CDT Urges Congress to Get Full Story on Warrantless Snooping
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WASHINGTON -- The administration must come clean with a full accounting of its domestic surveillance activities before Congress can be expected to make any changes to the laws that protect Americans against uncontrolled government snooping, the Center for Democracy & Technology said today. CDT applauds the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties for initiating wide-ranging hearings and urges lawmakers to fully explore all aspects of the governmentâ€™s domestic spying activities.
The White House has been aggressively promoting legislation aimed at "modernizing" the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which governs how national security surveillance is conducted in the United States. Rather than modernizing the rules, the legislation would actually legalize the shadowy program of warrantless wiretapping authorized by the White House and begun by the National Security Agency following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"Serious questions remain about the scope and constitutionality of the administrationâ€™s domestic surveillance activities," said Gregory Nojeim, Senior Counsel and Director of CDTâ€™s Project on Freedom, Security and Technology. "Rather than weakening the civil liberties protections in the surveillance laws as the administration proposes, Congress might have to strengthen them in order to ensure that Americansâ€™ constitutional rights remain intact in the face of the digital revolution."
Last year, a federal judge ruled unconstitutional and illegal the warrantless surveillance program that administration has dubbed the "Terrorist Surveillance Program." In January of this year, the administration informed Congress that it had obtained court orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that authorize surveillance previously conducted without a warrant under the TSP. However officials have steadfastly refused to rule out additional warrantless surveillance. They have also refused to respond to allegations that the government has been conducting other types of surveillance, including directly accessing the networks of communications service providers and obtaining transactional records maintained by companies.
"These hearings are vital to determining how the government is using its existing surveillance powers on Americans, how it intends to use the new powers it is seeking and what, if any, new laws are needed to ensure both the security and the privacy of the American people," Nojeim said.