Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) on Wednesday blasted the Republican majority in the House over a five year extension of the warrantless wiretapping provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
“While it is appropriate for our government to gather foreign intelligence, and while some degree of secrecy is necessary, it is also vital in a free society that we limit government, protect the constitutional rights of Americans here and abroad, and limit warrantless spying to genuine foreign intelligence,” he said on the House floor. “Unfortunately, we have seen repeatedly how even the very minimal restraints Congress put on FISA have been violated. We should address those abuses.”
The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 gave the government broad powers to monitor international phone calls and emails, and granted legal immunity to telecommunication companies that had participated in the the Bush administration’s wiretapping program prior to 2008. The law was set to expire in 2012.
“Many U.S. citizens, and others who have nothing to do with foreign intelligence gathering, are caught up in this surveillance, and government has an obligation to protect their rights,” Nadler added. “FISA is supposed to do that, and we need to ensure that the law is working.”
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was originally enacted by Congress to prevent the worst abuses of the Nixon administration from ever occurring again. The law established the FISA court, which regulates the government’s conduct of intelligence surveillance inside the United States and generally requires the government to seek warrants before monitoring communications.
Members of Congress and civil rights advocates have warned that the FISA court has become an informational black hole. Nadler said the public had the right to know whether the court was merely a “rubber stamp of the executive branch” or if it provided actual oversight and meaningful limitations.
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube on September 12, below: