Bush signs controversial surveillance bill

US intelligence agencies will no longer need a warrant to eavesdrop on US citizens’ international phone calls and emails after George Bush signed a temporary surveillance bill yesterday.

The measure gives the National Security Agency – which is responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign communications – and other agencies broader authority to monitor phone conversations, emails and other private communications that are part of a foreign intelligence investigation.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2142619,00.htmlAlso see:
Bush Signs Law to Widen Legal Reach for Wiretapping
President Bush signed into law on Sunday legislation that broadly expanded the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants.Congressional aides and others familiar with the details of the law said that its impact went far beyond the small fixes that administration officials had said were needed to gather information about foreign terrorists. They said seemingly subtle changes in legislative language would sharply alter the legal limits on the government’s ability to monitor millions of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the United States.They also said that the new law for the first time provided a legal framework for much of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted in secret by the National Security Agency and outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that is supposed to regulate the way the government can listen to the private communications of American citizens.

Today, most international telephone conversations to and from the United States are conducted over fiber-optic cables, and the most efficient way for the government to eavesdrop on them is to latch on to giant telecommunications switches located in the United States.By changing the legal definition of what is considered “electronic surveillance,” the new law allows the government to eavesdrop on those conversations without warrants — latching on to those giant switches — as long as the target of the government’s surveillance is “reasonably believed” to be overseas.For example, if a person in Indianapolis calls someone in London, the National Security Agency can eavesdrop on that conversation without a warrant, as long as the N.S.A.’s target is the person in London.
http://nytimes.com/2007/08/06/washington/06nsa.htmlThe New York Times article is also available from CNet:
http://news.com.com/2100-1029_3-6200914.htmlEditorial: The Fear of Fear Itself
It was appalling to watch over the last few days as Congress — now led by Democrats — caved in to yet another unnecessary and dangerous expansion of President Bush’s powers, this time to spy on Americans in violation of basic constitutional rights. Many of the 16 Democrats in the Senate and 41 in the House who voted for the bill said that they had acted in the name of national security, but the only security at play was their job security.

While serving little purpose, the new law has real dangers. It would allow the government to intercept, without a warrant, every communication into or out of any country, including the United States. Instead of explaining all this to American voters — the minimal benefits and the enormous risks — the Democrats have allowed Mr. Bush and his fear-mongering to dominate all discussions on terrorism and national security.
http://nytimes.com/2007/08/07/opinion/07tue1.htmlWhite House Challenges Critics on Spying
The White House maintained Monday that the surveillance measure signed into law by President Bush over the weekend did not give the government any sweeping new powers to eavesdrop on Americans without court warrants.

The new measure, signed into law by the president on Sunday, allows intelligence officials to eavesdrop without a warrant on international phone calls or e-mail messages to or from an American inside the United States, but only if they conclude that the “target” is outside this country. The legislation gives broad discretion to the attorney general and the director of national intelligence, rather than a judge, in deciding how those complicated surveillance decisions are made.Critics of the measure, which expires in six months, maintain that whether or not an American on United States soil is considered the “target” of an eavesdropping operation, the effect is the same: an end run around constitutional rights. But administration officials heatedly disputed that interpretation.

They said the legislation did not authorize “a driftnet” aimed at eavesdropping on large volumes of phone calls and e-mail messages inside the United States. But they declined to discuss in detail the N.S.A.’s broader efforts tracing and analyzing the patterns of American communications — who is calling and e-mailing whom — without actually listening to or reading the content of the conversations.
http://nytimes.com/2007/08/07/washington/07nsa.htmlReuters coverage:
http://news.com.com/2100-1028_3-6200898.htmlBush Signs Sweeping Surveillance Measure Into Law
President Bush on Sunday afternoon signed into law a controversial measure giving U.S. government officials increased authority to listen in on international communications without first obtaining a warrant. S. 1927 updates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by permitting warrantless surveillance of any targets located abroad, even if they are communicating with someone in the U.S.

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