Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Senator Lugar's Thoughts on FISA

A month or three ago, I contacted my Senators (Sen. Evan Bayh [D] and Sen. Richard Lugar [R]) to tell them that I was troubled by the insistence of the Bush administration in including retroactive immunity to the telecommunications industry in the reauthorization and amendment of anti-terrorist legislation. (I previously discussed this issue in "If We Scare People Enough, Maybe They'll Be Willing to Sacrifice the Bill of Rights"). When I spoke to the staffers for my Senators, I explained that I thought that discussion of retroactive immunity should be considered separately from legislation that was designed to keep America safe.

Yesterday, I received a response from Sen. Lugar:
Thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts about the Protect America Act of 2007 and reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA).

On August 5, 2007, President Bush signed into law the Protect America Act of 2007. This Act provided the Director of National Intelligence, for six months, increased authority to monitor communications of foreign terrorist targets. Congress is working to find consensus on a way to move forward with a possible long-term extension. Retroactive immunity for certain telecommunications providers and privacy issues will be an important part of these discussions. I will continue to closely follow consideration of this matter with your concerns in mind.

Protecting American citizens from harm is the federal government's most important responsibility. As a United States Senator, I take that responsibility very seriously. I believe we can wage a successful war on terrorism without sacrificing the liberties bestowed upon us by the Founders.

Thank you, again, for contacting me.

It is worth noting that on February 12, 2008, both Sen. Lugar and Sen. Bayh voted against a proposed amendment that would have stripped the retroactive immunity provisions from the FISA Amendments Act of 2007. No Republicans voted for the amendment and Sen. Bayh was one of 18 Democrats who voted against the amendment.

Now that the House of Representatives has passed legislation without the immunity provisions, it will be interesting to see how my Senators vote on this issue in the future.

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