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Letter to Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, Re: Support for FISA Bill with More Oversight, without Telecom Immunity

Senators Push for FISA Bill with More Oversight, without Telecom Immunity

Fourteen Senators Urge Majority Leader to Take Up Senate Judiciary Committee Version of FISA Bill

As the Senate prepares to consider legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a group of senators is urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make the FISA bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) the base bill to be considered on the Senate floor. The SJC bill makes significant improvements to the FISA bill that was reported by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It enhances judicial oversight of broad new surveillance authorities, contains protections for innocent Americans, and does not provide immunity to telecom companies that allegedly cooperated with the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. The Senators expressing their support for the SJC FISA bill in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid are Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Barack Obama (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Joe Biden (D-DE), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Jim Webb (D-VA), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

The text of the letter is below:

December 12, 2007

Dear Majority Leader Reid:

We understand that the Senate will shortly be considering amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. As you know, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Judiciary Committee have reported very different versions of the FISA Amendments Act, S. 2248, and it is up to you, as Majority Leader, to decide how the Senate considers this legislation.

We urge you to make the version of S. 2248 reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee the base bill to be considered by the full Senate. While the structure of Title I of both bills is the same, and both make improvements over the Protect America Act, the reasonable changes to Title I made in the Judiciary Committee ensure that the FISA Court will be able to conduct much-needed oversight of the implementation of these broad new surveillance authorities, and help to better protect the rights of innocent Americans. While we appreciate the hard work that the Intelligence Committee has done on this legislation, the process by which the Judiciary Committee considered, drafted, amended and reported out its bill was an open one, allowing outside experts and the public at large the opportunity to review and comment. With regard to legislation so directly connected to the constitutional rights of Americans, the results of this open process should be accorded great weight, especially in light of the Judiciary Committee's unique role and expertise in protecting those rights.

We also believe that the Judiciary Committee bill is preferable because it does not provide immunity for telecom companies that allegedly cooperated with the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. As this is such a controversial issue, we feel it would be appropriate to require the proponents of immunity to make their case on the floor.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Russell D. Feingold (D-WI)
Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT)
Barack Obama (D-IL)
Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)
Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI)
Jim Webb (D-VA)
Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)


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