FISA Taken Out Behind Shed, Shot

FISA Taken Out Behind Shed, Shot

The unbelievably-named Protect America Act, which was rammed through both houses of Congress in the last hours of this year's legislative session, amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to give the government the legal ability to do just about everything it has so far been doing illegally.

The Act permits warrantless surveillance targeted at persons (even US citizens) reasonably believed to be located outside the US, which sounds like it legitimates what the government has been calling the Terrorist Surveillance Program. It also authorizes the government to secretly order communications service providers – phone companies, ISPs, email providers – to create back doors in their services to facilitate eavesdropping. Providers can appeal the orders to the secret FISA Court, but are immune from suit for participating. Those who refuse to comply can be held in contempt.

The Act also grandfathers in whatever current surveillance programs have received FISA Court approval. It's set to expire in six months, but programs authorized under the Act can last up to a year before needing re-authorization.

Plus, the person responsible for submitting a twice-yearly report on surveillance abuses is the Attorney General, the same Alberto Gonzales who has already lied under oath to Congress about the existence of surveillance abuses.

Democrats had prepared their own bill, featuring oversight and limits on domestic spying. President “30% Approval” Bush threatened to veto it and then blame Democrats for the lack of a bill. Facing Republican accusations that without this bill, Washington D.C. would be hit by a terrorist attack in August, the Democratically-controlled congress passed the bill.


Thumbnail photo courtesy nolifebeforecoffee.



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Saiyan Monkey

Everyone say it together now: What.The.F***!!! First we somehow allow that chimp (Bush) to claim an office the majority of the voters in this country didn't want him in (fool us once, shame on you...), then we opt to keep him in that office for another four years (fool us twice, shame on US!), now we're giving him unrestrained access to go poking his pervy chimp nose into our rigs and how we may or may not actually use them??!? Once again now: WHAT. THE. F***??!?!?
Seems to me the chimp probably hired the terrorists to do what they did to those buildings to provide him with an excuse to continue his father's war. Bad chimp! BAD! Chimp needs a public spanking!!! (I mean that literally, not figuratively...)

Now, as to the comments left by 'dcrail' (third entry after article) who quite rudely tells the article's author, "...In other words post your political rants (liberal, conservative, or otherwise) elsewhere," I say this:

Piss off, man (or chick, as the case may be)! The editors and writers at MaximumPC work damn hard to bring all of us the latest, freshly pared info that may have even the slightest impact on our rigs and our lives as self-professed power users (perhaps you didn't notice the part about the back doors our ISP's could be forced to create by our own government under the direction of that scat masticating chimp in the White House). This web site is their domain, their home, and one thing you never do is come into another man's home and start telling him what to do. That's f-ing rude, man. So piss off. Piss right the hell off and when you're done, do it again.

To the editors and authors: please keep it all ooming: tech info, poli-tech info, and whatever else you guys think is worth mentioning to us, your readers! And thanx!

To many other readers who've posted responses: There are some excellent and some craptastic arguments on both sides of the issue

'If it was so, it might be, and if it were so, it would be. But as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.'

--Tweedledee and Tweedledum (probably paraphrased)


Hopeless in Hopewell

Can you see the end from here, I just hope we get to keep our computers. Greece and Rome fell! God help us all. Catching terroist is like catching a ghost.



I love how the Democrats got elected on a platform of getting rid of this stuff, then the Congress that they control passes something like this. I hope all of you people realize that both Donkeys and Elephants are not to be trusted and will continue to try and erode your rights and freedoms in one way or another.



Paul J Lindburg

we'll all be singing a different tune when the terrorists hit us because we missed a piece of intelligence that could have tipped us off if we could have tapped into their lines. Why is it all of a sudden illegal when every President before now used this technology routinely?



Some of the discussion around this topic and the Bush administration in general seems to be completely inane and childish. I'm not talking about just on this forum, though, but in general in the U.S. Admittedly emotions are high and people tend to say things without thinking when they're emotional. But it'd be nice to see more people think about the issue first rather than default to the typical Bush fanboy or hater prose.

