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Round Table: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

On the July 9 passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which also gave telecom companies complete immunity from prosecution for warrantless wiretapping:

“This bill gives our intelligence operators and law enforcement officials the tools they need to conduct surveillance on foreign terrorists in foreign countries planning to conduct attacks inside the United States, against our troops, and against our allies,” said Bond. “This is the balance we need to protect our civil liberties without handcuffing our terror-fighters.”

— Kit Bond, Republican senator from Missouri and lead sponsor of FISA bill

Photo by Marc Nozell, used under a Creative Commons license

“The exclusivity provision makes it clear to any president or telecommunications company that no law supersedes the authority of the FISA court. In a dangerous world, government must have the authority to collect the intelligence we need to protect the American people. But in a free society, that authority cannot be unlimited.”

— Barack Obama, Illinois senator and Democratic candidate for President, who voted for the bill

“Even though Congress has failed to protect the privacy of Americans and uphold the rule of law, we will not abandon our defense of liberty. We will fight this unconstitutional grant of immunity in the courtroom and in the Congress.”

— Kurt Opsahl, Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney

“I believe strongly that we must modernize our surveillance laws in order to provide intelligence professionals the tools needed to fight terrorism and make our country more secure. However, any surveillance program must contain safeguards to protect the rights of Americans against abuse, and to preserve clear lines of oversight and accountability over this administration.”

— Hillary Clinton, New York Democratic senator and former presidential candidate, who voted against the bill


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