September 29, 2006 3:17 PM PDT

House votes to expand electronic spying powers

Amid serious misgivings from opponents, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill that would expand the government's electronic spying powers in terrorism investigations.

The Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act passed late Thursday by a 232 to 191 vote, with 177 Democrats voting against it and 18 siding with the Republican majority on the vote. As well as being challenged by most Democrats, the bill had drawn opposition from a handful of Republicans and civil liberties groups.

"House Republicans don't support privacy for terrorists and won't allow them the ability to harm innocent Americans," House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said in a statement. "Congress has provided a way for our intelligence programs to legally monitor and track terrorist phone calls and communications so we can prevent further terrorist attacks."

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California countered: "Rather than enshrine in law powers the president has claimed he already holds, we should continue to have judicial review of the president's domestic surveillance program...We do not need to pass this diminishment of our privacy tonight."

The measure still must clear the Senate before becoming law. A Republican leadership aide said her side's companion bill could be called up for a vote before the legislators adjourn this weekend for campaigning ahead of the Nov. 7 election.

Democrats opposed to the measure, however, are expected to block Majority Leader Bill Frist's likely attempt to obtain swift approval by unanimous consent, the aide said.

Under the House's bill, the president would have the authority to authorize electronic surveillance without a court order for up to one year, if it is directed at the communications of foreign powers or their agents. The attorney general would have to certify that the "significant purpose" of the spying is to gather foreign intelligence information, but would not be required to specify "the specific facilities, places, premises, or property" where such an operation would occur, according to the bill.

The president would also have the power to sign off on warrantless eavesdropping for up to 90 days in three instances: after a terrorist attack on the U.S.; after an armed attack on the U.S.; or after submitting in writing that an "imminent threat of attack likely to cause death, serious injury, or substantial economic damage to the United States" exists.

Critics argue that those provisions are overly vague, because the bill never defines what those attacks mean.

However, supporters claim the bill is not without checks on the executive branch's powers. The attorney general would have to make semiannual reports to congressional intelligence committees on any warrantless surveillance. That official would also have to report periodically on what investigators are doing "to minimize the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of nonpublicly available information concerning United States persons" and to list and describe any "significant" violations of that policy.

Opponents, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, said in a letter this week (click for PDF) that the version passed by the House contains the worst elements of all the surveillance bills Congress has been considering this year.

Some of the provisions--such as the 90-day windows for warrantless surveillance before and after attacks--are unnecessary, they said. That's because federal wiretapping law already allows the president to begin conducting surveillance before seeking a secret court order for a limited time during emergency situations, they noted.

They also attacked a section that would effectively quash all legal challenges occurring between Sept. 11, 2001, and a point 60 days after the bill's enactment, if those challenges relate to "any alleged communications intelligence program" aimed at staving off terrorist attacks. Some of the opposing groups have already sued the National Security Agency and telephone companies accused of violating the constitutional privacy rights of Americans by aiding the warrantless surveillance program.

"If this bill is adopted," Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy, said in a statement, "Congress would be authorizing more warrantless surveillance of Americans than ever before."

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43 comments

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How about privacy for law abiding citizens?
In their efforts to catch terrorists the 4th amendment and the seperation of power has taken quite a beating.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh, come now...
You know very well this has NOTHING to do with "terrorism"..!

Its about "child-porn", ...NO, No, its about "The War on Drugs", ...or, ...maybe, its actually about ALL, "un-American Activities", like "Communism", ...or "political-dissent" (such as criticizing the President) in an ALLEGED, "Time of War", ...or even, just plain-old allegations of, ..."copyright-infringement" from "big-media interests".

You know... all the "truly important" things that are being repeatedly-touted as EXCUSES to COMPLETELY-UNDERMINE the U.S. Constitution (or as the current administration calls it... "...that damned piece of paper").

Besides, havent you heard..? The ONLY people that really care about defending "the 4th Amendment", ...MUST have something to hide... right..? That MUST be why the President, and the Federal-Government, of the United States has so completely-FORSAKEN their SWORN-DUTY to defend the "U.S. Constitution".

I mean, ...why else would they do it..?

Besides, the only people that dont "trust the current Government", with these UNWARRANTED and un-Constitutional powers, are obviously a small group of, ignorant, "bleeding-heart", "anti-American", "liberals"... right..?

(BTW, Yes, Im being sarcastic).
Posted by Had_to_be_said (384 comments )
Link Flag
International Calls ONLY
What part of that don't you understand?

Walt
Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
Link Flag
U.S. govt are the real terrorists
Instead of going after terrorists, the U.S. govt is hypocritical in supporting child pedophile Foley (whom they have admitted knowing about his illegal behavior in the past and hoped to keep it quiet until after the elections) while supporting the illegal action of spying on law abiding citizens instead.
The only threat to the American citizen is the U.S. government.
Posted by (156 comments )
Link Flag
More stupidity from our public officials...
If i stated what i think they should do to every official who votes for or supports this crap...i would more than likely have NSA ,and Secret service knocking on my door....Ben Franklin and our founding fathers are rolling in there graves with disgust ITS A SAD DAY, when we allow our politicians to diminish our rights, liberties and freedoms that our young american hero's have fought and died for. Not to mention the sacrafice of there bodies,and minds.