There are certainly a few well-reasoned statements flying around here, but focusing on a few others ...

@Mad Beaver
There were certainly missteps within the Clinton administration just as in the Bush administration. But Clinton was also being hamstrung by a Republican Congress who didn't believe that the terrorist threat was all that important. As a matter of fact, they seemed more interested in destroying one man than in doing anything in the best interest of the U.S.

It's very disingenuous to say that because someone wants to protect their right from unwarranted search that they've forgotten about the people killed on Sept. 11. I'm sure these same people would like to stop the purveyors of terror. The problem is that nobody has any way of knowing that the Bush administration won't spy or isn't currently spying on innocent people. There has been hardly any meaningful oversight of their actions. History has constantly shown us that people in power will use any tool at their disposal, despite the legal and moral implications, to remain in power.

Not all bad here, but "As far as lieing goes..."? Come on. Shouldn't we expect and demand better from our representatives? Has it really gotten to the point where the best we can expect from the President of the United States is the mentality of a four-year-old ("he got to do it so why can't I?!?")? And while secrecy can be important, the Bush administration has made a farce of it by declaring that nobody has the right to know anything they're doing.

Now, let the flames begin. I always did like a bonfire in summer.



I think there would be much less opposition to this program if people could truly believe that the Bush administration was acting solely in the best interest of the people of the United States. However, the public has no way of knowing the intentions and actions of the Bush administration because they refuse to tell anyone what they are doing. Plus past actions have shown that these people are more than willing to do just about anything to further their cause.

Case in point (and excuse me while I beat a dead horse) the Plame affair. The Bush administration leaked the name and employment of Mrs. Plame while she was working for the CIA. This in spite of the fact that at the very least she was in the recent past an undercover operative. Exposing her employment, no matter the reason, puts the lives of any number of people with whom she has associated at risk and harms the CIA's ability to recruit contacts. And why was the Bush administration doing this? To try and hide the fact that it was knowingly using false information to justify the invasion of Iraq.

I find it hard to accept that people willing to use their power in this manner will be able to resist the temptation to abuse the opportunity to spy on anyone in the U.S. without oversight. (Well, meaningful oversight anyway.)



I appreciate Erin Simon for alerting me of this issue. The Orwellian America never sat well with me. It negates the forethought that the founding fathers tried to instill into the basis framework of our government such as open policy.

Before you yell why should you care if you don't do anything illegal. Remember, that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Remember the time when Google was subpoena by the AG to logs search inquiries, Google refuses and Americans applauded their effort. Now, the coming of FISA will force company to spy on their customers. And you bet you can forget about the RIAA and MPAA--a new sleuth is in town.

FISA is nonsense. It is created by powerful and rich lobbying group and greed-driven politicians who want to land a good corporate job after they retire.

TheMurph made a good point about this Bush administration. It has capitalized on the idea of terror long enough so that it promote its own good. The administration's stance concerning religion and nuclear family is a laughing matter. Just look at their own private lives.

In the end, you can't make much change to the way your country is run even if you are a multi-billionaire. But if you're president, your vision is reality and hell can be made.

what's in your pc?



I dont think the problem here is the program its self. To me, its the method in which they have done it. I have posted many times about how much I dont care if people listen to my phone calls and read my email, exspecially if it will help keep people safe. I dont think the goverment needs limits on spying tho, that would just give terroist a cover to hide under. As far as the Attorney General goes, this country and the World for that fact is at war. Secrets are a part of war. They have to.

As far as lieing goes, where does this quote come from, "I did not have sexuall relations with that woman". Yes it was another lieing politic. Sorry for the bad grammer and all its time for me to goto bed, gotta work tonight.



Why the hell are you surprised that a democratically controlled congress would push crap-legislation like this through? If there's one thing the dems are good at, it's increasing government bloat and government involvement in people's lives.

And the last time I looked, those losers in congress have even lower approval ratings than bushie does.



