Sunday, August 5, 2007

FISA Updated: for a Limited Time Only

I suppose that "half a loaf is better than none." Congress has given law enforcement a little more leeway, temporarily, in how they find out who's going to have a shot at killing Americans again. The bill's last stop is the White House, where President Bush has said he'll sign it.

The FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) bill will "expand the government's abilities to eavesdrop without warrants" when communications between foreign suspects pass through the United States.

FISA dates from 1978, and apparently hasn't been overhauled until now. Reviews of U.S. intelligence-gathering rules following the 9/11 attacks made Congress aware of FISA and how poorly it addressed technologies like cell phones and e-mail that had developed in the last thirty years.

Acting with the speed and resolve that I have become accustomed to, a version of FISA that recognizes the last three decades of changes information technology finally passed through congress.

Predictably, the ACLU doesn't want FISA updated.

Also predictably, "privacy" was a concern for many of our leaders. Excerpted from a ZDNet article:
"Can you assure us that no one is being eavesdropped upon in the United States other than someone who has a communication that is emanating from foreign soil by a suspected terrorist, al-Qaida or otherwise?" Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat, asked at one point early in the daylong hearing.

Some of the meaningful debate was about due process for communications intercepts. I appreciate the need for, and value of, due process.

What I question is whether in is wise to risk people's lives while a judge gets around to reading a request for a search warrant: and then risking that the request will be denied because of some weird connection to something in the Constitution. (Since the 4th Amendment may be boring in this connection, how about citing the 1st? Quite a few jihadists are religiously motivated, after all.)

Despite these concerns, the House agreed to give law enforcement a little leeway in monitoring terrorists: by a vote of 227-183. For six months. Then it's back to 1978.

That time limit was the Republicans' idea. Democrats wanted the bill limited to four months.

I wish that Congress would ease up on protecting us from the police, and pay more attention to protecting us from terrorists.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.