The Senate overwhelming voted Tuesday evening to legalize President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program and grant amnesty to the phone companies that helped out with the domestic spying..
The 68 to 29 vote is a major step in radically re-configuring 30 year-old limits on how the nation's spying services operate inside America's borders. The vote also deals a severe blow to civil liberties groups that are suing companies such as AT&T and Verizon for turning over millions of American's phone records to the government, and for helping the government wiretap American's phone and internet communications without a court order.
The bill, which expires in six years, allows the government to install permanent wiretapping outposts in telephone and internet facilities inside the United States without a warrant. However, if those wiretaps are used to target Americans inside or outside of the country, the government would have to get a court order. However, if the target is a foreigner or a foreign corporation, and they call an American or an American calls them, no warrant is required.
Prior to this summer, the intelligence community was forbidden by law from wiretapping phone and internet switches inside the United States, unless they had a particular target in mind and applied for a court order from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. That court largely rubber stamps such applications -- it approved 2,072 in 2005 and required modifications to only 61 of those.
Yet another reason to move to Canada...