Matheson Supports Measure Curbing Warrantless Wiretapping
Washington D.C.-Congressman Jim Matheson said he supports a measure that defines conditions for electronic eavesdropping by federal security officials and that includes more oversight by Congressional committees. A vote on HR 5825 was scheduled for Thursday evening in the House.
The National Security Administration has monitored phone calls and e-mails of suspected terrorists, some of whom are U.S. residents, without warrants in order to track possible links to al Qaeda. Pending lawsuits have raised questions about whether it is legal under the current Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. That prompted the legislative action.
"If al Qaeda is calling, I want our intelligence agencies listening in. At the same time, FISA was passed before enemy communications included cell phones and e-mails. This bill brings in the FISA court, prevents the government from trampling on Americans' privacy rights and creates greater Congressional oversight," said Matheson.
Matheson said under the bill, electronic surveillance, without a warrant, could be conducted for up to 90 days under three circumstances: an armed or terrorist attack against the US, or if there is an "imminent threat" that is likely to cause death or widespread harm. In all such instances, however, the president must notify the Congressional Intelligence committees and the FISA court of such surveillance. It allows the chairs of the two Intelligence committees to share the substance of the administration's reports on electronic surveillance with all members of the committees.