US Senate fails to check executive abuses of privacy
This week the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended to grant telecom companies retroactive immunity for warrantless wiretapping. The Dodd-Feingold amendment would have removed this immunity, but was strongly voted down. The Washington Post carries the story:
Senate Authorizes Broad Expansion Of Surveillance Act.
Here’s the roll call of votes, which was strongly partisan. All 31 “yea” votes were Democratic with 18 “nay”-saying Democrats. Hillary Clinton did not show up for the vote.
The IEEE Computer Society has an excellent and simple description of technical aspect of how digital surveillance works. (PDF direct link) This is how the system will continue to work with the system firmly in place.
Because wiretapping without court oversight is illegal, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T. The Dodd-Feingold amendment would have OK’d this move but its defeat lets AT&T (and other telecoms) off the hook for the illegal spying. The Senate and the Courts have so far declined to keep checks on executive authority. Hopefully the House might be able to
The President had this to say, according to AP:
In order to be able to discover enemy — the enemy’s plans, we need the cooperation of telecommunication companies. If these companies are subjected to lawsuits that could cost them billions of dollars, they won’t participate; they won’t help us; they won’t help protect America. Liability protection is critical to securing the private sector’s cooperation with our intelligence efforts.
The listening itself isn’t illegal, but doing it without court oversight is. What happened to the 2006 Democratic surge that was supposed to end unchecked executive authority and start to restore civil liberties? Can the House stop the spying and protect the fourth amendment?
This entry was posted on February 14, 2008 at 8:34 am and is filed under politics, technology with tags stopthespying. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.