Conyers, Harman introduce bill to kill NSA phone call database

Published: Thursday May 11, 2006

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Reps. Jane Harman (D-CA) and John Conyers (D-MI) today introduced the "Lawful Intelligence and Surveillance of Terrorists in an Emergency by NSA Act" (The LISTEN Act), RAW STORY has learned.

The Act would require any attempt to listen in on Americans or collect telephone or e-mail records to be be conducted in accordance with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), or Title III of the criminal code. In both cases, court warrants based on probable cause are required. The Act states that FISA is the exclusive way to conduct electronic surveillance of U.S. persons on U.S. soil for intelligence purposes.

It also explicitly states that the Authorization to Use Military Force, passed by Congress in October 2002, did not constitute authority to engage in electronic surveillance outside of FISA.

According the Representatives, the legislation provides tools to expedite emergency warrant applications, and authorizes funds to incorporate standardization, electronic filing and streamlined review procedures at the NSA and Department of Justice. It also requires the President to ensure that resources are adequate to process warrants, and requires the Administration to comply with FISA at all times.

"We need to know if terrorists are plotting to attack us," said Harman, Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee. "But we must never retreat from the principle that every intercept requires a warrant based on probable cause. Since some in the Administration claim the FISA process is antiquated, this bill puts the burden on them to request additional resources."

"It is a sad day when the Congress of the United States must compel the President to abide by the Constitution," said Congressman Conyers, the Ranking Member on the House Committee on the Judiciary. "I regret that we have to legislate once again on an issue that was clearly settled by this Congress nearly 30 years ago in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

Congressman Conyers added, "This legislation could not be more timely. Today's USA Today article made clear that the Administration's eavesdropping is larger than anyone imagined and sweeps in the activities of millions of innocent Americans. If this Congress does not rein in the President and his Administration now, there is no telling how far it will go."