Friday, January 25, 2008

Senator Boxer Responds to My Question

Dear Mr. Eisinger:

Thank you for writing to me about the Bush Administration's warrantless electronic surveillance program. I appreciate the opportunity to review your comments on this important issue, and I share your concerns.

Since 9/11, our nation has struggled with the difficult task of balancing our security needs with protecting our precious civil liberties, including the area of warrantless surveillance and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Last year, President Bush signed into law the "Protect America Act of 2007" (S.1927), which temporarily expanded the Administration's warrantless surveillance program to address certain communications technology advancements. Many felt that S.1927 needed further refinement, and Congress agreed to continue working on the issue.

On October 26, 2007, the Senate Intelligence Committee passed the "FISA Amendments Act of 2007" (S. 2248), which would improve judicial oversight of the Administration's warrantless surveillance program but would also grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies, protecting them from lawsuits over their participation in the Administration's warrantless surveillance program.

The Senate Judiciary Committee subsequently passed a version of the bill that did not include retroactive immunity. I am disappointed that on January 24, 2008, the Senate voted 60-36 to kill the Judiciary Committee's alternative measure that would have stripped the immunity provision from S.2248. If we are going to uncover the full truth about the Administration's surveillance program, I believe that Congress cannot, and should not, grant blanket immunity to the telecommunications companies.

As the Senate continues its consideration of the FISA bill, I will continue working with my colleagues to achieve a long-term comprehensive reform of FISA that will protect national security and safeguard civil liberties - without granting blanket immunity to the telecom industry.

Again, thank you for writing to me. Please feel free to contact me in the future about this or any other issue of concern to you.

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator


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