Sunday, June 04, 2006

John Conyers - Patriot

NSA's Illegal Warrantless Wiretapping Update
Recently we have learned some pretty alarming details about the National Security Agency's (NSA) illegal domestic spying. A May 11th USA Today story revealed that the warrantless wiretapping program is far broader in scope than the President has previously claimed. Tens of millions of Americans' phone records have been compiled into the largest known database in the world.

As reported in the USA Today story, this in direct violation of the Telecommunications Act. Section 222 of this Act prohibits telephone companies from revealing information about their customers' call history including who is called and how frequently. Inbound and outbound calls, wireline and wireless services are covered by this Act.

Underscoring the seriousness of these privacy protections, the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to levy fines up to $130,000 per day per violation. While this is capped at $1.325 million per violation, these penalties are intended to deter phone companies from revealing private consumer data.

The day that this news came out was also the day we learned that the Department of Justice abruptly cancelled its investigation of the NSA warrantless wiretapping.

Now with former NSA Director Bobby Ray Inman publicly declaring that "this [NSA] activity is not authorized," it is all too clear that we must take every means possible to halt this assault on the privacy of Americans.

To halt this illegal warrantless wiretapping, 71 Democratic Members of Congress joined me in filing an amicus brief in support of two lawsuits against the government. We made very clear in our brief that warrantless wiretapping is covered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The NSA itself helped promote the passage of that bill in 1978 seeking to recover from the devastating revelations that the agency had been conducting surveillance on U.S. citizens for decades. The FISA Act provides the comprehensive and sole authority under which Americans may be wiretapped in the fight against terrorism.

The two cases for which these amicus briefs were filed, ACLU v. NSA and CCR v. Bush, are pending in Detroit and New York respectively. The plaintiffs in both cases are seeking to halt the program immediately through summary judgment and an injunction. The government is due to file its responses at the close of next week.

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