September 25, 2007

CARDIN CALLS FOR REVISION OF FISA LAW TO ENSURE STRONGER JUDICIAL OVERSIGHT

Law Must Be Renewed by February 2008

WASHINGTON - At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin today called for major revisions to the Protect America Act , which passed the Senate in August and was signed into law by President Bush. The legislation gave the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) additional power to conduct warrantless wiretaps without going to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court for authorization.

 

"I voted against the Protect America Act because it weakens the ability of Congress and the FISA Court to review electronic intelligence gathering that may target U.S. citizens," said Senator Cardin.   "The FISA Court was established in 1978 because of executive branch abuses of domestic intelligence gathering.   It's important that we ensure that our nation's intelligence gathering efforts have appropriate oversight and supervision."

 

At today's hearing, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Michael McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, as well as from former Bush Administration officials and privacy groups regarding potential legislative changes to FISA.

 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is continuing its investigation of the Administration's warrantless wiretapping program.   In May, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony from former Deputy Attorney General James Comey about strong White House pressure to convince an ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to drop DOJ's legal objections to the wiretap program.   Attorney General Ashcroft declined to do so, and former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales reauthorized the program without Justice Department approval.

 

In June Senator Cardin voted to authorize subpoenas for documents related to the warrantless program from the White House, Office of the Vice President, Department of Justice, and the National Security Council.