Fourth Amendment 1789 – 2008

9 07 2008

Obama voted Yes. Clinton voted No.

The Senate Wednesday approved a bill to put new rules in place for intelligence agency eavesdropping on suspected terrorists.

The bill also effectively protects telephone companies from being sued for cooperating with a government surveillance program launched in the wake of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. The White House pushed hard for the provision, with a threat to veto the bill if it did not contain protection for phone companies.

The vote was 69-28, with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois voting in favor. Republican candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona was not present for the vote.


The bill, formally known as the FISA Amendments Act, updates the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It will:

  • Require the secret court set up to oversee FISA to review the surveillance of any targeted American whether the person is in the United States or abroad;
  • Provide for the FISA court to sign off on procedures for removing the name of any American inadvertently captured in a communication with a foreign target;
  • Prohibit reverse targeting, which is when intelligence officials eavesdrop on a foreigner’s communications overseas as a means to spy on someone in the United States.
  • Close a loophole by explicitly establishing the 1978 law as the exclusive means for authorizing electronic surveillance;
  • Set up a procedure for federal judges to determine whether a telecommunications company can be sued for providing the intelligence community access to its networks without a court order.
  • So, my question is, who determines who a suspected terrorist is?

    Story here

    Photo credit Wil Wheaton




    11 responses

    10 07 2008

    I am a terrorist.

    I was questioned by Homeland Security on Jan 20, 2005 at an anti Bush inaugural march, (I was on public property–peacefully) but I had to give them all my personal info because I was one of the organizers of the rally.

    From that day on, I realized the constitution had been shredded, and my pain and anger over Obama voting for FISA is something I just can’t really deal with at the moment.

    He out and out lied. He said he would not allow this to happen. He did.

    If I could turn back the clock to Feb 3, I’d cast a different vote.

    10 07 2008
    G. Douglas Curry

    It’s really not too late. The convention is in August, right? Make a big enough scandal out of it and Obama won’t be nominated. Or better yet, in November vote for a third party candidate. If you vote your conscience, you’re never “throwing your vote away.” Don’t believe the two-party hype.

    10 07 2008

    G. Douglas Curry, do you know my husband?

    DB, are you posting under a pen name?

    (‘Coma, this is freaking me out…doesn’t that sound just like DB?)


    10 07 2008

    Actually, it does sound like him. 😉

    10 07 2008
    theodoric of athens

    if we hold telcos liable for the malfeasance of government, they will yank out the NSA’s cables tomorrow, and we’ll be back to the bad old days when surveillance was done in secret, with no oversight or public accountability, only NSA will be starting over from scratch.

    FISA was a landmark in government transparency – a formal admission that the USG engages in wiretapping, and rules by which it shall be done. Government still trespasses the provisions of FISA to some degree, but that won’t be fixed by suing telcos.

    Wiretapping is like clerical homosexuality – it’ll be there whether or not you admit it. Better to have it happen over the table than under it.

    10 07 2008

    It’s about power. We’re being told we don’t have any by this FISA ruling.

    10 07 2008
    Immune to the rule of law: FISA « cravens world

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    10 07 2008

    Obama was a distant third choice for me, but I still don’t understand his vote on this.

    Regarding more than 2 parties? Where would we stop? If you divide it enough, a very small majority ends up holding a large amount of power – if that means conservative evangelicals? – I’ll take the two party system.

    10 07 2008
    theodoric of athens

    I’ve just spent the last hour reading both the FISA of 1978 and the bill that passed yesterday (I was in Centennial Park in Nashville when I posted earlier from my phone), and I haven’t changed my mind. In practice, regardless of the legal language, the telcos don’t provide “assistance”, they provide access. They let the government into their equipment rooms. The government decides what to “acquire”, and supposedly the rest of it is left alone. (In reality, they simply don’t have the resources to acquire *everything*.)

    There’s nothing new about this; it’s been going on since before the 1978 FISA was passed (which is why that was necessary in the first place). Under the terms of FISA 1978, the telcos cannot deny this access without disobeying a directive of the Attorney General, which is required to set the whole thing up in the first place. The new bill, while granting immunity from litigation for compliance, also specifies penalties for noncompliance, which was not addressed in the 1978 FISA.

    I agree with Obama on this. It’s not the telcos’ fault that Congress has lacked the cojones to indict and prosecute Bush, who is ultimately the one responsible for all the illegal surveillance, and in any case the telcos don’t have the technical means to, in their own defense, review the information that is being released to the government, and can’t develop such without engaging in probably-illegal monitoring of their own traffic. What the NSA wants, the NSA gets.

    This is an example of why I find Obama such an attractive candidate. He informs himself, he thinks about the issues, he makes up his own mind, and he does what he’s convinced is right, whether it’s politically popular or not. I really like the idea of a government headed up by a smart person with a conscience.

    I certainly hope that the howling mob will not sabotage Obama’s candidacy to the point at which they effectively cripple the ticket and hand the election to McCain. There’s too much at stake this year.

    10 07 2008

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m still voting for Obama. I just didn’t love this because he said he was going to vote against it. And I can cry a bit foul on it. He’s shifted a bit this past couple of weeks.
    That’s my main thing. I read it on Monday but life got in the way. I realize the drama of the picture but I still think if Dodd and Clinton could stood up for it, so could Obama.
    But it’s all good.

    But, my dearest ToA, let me ask, will this create political tunnels and bureaucratic loopholes 20 years down the line?
    I can’t help but wonder.
    I love that folks are having a conversation about it all. Right or wrong, we are talking about it and that is good.

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