The Justice Department wants to further loosen domestic spying laws under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to permit the monitoring of U.S. residents suspected of receiving terrorist communications.
The FISA “update” would also grant legal immunity to telecom companies that cooperate with the government — such as AT&T, which faces five major civil liberties suits for opening its networks to the National Security Agency.
The ACLU said proposed immunity for telecom companies (which would be retroactive to September 11, 2001) amounts to a “get out of jail free card,” according to CSMonitor.com.
Democrats shot down the proposal, noting that the White House refuses to release details about the NSA program or issue a document proving the surveillance is legal.
The FBI also refuses to reveal how many “national security letters” it issued in 2006 and 2007 to access personal data.
The letters bypass the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which issues warrants to spy on U.S. residents suspected of terrorist activity.
The court already has a permissive attitude, allowing 2,176 such warrants in 2006 and denying only one.
Mark Klein, a retired technician who blew the whistle on a secret Internet monitoring room allegedly installed by the NSA in AT&T’s Folsom Street offices in San Francisco, says that the room is still up and running.
In an interview with Wired.com, Klein said he is frustrated that Congress has not stopped the program or provided immunity to other whistleblowers who would like to testify.
“Spying in the Death Star: The AT&T whistle-blower tells his story”
Wired.com, May 10, 2007
“White House seeks expanded domestic-spying powers”
Christian Science Monitor, May 3, 2007
“Secret court OKs all but one domestic spying request”
Associated Press, May 1, 2007