President Bush derailed a bill by the US Congress aimed at ending the Administration’s illegal wiretapping by not providing documents related to the President’s warrantless wiretapping program to the Senate Intelligence Committee that is currently reviewing the proposed legislation.
The US house of representatives last month passed the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 bill with an amendment that makes Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) the only means by which domestic electronic surveillance for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence information may be conducted.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Intelligence Committee, but the Committee is unable to proceed as the White House has repeatedly refused to hand over the relevant documents.
“Another critical priority for congressional oversight is government wiretapping of Americans, conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and, illegally, under the President’s warrantless wiretapping program,” Senator Russ Feingold said. “When the program was finally placed within the FISA process, an opportunity arose for the Administration and the Congress to move forward, under the law. Unfortunately, the Administration has yet to demonstrate a real interest in doing so.”
Feingold accused the Administration of seeking broad new authorities unrelated to keeping FISA up-todate with new technology, and pursuing these authorities while refusing to rule out further surveillance activities entirely outside of the law.
“For more than four years, the Administration failed to inform the full congressional intelligence committees of the warrantless wiretapping program,” said the Senator who cosponsored an ammendment by co-sponsor by Senator Feinstein to ensure that all members of the Committee receive, at a minimum, summary information about programs that the Administration has sought to limit to the Chairman and Vice Chairman. “In doing so, the Administration violated the National Security Act, which allows restricted notification to the “Gang of Eight” only in certain limited cases involving covert action.”
In 2005 Bush acknowledged that he authorised the National Security Agency in 2002 to eavesdrop on US citizens communicating with people overseas.