only get it renewed but to weasel in more spy powers and the telcom immunity. Obviously given this administration’s refusal to submit to any oversight from courts or congress, lawsuits against the telcoms are the single best hope of finding out the extent of Mr. Bush’s lawless spying.
Alas Democratic leaders in Congress are still craven spineless cowards and have agreed to a phony compromise drafted by the Republican vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee Senator Christopher Bond. Under this “compromise” the government could tap all communications in the United States without individual warrants or even a showing of probable cause…and it would do so with greatly reduced judicial review.
If Congress cannot pass a clean bill that fixes the one real problem with FISA, it should simply extend the temporary authorization. At a minimum, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, should oppose FISA expansion and pledge to revisit it next year. If any significant changes are going to be made, they should be made under the next president, Barack Obama.
Please call your Congressional Representative and tell them you want this appalling legislation blocked. Also encourage the funding of stem cell research so that someday Democratic leaders can get the spinal and testical transplants they so clearly need.