The micro managing of american lives along with the loss of liberties that has coencided has been a trend that has been accelerated by King Bush and his over zellious administraion. Fueled by 9-11's fear mongering rhetoric, King Bush has taken a stance that his illegal, unconstitutional, spying, warrantless phone and internet data gathering, tapping programs, on american citizens is ok because the "ends justify means". Well I say F@ck That!! For those who get that warm fuzy feeling when they give up rights and freedom for a precieved security, You need to revisit a Ben Franklin Quote.
It represents principles of charactor and moral beliefs that founded this great nation and are as true today as when Ben first spoke them.


"Those that would give up essential liberty in pursuit of a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security"... Benjamin Franklin

Our leaders use of fear and "righteous Cause" (ie...we took a drug dealer out-your search artical...we need to monitor the internet to make it Safer for our childern (for porn...like our kids are stumbling on it by accident)or in the name of child porn..what ever)

I hope everyone here votes this election. I personally will vote for anyone opposed to bush his allies or his agenda...but what ever your beliefs please vote, and please spend some time studing what we are losing in the way of rights and freedoms, then exercise your right and vote.

Regards,

FookBush
Posted by FooKBush (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Privacy... who's privacy?
>>>diminish our rights, liberties and freedoms<<<

You still have the right to make a local phone call in privacy if you want.

BTW: On a simliar note: what part of the 4th ammendment allows terrorists the same right to privacy as our American citizens?

FWIW
Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
Link Flag
Bush should be jailed
This guy needs to be taken out of office and jailed
Posted by kyle172 (65 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A head-shot would be more expediant
BULLSEYE!
Posted by Willie Winkie (123 comments )
Link Flag
Vote this Novermber...
Vote for the Constitution. Vote for the Bill of Rights. Vote for the Declaration of Independence. Vote for your freedom. Vote for America.

Vote Democrat.
Posted by GlennAl (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vote this November...
Vote for the Constitution. Vote for the Bill of Rights. Vote for the Declaration of Independence. Vote for your freedom. Vote for America.

Vote Republican.
Posted by jsmith1785 (30 comments )
Link Flag
Vote John Kerry
Thats the whole problem with Democrats...

They use all these catch phrases like "VOTE FOR YOUR FREEDOMS OR YOU WILL LOSE THEM", and then they run some butt-puppet of a candidate like Kerry.

Hahahaha...
Posted by gerhard_schroeder (311 comments )
Link Flag
Oh well!
Oh well, Joe Stalin, will be smiling in his grave, for he has already won!, as the rise of the US version of his old soviet NKVD secret police, continues to grow in leaps and bounds, in this new century unchecked!

Sadly , the trouble with the mid term elections is that real difference between either party candidates is absolutely minimal at the best of times, for don't forget the 99 to 1 vote in the US Senate for the war on Iraq!

Looks like all dissenters on any current or future issue, are now automatically guilty of treason by default, from this point onwards!

By passing the bill, all those who voted in favour in both houses, have now declared full scale war on it's own 300 million citzens quite literally!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Al Qaeda Bill of Rights
Yep...

Liberals think if Bin Laden makes an inbound call to the United States from his cave that we should just hang up. Sorry, suicidal liberalism is over.
Posted by gerhard_schroeder (311 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No They Don't
"Liberals think if Bin Laden makes an inbound call to the United States from his cave that we should just hang up."

This is a gross mischaracterization of what opponents are saying. First, Bush already had the authority to monitor any terrorist phone calls. He did need FISA court approval, but it was obtainable even after the monitoring began. Bush and company never sought that because he knew that no court would give him the authority he wanted: They don't just monitor terrorist's phone calls; they monitor all international phone calls passing through the U.S., even those of U.S. citizens.

This law works around that by saying that the warrant request (when finally submitted) doesn't have to specify much of anything about the monitoring operation. And it also eliminates the ability of anyone to challenge the constitutionality of the law by placing roadblocks that prevent honest congressional oversight and court challenges. Those who think this law is the right thing are taking away the very thing that the terrorists want to take away: Our freedom.

mark d.
CMSgt, USAF, Retired
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
No They Don't!
"Liberals think if Bin Laden makes an inbound call to the United States from his cave that we should just hang up."

This is a gross mischaracterization of what opponents are saying. First, Bush already had the authority to monitor any terrorist phone calls. He did need FISA court approval, but it was obtainable even after the monitoring began. Bush and company never sought that because he knew that no court would give him the authority he wanted: They don't just monitor terrorist's phone calls; they monitor all international phone calls passing through the U.S., even those of U.S. citizens.

