June 24, 2008

Wyden to Oppose Cloture for Wiretapping Bill

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a senior member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, announced today that he would oppose new legislation amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) due to his continued opposition to a provision that would grant blanket retroactive immunity to any telecommunications company that participated in the President's warrantless wiretapping program.

"This is not the first time that the President has pressured Congress into interfering in federal court cases to cover-up his attempts to secretly rewrite the law. Congress's previous attempts to bail-out the President—from the Detainee Treatment Act to the Military Commissions Act—have not only failed to solve the legal mess, but have often provided cover for the Administration's failed counterterrorism policies," said Wyden.

"I see no reason for Congress to grant blanket immunity to companies that went along with the President's wiretapping program for the better part of six years, even as it became increasingly clear that the legal foundation for this program was built on sand," Wyden continued. "It is not the role of Congress to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the courts. And while this bill offers the illusion of a fair judicial process, in reality, as the House Republican Leadership has noted, this is a mere ‘formality.'"

Wyden was one of two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to vote against the FISA Amendments Act in committee, due to his opposition to the telecom immunity provisions. During the committee mark up, Wyden offered an amendment that would for the first time extend warrant protections to Americans who travel overseas. Despite initial opposition to the "Wyden Amendment," it is included in the current version of the legislation.

"In the digital age, an American's relationship with his or her government should not depend on physical geography," Wyden said. "While I have serious concerns about other parts of this legislation, I think history will recognize this amendment as an important achievement and a major step forward for privacy rights."