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The entire liberal media is telling you the FISA bill passed by the House Of Representatives on friday is the end of civil rights, the death of our Constitution, an example of Democrats caving to the lawless Bush administration, etc, etc. They try to drum this stuff into your head constantly, in the hope that you will forget what happened on 9/11, in the hope that you will forget WHY the Bush administration took the national security actions they took following that tragic attack, the worst ever on our homeland. They don't want you to ponder the REAL reasons for Bush's spying, because then it might look like Bush was only attempting to keep America safe from further attack, which is, after all, the job of the President. No, the liberal media wants you to believe Bush just woke up one day and illogically decided it was time to be a dictator and trample on the citizenry, for no reason really, just because Bush is an evil lawless tyrant and that's what evil lawless tyrants do. The liberal media wants you to know evil has a name, and that name is Bush. Also, the liberal media wants you to know that Bush=McCain=Republicans, just so there won't be any mistake. This IS an election year, after all.
But I assume most of you can see through the liberal media's shallow attempts at deception. Most people have the capacity for rational thought. This post is for you. I'll attempt to tell you what the new FISA update is really about.
In spite of the overblown protestations of the liberal media, many Democrats, most terrorist appeasers, and all outright Al Qaeda members, the new FISA bill is not the death of civil rights. There will be oversight of domestic spying with this new bill. It establishes a measure of balance between monitoring suspected terrorists and privacy concerns. It also attempts to establish limits on the president's executive powers. It spells out areas of domestic and international spying that needed to be spelled out.
The biggest sticking point to passage of the bill had been the provision to shield the telecommunications companies from lawsuits following the telcoms post-9/11 cooperation with the government in tracking terrorists. 40 such lawsuits were in the wings. None of the 40 persons or groups that wanted to sue the telecoms had any idea if their phones were monitored or if their rights were infringed. They just wanted to sue on principle. Democrats were hesitant to bargain away those lawsuits. The new FISA bill will shield the telcoms from lawsuits if the telcoms receive certification from the attorney general that the president ordered them to perform wiretaps to detect or prevent a terrorist attack. I like this provision, because it puts the responsibility for wiretaps on the government where it belongs. It is very troublesome to put the responsibility for making decisions about terrorism on private corporations who are torn between helping their country and treading into questionable legal territory that could cost them millions or billions of dollars.
I have some personal experience in this area. Following 9/11, I was a computer programmer/analyst for a bank. The government requested anti-terrorist type information from the bank, which I was tasked with providing them. Some of the requests involved the tracking of certain financial transactions and some involved other information, such as the reporting of all account signers who didn't have Social Security numbers. If any of you think this is improper action by the government, I can also tell you that the government has been tracking your financial information for decades. If you think your banking transactions are private, think again. They aren't. Nowadays, there are even sophisticated methodologies to track any type of unusual financial activity, and even methodolgies to predict financial activity, but that is a discussion for another time.
The point is that I certainly wouldn't have wanted to face a lawsuit for attempting to help my government track terrorist activity a few months after 9/11. The new FISA bill addresses that problem.
Some other provisions in the new FISA bill, according to the linked article, are:
- It requires the inspectors general of the Justice Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies to investigate the wiretapping program, with a report due in a year.
- The government can initiate a wiretap without court permission if "important intelligence" would otherwise be lost. It has a week to file the request for approval with the court, and the court has 30 days to act on it.
- It would allow the government to tap a foreigner's overseas calls without FISA court approval.
- Require FISA court permission to wiretap Americans who are overseas.
- Prohibit targeting a foreigner to secretly eavesdrop, without court approval, on an American's calls or e-mails.
- Require the government to protect American information or conversations that are collected when in communications with targeted foreigners.
- Allow the FISA court 30 days to review existing but expiring surveillance orders before renewing them.
- Allow eavesdropping in emergencies without court approval, provided the government files required papers within a week.
- Prohibits the president from superseding surveillance rules in the future.
Is the new FISA bill perfect ? No.
Did the old FISA and spying procedures need to be updated to reflect the modern technological world and the new type of threat the terrorists present ? Absolutely.