US intelligence czar wants power to snoop on all non-Americans
Press Esc | June 30, 2007
US intelligence czar wants congress to pass a bill that would allow American spies to snoop electronically on non-Americans anywhere in the world by forcing telecommunication carriers to comply in exchange for immunity from prosecution by affected individuals.
"The law needs to be updated so that we can target foreigners, regardless of where [communications are] intercepted in the world, and at the same time, if a U.S. person is ever a subject of surveillance for any reason, it would require a warrant," Admiral Michael McConnell, the US director of national intelligence said in an interview with Council of Foreign Relation's Eben Kaplan. "The threat has increased, the intent is stated, and the way the wording in the current law is captured inhibits or prevents us from being successful."
He also wants Congress to grant immunity against legal action to telephone companies and ISPs who collaborate and cooperate with the United States.
The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 would update the definition of electronic surveillance to cover all forms of telecommunications.
It authority both to force providers to cooperate with authorized intelligence activities, and protect those carriers when they do comply with requests under FISA.
The new bill also redefines the term "agent of a foreign power" to include any non-U.S. persons whom the US Government believes possess significant intelligence information, even if there's no evidence to substantiate that belief.
If the bill becomes law, the US spies would be able to eavesdrop on foreigners who use US servers for communications, including those who use popular email services such as Google's Gmail and Yahoo! mail, Internet chatrooms and VOIP services.
Civil rights groups have the FISA "modernisation" bill an attempt by Bush administration to retroactively legitamise President's illegal wiretapping.
"Congress enacted FISA with the intention of protecting Americans from the very sort of domestic wiretapping the administration has engaged in," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Amending FISA after the fact would only serve to legitimize and reward the president's illegal actions. There is no legitimate need to expand FISA and the argument that this law cannot keep up with technology is flatly false. "
The US house of representatives last month passed the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 bill and 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 documents related to Administration's illegal wiretapping.
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