Things Congress Does When We're Not Looking
By the time Saturday ended, the House and Senate had both voted to approve the Protect America Act of 2007. With that vote, the Democrat-majority Congress basically ran the U.S. Constitution through a shredder.
The Protect America Act of 2007 changes the FISA laws put into place in 1978 to keep things like Watergate from ever happening again. What PAA does is give the NSA and the White House carte blanche to spy on American citizens. This makes legal Bu$h's wiretapping scheme that the NSA has been conducting for several years now illegally. They are now able to listen to any telephone call made between anyone in the U.S. and anyone abroad if they think there might be some foreign intelligence that may be gained from the wiretap. The bill says nothing about "terrorism" and it takes the FISA court out of the loop. The only two folks that have to give their ok in these matters now are Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.
Here - read it for yourself in the Boston Globe:
First, the law requires telecommunications companies to make their facilities available for government wiretaps, and it grants them immunity from lawsuits for complying. Under the old program, such companies participated only voluntarily -- and some were sued for allegedly violating their customers' privacy.
Second, Bush has said his original surveillance program was restricted to calls and e-mails involving a suspected terrorist, but the new law has no such limit.
Instead, it allows executive-branch agencies to conduct oversight-free surveillance of all international calls and e-mails, including those with Americans on the line, with the sole requirement that the intelligence-gathering is "directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States." There is no requirement that either caller be a suspected terrorist, spy, or criminal.
The law requires the government to delete any American's private information that it picks up, but it contains an exception allowing agents to maintain files of information about an American that has foreign intelligence value or that may be evidence of a crime.
As a check against abuse, the law requires Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Michael McConnell, director of national intelligence, to design procedures for the program and to submit them for review by a secret national security court that normally approves warrant applications for intelligence-related wiretapping on US soil.
The House of Representatives passed the bill late Saturday, following the Senate's approval on Friday night. In both chambers, Republicans voted overwhelmingly for the bill and were joined by enough Democrats to make a majority. It passed 60 to 28 in the Senate with 16 Democrats in favor, and 227 to 183 in the House, with 41 Democrats in favor.
You can see the list of how Representatives voted here and how Senators voted here.
So the next time my friend DixiePeach and I chat over the phone, the NSA will probably be listening. Why? Because Dix lives in Germany and one could assume that all our talking about knitting could just be coded messages that could jeopardize our foreign intelligence.
I have to tell y'all that when I heard this news today I was almost physically sick. This Congress betrayed the American people and allowed, no HELPED, the Bu$h administration take one giant step toward fascism, not that they needed any help. The Democrats actually had a bill of their own that allowed some wiretapping with checks and balances in place but they didn't drag that one out. No, instead they passed the one written by the White House and gave them more latitude than they originally asked for. I am so angry at the Democrats who went along with this. Believe me, Senator Mary Landrieu's office will be getting a phone call and a piece of my mind during my morning commute tomorrow. It will be a cold day in hell before I vote for her again. In fact, I'll work very hard with any Democrat that opposes her next term.