[h3]Bush signs domestic spy bill into law[/h3]
By Freddie Mooche (AXcess News) Washington - The Protect America Act, which modernizes the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, was signed into law by President Bush Sunday. The domestic surveillance measure gives the Bush administration the power to eavesdrop on email, phone or web communications of anyone without first obtaining a court order.
Following his signing the measure into law, Bush said, "When our intelligence professionals have the legal tools to gather information about the intentions of our enemies, America is safer. And when these same legal tools also protect the civil liberties of Americans, then we can have the confidence to know that we can preserve our freedoms while making America safer."
The ACLU has argued that FISA didn't need to be amended and that the Bush administration was "railroading Americans" Constitutional rights, which many Democratic lawmakers agreed with, but despite their party's control of both Houses of Congress, the domestic spying measure was fast tracked through the Senate and House in a matter of two days and passed before Congress goes on summer vacation.
But Bush defended lawmakers actions Sunday saying, "Over the past three decades this law has not kept pace with revolutionary changes in technology. As a result, our intelligence professionals have told us that they are missing significant intelligence information that they need to protect the country."
The President went on to say, "Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, has assured me that this bill gives him the most immediate tools he needs to defeat the intentions of our enemies. And so in signing this legislation today I am heartened to know that his critical work will be strengthened and we will be better armed to prevent attacks in the future."
Even though the Bush administration got its way in clearing the domestic spying measure, Democrats are saying the move is only temporary.
Within hours of the House vote Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) fired off a letter to the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees asking lawmakers to send legislation to the House "as soon as possible" to address the many deficiencies in S 1927 as it is due to expire in February.
The Democrats hope to head off the Bush White House from abusing Americans rights to privacy under the Constitution and look to renew efforts to repeal the measure the Department of Justice can now use more freely than ever when FISA comes for renewal early next year. But until then, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is free to do what ever the DOJ wants without first having to get consent from a secret Capitol Hill court first. No warrant means the FBI and other Homeland Security branches can now spy on anyone's communications without reprisal, even though the President has assured the eavesdropping measure is only for spying on foreigners suspected of terrorist acts.
"Many provisions of this legislation are unacceptable, and although the bill has a six month sunset clause, I do not believe the American people will want to wait that long before corrective action is taken,” Pelosi wrote to Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr (D-MI) and Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX).
Bush too made efforts to sway lawmakers when they return in September in the hope of heading off the Pelosi-led fight.
"While I appreciate the leadership it took to pass this bill, we must remember that our work is not done. This bill is a temporary, narrowly focused statute to deal with the most immediate shortcomings in the law," the President stated.
Bush concluded by saying, "When Congress returns in September the Intelligence committees and leaders in both parties will need to complete work on the comprehensive reforms requested by Director McConnell, including the important issue of providing meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001."