We need to be concerned about this because this will allow the government to hack (aka Backdoor) into ISP's and be able to sniff packets etc. etc. Yes if you are not doing anything regarding terrorism then you should not be worried. However this could also lead into the government getting more control of the internet and the data that flows through the Net. Like it was mentioned before, if the Government wants to destroy someone (remember this act is broad, not just for terrorism) this will make it easier for them.

The Internet under government control is a scary scary thing.




I'd much rather read posts of people flaming each other over Windows vs. Linux.



Well i guess you're right guys...

Maybe if we're nice to suspected terrorists they won't attack us, right?


Why in the hell should you be worried about terrorist surveillance?! Are you doing something related to Al Queda?

Listen up people: If you're not doing anything related to terrorism... you won't be spied on! End of story!!!

This news item is just another showing of how people have completely forgotten the 1500 people that were killed on September 11th.



No offense, TheUltimateGamer2006, but your idyllic view of the world is just dead wrong.

Political parties aside (as the Dems are just as much to blame for this going through as the Reps), this current administration has repeatedly shown that they're more than willing to take a mile when given an inch. Hence I'm rather unhappy at the prospect of them being given any latitude whatsoever to look over any activities I'm doing -- technology-related or otherwise.

After all, these are the very leaders who practically equate P2P with terrorism. There's your justification for spying on any computer under the sun.

Just imagine what might happen if/when the lobbying arm of RIAA and the MPAA get involved! :-\


Mad Beaver

You can't have it both ways. You want to be safe, but you don’t want the government to ease drop on anyone. It doesn’t work that way. You want to go back to the pre-FISA days? Then don’t act shocked next time we get attacked.
The post about what would have happened if Clinton had passed this bill was too easy to pass up. Clinton didn't give two hoots about terrorism, which is one of the reasons Sept 11th happened. Read up on your history, terrorists have been attacking the U.S. for decades before Sept 11th (The U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, USS Cole, and a couple of U.S. Embassies in Africa to name but a few) and they are unable to comprehend what civil rights are. We have to fight fire with fire, which means the FISA needs to stay in full force. The alternative is never being quite sure what the people who want to fly planes into tall buildings are up to.



If you all are conserned about what the media has been subjectively spilling about this program then you should read the bill in depth, if not then keep believing whatever you hear.

I also agree with the last comment, this is not a news sight.



I agree with almost everything that is said, and implied here. However, when I come to Maximum PC I am looking for articles technology, specifically relating to the "PC." If you were speaking to the technology of the surveillance, that would be different.

In other words post your political rants (liberal, conservative, or otherwise) elsewhere.



Hi, dcrail!

You've reached Maximum PC's Tech Law Blog. As the name implies, Erin reports on the latest updates in tech law, which has huge ramifications for our readers, tech-savvy and law-abiding bunch that they are. We assume most readers will want to know, for example, that their digital lives can be spied on without being given notice, reason, or recourse.



must be nice to be able to do what they want. they want to do something thats considered illegal they go, *BAM* bill passed its legal for us to do it now and go and do it and break into stuff tahts illegal so once again *BAM* bill passed and thats legal too. hell might as well make everything the government does legal or else we will have to buy bigger filing cabnets for all these bills the government is making so they dont (not like they can be) sued for something "illegal", but the funny part is if any normal person tried any of this we would probly be called a terriost and hung by our toe nails beside a killer bee's nest were the government shoots bb's at the bee's nest. im a canadian and even i shake my head at them *wonders why he dont get tied up in pollitics* oh wait its cause of dumb shit like this



Replace "Communism" with "terrorism." That's all it is. See "McCarthyism." Maybe Bush has protected us all these years after 9-11, but if that's true why do we need all these new programs?

This is the most secretive administration ever in my opinion. That is bad for democracy. What if Clinton were doing all this? People would be saying "Look at the big evil government take away our rights!" I'm not a Clintonista but geez where's the outrage this time? Clinton gets a BJ, it's a "constitutional crisis," this nut (Bush) bends Congress over and it's no big deal.

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