Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Isakson Praises Passage of Terrorist Surveillance Legislation

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today praised the Senate’s passage of legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, also known as FISA, and bring the law up to date with current communication technologies.

“The intelligence gathered through foreign intelligence surveillance saves American lives,” Isakson said. “The absence of any catastrophic attacks in America since September 11, 2001, is the product of hard work by Americans in intelligence, law enforcement and the military.”

The bipartisan legislation amending FISA makes needed changes to FISA so the government’s counter-terrorism intelligence-gathering can continue uninterrupted. It reiterates that FISA constitutes the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance and surveillance of domestic communications may be conducted.

The bill clarifies that FISA’s requirement of prior court approval does not apply to surveillance that is targeted at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States in accordance with the bill’s procedures. The bill’s provision for warrantless authority sunsets on December 31, 2013.

Additionally, the legislation includes retroactive immunity for private telecommunications carriers that assisted the United States in conducting intelligence surveillance post-9/11 as well as prospective immunity to those carriers whose cooperation will be needed in the future.

“The assistance of private telecommunications carriers is essential to carrying out the intelligence-gathering contemplated in FISA,” Isakson said. “Those who assist the government in tracking terrorists should not be punished with lawsuits.”

The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 68 to 29. The House has passed its own update of FISA and the two chambers must now seek to reconcile the differences between their two bills.

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