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S. 2453 and S. 2455

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I received a response from Senator Maria Cantwell, yesterday, which she sent to address my concerns about the latest revelations of NSA's continued spying on U.S. persons. As a quick reminder, the latest was the USA Today article which revealed the NSA compiling a massive database of phone records of Verizon, Bellsouth, and AT&T. Towards the end of her letter, Sen. Cantwell wanted to assure me that legislation has been brought to help remedy me of my rights protect my rights. She said:
"It may also interest you to learn that two separate bills have been introduced in the Senate to address concerns over the NSA programs. The National Security Surveillance Act (S. 2453), introduced by Senator Specter, would require the NSA to get approval from the Foreign Intelligence Court for any warrantless surveillance programs. The Terrorist Surveillance Act (S. 2455), introduced by Senator Mike DeWine, would require greater congressional oversight and provide the Administration the option for getting approval from the Foreign Intelligence Court . Currently, both S. 2453 and S. 2455 are being reviewed by the Judiciary Committee."
I must admit that I haven't read S. 2453, yet. But, S. 2455 is the bill proposed by Sen. Mike DeWine. His bill is a disgusting piece of legislation that is written so broadly and vaguely that it allows surveillance to be conduct on just about anyone sans probable cause. The Attorney General just needs to give a nod of his head to continue surveillance. If this bill passes, the entire FISA might as well be repealed because there won't be a need for it, anymore.
While searching for a copy of S. 2453, I came across the testimony of Mr. Morton Halperin, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, which was presented before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee for NSA III: Wartime Executive Power and the FISA Court. Mr. Halperin goes into good detail on why both bills (S. 2453 and S. 2455) are bad for America. I recommend you read the whole of his testimony, but I did want to highlight one particular passage that expresses my feelings on this entire spying issue:
"...American citizens are entitled to know the rules under which they may be subject to surveillance by their government in the name of national security. This is so for several reasons. First, it is necessary to avoid paranoia and to secure the necessary support of the American people for the appropriate steps needed to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks. I cannot tell you how many times I have assured innocent Americans that they could not be the subject of electronic surveillance because the Justice Department would never seek a warrant, the FISA court would never conclude that there was the necessary probable cause, and warrantless surveillance were prohibited. In addition, the public is entitled to know what the rules are so that, if they believe the law requires reconsideration, they can seek change by lobbying the President and the Congress and by exercising their right to vote.
Because of these policy concerns, as well as the dictates of the Fourth Amendment, I urge the Congress to reaffirm, through oversight and, if necessary through legislation, the core principle of the FISA system that surveillance of Americans and all persons within the United States requires warrants based on particularized probable cause that the target of the surveillance meets criteria specified in the legislation." (Emphasis mine.)
...well said, Mr.Halperin! At least someone in Washington remembered to read the language of the Fourth Amendment before trying to pass further legislation.


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