New Law Expands Government Surveillance Powers
By Daniel Ray — Edited by Sarah Sorscher
On July 9, the Senate passed H.R. 6034, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, and President George W. Bush signed it into law the following day. The new law modifies the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (“FISA”) to expand (subject to certain new checks) the federal government’s surveillance powers and retroactively immunize telecommunication companies that cooperated with the warrantless wiretapping program brought to light in 2005.
The New York Times summarizes the politics surrounding the FISA issue, in which presumptive Democratic nominee for president Barack Obama’s “yea” vote attracted scorn from some Democrats.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (PDF), a longtime opponent of President’s surveillance program, calls Section 202 an immunity “compromise” in name only.
Orin Kerr, writing at The Volokh Conspiracy, criticizes as “misleading” media coverage that ignores the law’s new procedural safeguards (as compared to last year’s less restrictive Protect America Act (“PAA”)).
On the issue of immunity, Charlie Reina (writing at the Huffington Post), regrets that the public will never know who was monitored or which companies cooperated with the original warrantless wiretapping requests.