The Democratic Congress is Weak
Many people called for FISA to be updated after Bush’s NSA wiretapping scandal broke. They said that the 1978 law did not give modern law enforcement officials adequate ability to combat terrorism. Last night, the Senate gave up on its own version of a bill that updated FISA. Their bill required that law enforcement officials get their wiretap approved within 10 days of starting it (the 1978 bill requires approval within 3 days). President Bush threatened to veto and typically, the Democratically-controlled Senate caved. So they passed the President’s version of the bill which gives officials six months of unsupervised eavesdropping before court approval and oversight is necessary.
Why, in this modern age where information flows infinitely faster, should it take 60 times longer than it did in 1978 for law enforcement eavesdroppers to show a court that they have “probable cause” for their eavesdropping? I have absolutely no problem with the government spying on suspected terrorists. I think that should be a priority, given the threat of terrorism. But we absolutely need judicial oversight so that the executive branch must prove that it is eavesdropping and spying with good reason.
Now it is up to the supposedly Democratic House to decide on this bill’s future. If anything, 72 hours is unnecessarily long. Now that we have the internet, cell phones, and other technology that moves information at the speed of light, there is no reason why we should pass this kind of extension to the 1978 FISA law.