Senator Bond has succeeded in guiding a Bush Administration anti-terrorism priority through the Senate and on to passage just prior to Congress going on a month-long recess. President Bush signed the legislation on Sunday.
Senator Bond, a Republican, is Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence. Bond says National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell first spoke to the committee in May about the need to revise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to bring it up to date with 21st Century technology. The Bush Administration priority has been a controversial one. It would allow United States spies to tap phone lines and intercept e-mails when the communication comes into the US from a foreign country without a court order.
Bond took to the Senate floor Friday to acknowledge Democrats have concerns about the Bush Administrations proposal for a complete overhaul. But Bond argues that to keep the country safe, Congress needs to approve the measure. It has. The Senate voted Friday night 60-to-28 in favor of the revision. The House followed on Saturday, voting 227-to-183 in favor of the change.
Bond says the Administration sees the change as vital. He says without it, America would become deaf to terrorist plans. The issue became urgent for a couple of reasons. Earlier this year, a FISA judge ruled that US spies had to have court approval to listen to purely foreign communication the passes through the US. The Bush Administration says the ruling has hurt its efforts to listen in on suspected terrorist communication. It also has argued that any delay in getting court-ordered approval to intercept communication could put America at risk. Also, President Bush had threatened to keep Congress in Washington if it failed to act.
Current law requires a warrant to monitor calls intercepted in the US, regardless of where the calls originate. The revision would allow the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to authorize the surveillance of all communication involving foreign targets. Critics contend the measure will allow the federal government to intrude on privacy rights. A provision has been added that requires Congress to revisit the measure in six months.