Tucson, AZ — President Bush recently signed into law a bill amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to grant the Bush Administration power to expand warrantless wiretapping of American citizens’ international communications.
This law goes beyond the warrantless wiretapping program that was previously revealed by removing the requirement that one party to any intercepted communication be a member of Al-Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization. It would also fully enable warrantless wiretapping of any American citizen who is “reasonably believed” to be abroad, meaning that all citizens will effectively lose their constitutional rights when they leave U.S. territory, or are merely believed to have done so.
The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence are tasked with developing a plan to prevent abuses under the law, but the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court may only reject this plan if it is “clearly erroneous,” a standard which would still allow abusive practices.
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva released the following statement regarding these recent developments:
“I am disappointed that the Congress has rewarded the fear and smear tactics of the Bush Administration by passing this seriously flawed legislation. Decisions regarding such important matters should not be made in rush to judgment.
“This President has made it clear that he does not feel bound by either the law or the Constitution. To grant the powers in this new law to any President would be troubling. To give such powers to this President in particular is inviting abuse of our most fundamental liberties.
“This law places responsibility for prevention of privacy violations with the Attorney General. Alberto Gonzales, however, has always acted as if he were the President’s personal lawyer rather than the American people’s guardian of the law and the Constitution. To give Alberto Gonzales responsibility for preventing abuses of the law by the President is a bad idea, given the track record of the U.S. Attorney General.
“The broad violations of our Constitutional rights by this Administration are among the many reasons why the American people voted for change in the last election. I fear that the new majority in the people’s House may lose touch with the vital concerns that the American people have expressed about legislation and programs that supposedly will grant us safety in exchange for our freedoms but in fact leave us with neither.
“I am glad that House leadership has indicated a desire to immediately revisit this flawed legislation, but I remain deeply concerned about the abuses that have been enabled in the meantime.”