This law works around that by saying that the warrant request (when finally submitted) doesn't have to specify much of anything about the monitoring operation. And it also eliminates the ability of anyone to challenge the constitutionality of the law by placing roadblocks that prevent honest congressional oversight and court challenges. Those who think this law is the right thing are taking away the very thing that the terrorists want to take away: Our freedom.

mark d.
CMSgt, USAF, Retired
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
Check The Label
It seems every time someone defends the Constitution and the existing separation of powers within our governing system they are labeled as "liberal". In fact that was the original definition of "conservative". So when you attack someone for wanting to keep our government as it is, find a more accurate epithet to hurl at them. In the interests of accuracy so called "conservatives" in the Republican Party that support drastic changes in our laws should be refered to as reactionary fascists. Clearly they are reacting to a day of terrorist attacks upon the US and desire vastly greater government power concentrated in the executive branch. They value the rights of the state to always exceed the rights of the individual. If you think I'm in error just look at the Supreme Court Justice's voting records they have confirmed!
So if you support a massive increase in government powers along with it's huge deficit spending then you are NOT a conservative!
Posted by zanzzz (138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I feel safer already.
Sure it will! I mean - what terrorist would think to use an encrypted VOIP connection instead of an insecure landline?

What terrorist would think to go to Wlmart and buy a throw away cell phone that doesn't even require user registration?

What terrorist is bright enough to embed info in images (that is all but undetectable) with freely available software?

Nope. None of that can happen because we have a new piece of PAPER!

Yep. I feel safer already.
Posted by Jim Hubbard (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Report it like it is:
>>>House Republicans don't support privacy for terrorists and won't allow them the ability to harm innocent Americans,<<<

Should have been written as:

The majority of the Democrats along with a small hand full of republicans support privacy for terrorists and want to allow them the ability to harm innocent Americans.

Walt
Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
Reply Link Flag
your wrong web
No. We have a thing called the constitution. There is no need to take a big **** on it. Sure I hate terrorists they are a bad thing but we don't need to throw away our rights for it.
Posted by komradkyle (12 comments )
Link Flag
Tom and me....
"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it." - Thomas Jefferson

"Here! Here!" - Jim Hubbard
Posted by Jim Hubbard (326 comments )
Link Flag
YOU NEED TO GROW A PAIR!!!!!
You need to grow a pair
Reader post by: FooKBush
Posted on: October 31, 2006, 9:43 PM PST
Story: House votes to expand electronic spying powers

And stop buying all this fear mongering rhetoric, If you are so worried about this war on terror you should be sad cuz every time Bush and his republican **** ups write laws that strip our liberties we lose another battle. In reality we lost the so called war (Bush's fear mongering term) the second the patriot act was enacted...the only terrorist we should be afraid of is ******* Bush and his republican cohorts.
Like I stated..you need to grow a pair and quit being such wimp.At least get some knee pads if all you want to do is worship Bush and not think for your self..(hmmm think for yourself...to American for ya)

Regards,

FookBush
Posted by FooKBush (24 comments )
Link Flag
horrible
Wow. I am really getting sick of the bush administration. Videogame rights, internet rights can't somebody stop this, Why are people so stupid when they are in a group and so smart when they are alone. People need to use common sense. We need to vote independednts into office I'm sick and tired of this partisan crap. It's never about the actual issue its only about party politics and power. Disgusting.
Posted by komradkyle (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Speaking of spying ...
Here's another amazing thing which has been found in Google Earth, the spy-tool for everyone:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://regmedia.co.uk/2006/07/19/huangyangtan_wide.jpg/" target="_newWindow">http://regmedia.co.uk/2006/07/19/huangyangtan_wide.jpg/</a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showthreaded.php/Cat/0/Number/484568/" target="_newWindow">http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showthreaded.php/Cat/0/Number/484568/</a>

That's the place in the middle of the desert where the Chinese Army has constructed a scale-model replica of the entire region of Aksai Chin (occupied by China since the 1962 war with India). At 1:500, it's still 700 by 900 meters big ( = several football fields). Next to it is a base with dozens of troop transporters seen coming and going. The duplicate shows everything: rivers, lakes, roads and snow-capped mountains. It's basically a landscape within a landscape.

The problem is that nobody has been able to figure out the function of this thing. The world's biggest miniature golf course, perhaps? China's own Area 51? That's why it's the subject of so much discussion in the blogosphere.

Any ideas?
Posted by tania3000 (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You need to grow a pair
And stop buying all this fear mongering rhetoric, If you are so worried about this war on terror you should be sad cuz every time Bush and his republican **** ups write laws that strip our liberties we lose another battle. In reality we lost the so called war (Bush's fear mongering term) the second the patriot act was enacted...the only terrorist we should be afraid of is ******* Bush and his republican cohorts.
Like I stated..you need to grow a pair and quit being such wimp.At least get some knee pads if all you want to do is worship Bush and not think for your self..(hmmm think for yourself...to American for ya)

Regards,

FookBush
Posted by FooKBush (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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