Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008

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Article summary (how summaries work)
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008 (H.R.6304) was a bill in the 110th Congress "to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish a procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, and for other purposes..” (Official title)[1]


Contents

Current status


Bill summary

  • Prohibits the targeting of any United States persons who are reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States without the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Sec. 101).[1]
  • Prohibits the targeting of any person located outside of the United States with the intention of gaining information about a person located within the United States (Sec. 101).[1]
  • Prohibits the acquisition of any communications in which the sender and all recipients are reasonably believed to be within the United States (Sec. 101).[1]
  • Requires the Attorney General and the Director of National Security to provide the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court with a written certification and any supporting affidavit prior to the employment of electronic surveillance (Sec. 101).[1]
  • Allows the authorization of foreign surveillance under "emergency" or time-limited circumstances without preliminary Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approval provided that relevant applications or certifications are presented to the Court no later than 7 days after the authorization of such surveillance (Sec 101).[1]
  • Releases electronic communication providers from liability with regards to civil action that may be brought up in any court due to assistance provided to the government in obtaining electronic surveillance if such assistance was authorized by the President before January 17, 2007 or if such assistance was the subject of written directions from the Attorney General or heads of the intelligence community indicating that the activity was lawful (Sec. 201).[1]
  • Mandates that the certification for reauthorization of surveillance orders already in effect must be submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court at least 30 days prior to the expiration of the previous authorization (Sec. 101).[1]
  • Requires the Inspectors General of the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Inspector General of any intelligence agency that participated in the President's Surveillance Program to submit a comprehensive report to congress within one year of the enactment of this legislation regarding oversight authority, the responsibility of each such Inspector General, and information regarding the implementation and use of the program (Sec. 301).[1]

Key votes

  • Vote to pass a bill related to the acquisition of foreign intelligence via surveillance that defines what type of individuals may be targeted through electronic surveillance and outlines the certification and approval processes that are required as precursors to employing electronic surveillance.[1]

House


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: American Civil Liberties Union 2007 House Scorecard

Org. position: Nay

Description:

"On June 20, 2008, the House passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008 (H.R. 6304) by a vote of 293-129. The ACLU opposed this legislation due to its failure to protect Fourth Amendment privacy rights for individual Americans. Specifically, it authorizes an unlawful warrantless surveillance program, while providing effective immunity to those telecommunications companies that assisted government surveillance even before the facts surrounding the full extent of this program are known."

(Original scorecard available at: http://action.aclu.org/site/VoteCenter?page=voteList)

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 House Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Overhaul the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications firms that assisted with surveillance. June 20. (293-129)"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)

Senate

Sen. Chris Dodd proposed an amendment to strike one of the provisions of the FISA Amendments Act, a provision that offered immunity to telecommunications companies involved in surveillance. The amendment failed to pass; the vote was 32-66.[2]



The Drum Major Institute which supported the amendment, selected the vote for its 2008 Senate scorecard, where it gave the following description:

Granting retroactive immunity to companies that illegally spied on citizens sets a dangerous precedent for corporations to trample the rights of middle-class Americans without having to face any consequences for breaking the law. Telecommunications companies, at the behest of the Bush Administration, illegally monitored American citizens’ private e-mail correspondence, phone calls, password protected web activity, and other communications. This violated Americans’ Fourth Amendment right against unwarranted searches and seizures, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the contractual rights of private customers who signed privacy agreements with these companies. Our civil justice system allows regular Americans to hold corporations accountable when they violate cherished rights such as those outlined in our Constitution. Granting retroactive immunity would weaken middle-class Americans’ ability to take on powerful corporations for breaking the law. What’s more, retroactive immunity would weaken the ability of middle-class consumers to trust that their contracts with corporations will be honored and that the legal system will treat their constitutional rights as more than symbolic. In short, granting retroactive immunity would severely undermine Americans' faith in the legal system. Granting retroactive immunity also sets a dangerous precedent by giving the Administration unbridled power, under the guise of pursuing security interests, to pressure companies into violating Americans’ rights with impunity and to protect those corporations from liability for a range of other violations of the law.[3]

The Senate passed the bill on July 9, 2008.


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Pass an overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications companies."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"Table a Democratic plan overhauling the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that would restrict government authority and allow lawsuits against telecommunications companies that support such surveillance. January 24. (60-36)"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Nay

Description:

"Sequester communications of people in the United States obtained by surveillance agencies for review by independent overseers. February 7. (40-56)"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Nay

Description:

"Make the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act the exclusive authority for government wiretapping. February 12. (57-41; 60 votes required for passage because of a unanimous consent agreement)"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: American Civil Liberties Union 2007 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"On February 12, 2008, the Senate defeated, by a vote of 35-63, an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2007 (S. 2248) that would have ensured greater safeguards for the private communications of Americans. If in the process of collecting electronic communications, it is discovered that an American is a party to it, the government can only use and disseminate that communication if it was acting with a court order; there is an national emergency; at least one person is a terrorist or the communication is about terrorism; or it contains evidence of a crime. The ACLU supported the Feingold Amendment because it would have provided important privacy safeguards for the communications of Americans."

(Original scorecard available at: http://action.aclu.org/site/VoteCenter?page=voteList)


Same for all scorecards:

Scored vote

Scorecard: American Civil Liberties Union 2007 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"On February 12, 2008, the Senate defeated, by a vote of 31-67, an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2007 (S. 2248) that would have removed immunity from civil liability for those telecommunications companies that participated in the government's warrantless wiretapping program. The ACLU supported the Dodd Amendment because the full extent of the government's illegal wiretapping program and the role that certain telecommunications played in it remains unknown. Giving companies that broke the law a congressional pardon before the facts are known is wrong."

(Original scorecard available at: {{{Scorecard source 1}}})

Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Nay

Description:

"Eliminate retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications companies that helped the government's surveillance programs. February 12. (31-67)"

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)

Same for all scorecards:
Scored vote

Scorecard: American Civil Liberties Union 2007 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Aye

Description:

"On February 12, 2008, the Senate defeated, by a vote of 37-60, an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2007 (S. 2248) that would have prevented the government from engaging in massive, untargeted collection of all communications coming in and going out of the U.S. The ACLU supported the Feingold Amendment because preventing the bulk collection of communications and ensuring that investigations are focused on an individual or individuals goes to the heart of the fourth amendment and fundamental privacy protections."

(Original scorecard available at: http://action.aclu.org/site/VoteCenter?congress=110&location=S&page=voteList&lcmd=next&lcmd_cf=&lcmdrow.chk_selected=&lcmdrow.chk_deselected=&lcmdrow.chk_selected=&lcmdrow.chk_deselected=)

Same for all scorecards:
Scored vote

Scorecard: National Journal 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Nay

Description:

"Provide retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies only after an initial court review. February 12. (41-57; 60 votes required for passage because of a unanimous consent agreement)."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/cs_20090228_4813.php)

Same for all scorecards:
Scored vote

Scorecard: Americans for Democratic Action 2008 Senate Scorecard

Org. position: Nay

Description:

"Passage of a bill to amend the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that authorizes warrantless surveillance of foreign targets, even if they are communicating with someone in the United States. The amendment would authorize the FISA court to approve several aspects of how such surveillance is conducted and grant retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program. It would sunset in six years."

(Original scorecard available at: http://www.adaction.org/pages/publications/voting-records.php)

Articles and resources

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Project Vote Smart’s info page on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008 (H.R.6304).
  2. OpenCongress info page on FISA Amendments Act of 2008
  3. From Drum Major Institute, "TheMiddleClass.org 2008 Congressional Scorecard"
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