"The right of the people to be secure in their person, 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 describng the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized." - The Fourth Amendment, The United States Constitution
Update Friday night: The bill passed 293-129. One-hundred-and-four Democrats joined Hoyer in supporting George Bush's bill, which undermines our civil liberties and gives telecoms a free pass for spying on Americans. Outrageous! Next the bill goes to the Senate; let's see if our senators stand up for our rights, or if they prove just as spineless as the House.
I find it difficult to believe that Democrats - yes Democrats - led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland are debating - and apparently acquiesing to - a deeply-flawed FISA bill letting AT&T and other telecoms off the hook for their collusion with the Bush administration in spying on Americans.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann rightly said Thursday night that the bill "gives President Bush exactly what he wants: increased abilities to spy on Americans without warrants and a level of immunity for the telecom companies who already illegally spied on Americans for him."
Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar who appeared on Olbermann's program called the bill "an evisceration of the Fourth Amendment." "This bill has quite literally no public value for citizens or civil liberities," he noted. In other words, it's all about the telecoms -AT&T, Verizon, et al, who contributed heavily to the coffers of Bush & Co. and quite a few senators and congressmen. Disgraceful. An insult to the American people and a violation of the Constitution of the United States.
Warrantless wiretapping was underway for nearly six years before The New York Times revealed the illegal activity. Subsequently, some 40 lawsuits have been filed against the telecoms for warrantless spying. But under this so-called "compromise" bill, those cases would be dismissed - as long as a federal district court receives certification from the attorney general, proving the telecoms received presidential orders authorising the spying.
Shameful. This Fourth of July, there won't be quite so much freedom to celebrate.
Update II from the ACLU: "No matter how often the opposition calls this bill a ‘compromise,’ it is not a meaningful compromise, except of our constitutional rights. The bill allows for mass, untargeted and unwarranted surveillance of all communications coming into and out of the United States. The courts’ role is superficial at best, as the government can continue spying on our communications even after the FISA court has objected. Democratic leaders turned what should have been an easy FISA fix into the wholesale giveaway of our Fourth Amendment rights.
"More than two years after the president’s domestic spying was revealed in the pages of the New York Times, Congress’s fury and shock has dissipated to an obedient whimper. After scrambling for years to cover their tracks, the phone companies and the administration are almost there. This immunity provision will effectively destroy Americans’ chance to have their deserved day in court and will kill any possibility of learning the extent of the administration’s lawless actions. The House should be ashamed of itself. The fate of the Fourth Amendment is now in the Senate’s hands. We can only hope senators will show more courage than their colleagues in the House."