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Legislation of the 110th Congress (2007-2009)

Proposed Legislation of the 112th Congress
111th Congress Archives
109th Congress Archives
108th Congress Archives

Contact members of Congress on any of the matters listed below.


 

Legislation Enacted

Executive Power

Resolution recommending that the House of Representatives find Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten, Chief of Staff, White House, in contempt

Bill Numbers: H.R. 979, H.R. 980 and H.R. 982
Bill Status: All three resolutions were introduced on February 13, 2008. H.R. 979 and 980 were combined into H.R. 982, which passed the House by a vote of 222-32 on February 14, 2008.
Sponsors: H.R. 979 and 980, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI-14). H.R. 982, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY-28).
Co-sponsors:None.

These resolutions are the culmination of the work the House Judiciary Committee has done to investigate the unprecedented mass firings of U.S. attorneys by the Department of Justice in late 2006. Former White House counsel Harriet Miers was called to testify before Congress on her role in the firings, and she refused to appear. White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten refused to provide documents and emails to the House Judiciary Committee for its investigation.

On February 14, 2008, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 982, which holds Miers and Bolten in contempt of Congress and provides for the Judiciary Committee to intervene to enforce the subpoenas. The enforcement may be needed because Attorney General Mukasey told the Judiciary Committee he would not issue the subpoenas to Miers or Bolten, because they were following orders from the President.

View video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking House members to vote for H.R. 982. Video of other House members' statements. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH-8) led a dramatic Republican walkout during debate on the resolution. Read more news reports about the attorney firings.

 

Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007

Bill Number: S. 214
Status: Introduced on January 9, 2007. Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. On February 12, 2007, it was approved by the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 13-6. On March 20, it passed by a vote of 94-2. Roll Call 81
Became Public Law 110-34 when signed by the President on June 14, 2007.
Sponsor: Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
List of Co-sponsors

This bill is related to H.R. 580, which was passed by the House 306-114 on May 22, 2007 with Roll Call 397

S 214 and H.R. 580 were written in response to recent firings by the Department of Justice of U.S. attorneys in various parts of the country, replaced by hand-picked Bush loyalists. This recent overhaul of U.S. Attorneys offices' leadership was ushered in by a little known provision in the March 2006 reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act that allows the Attorney General to skirt the Senate confirmation process by making indefinite interim appointments. S 214 seeks to amend U.S. Code to restore Congress' oversight in the appointment of U.S. attorneys.

Read Senator Dianne Feinstein's statement at a March 6 hearing on the fired U.S. Attorneys.

 

To provide for a 120-day limit to the term of a United States attorney appointed on an interim basis by the Attorney General

Bill Number: H.R. 580
Status: Introduced January 19, 2007. Subcommittee Hearings Held on March 6, 2007. Passed the House on March 26, 2007 by a vote of Roll Call 189. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar
Sponsor: Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA-28th)
List of Co-sponsors

Like S 214, H.R. 580 would alter the PATRIOT Reauthorization Act of 2006 by amending chapter 35 of title 28, United States Code, to provide for a 120-day limit to the term of a United States attorney appointed on an interim basis by the Attorney General.

Additional Information


Freedom of Information Act

Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 2007

Bill Number: H.R. 1309
Related Bill:H.R. 1326
Status: Introduced on March 12, 2007. Passed by the House on March 14 by a vote of 308-117. Roll Call 144 H.R. 1309 was received in Senate and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Sponsor: Representative William Lacey Clay (D-MO-1st)
List of Co-sponsors

This bill amends the Freedom of Information Act, restoring it to its state prior to Attorney General John Ashcroft's 2001 directive, impeding public disclosure of information. Ashcroft directed federal agencies to err on the side of withholding information. This bill would restore the "presumption of disclosure" in cases where there was a question about whether or not records should be released to the public.

 

Open Government Act of 2007

Bill Number: S 849
Status: Introduced on March 13, 2007 Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Placed on Senate calendar No. 127 on April 30. Passed Senate on August 3, 2007 with amendments by unanimous consent. Sponsor: Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX)
List of Co-sponsors

A bi-partisan bill, which is similar to H.R. 1309. As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy held a hearing on S. 849 on March 14, entitled, "Open Government: Reinvigorating the Freedom of Information Act."

Read testimony from the March 14 hearing.

Originally, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) blocked the Senate from considering the bill citing "uncharacteristically strong" opposition to the bill by the Justice Department.

 

Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act (OPEN) Government Act of 2007

Bill Number: S 2488
Status: Introduced on December 14, 2007. Read twice, and then a third time. Passed without amendment by unanimous vote. On December 18, the House received the bill, suspended the rules, and passed it by a voice vote. On December 19, it was sent to the President.
Sponsor: Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
List of Co-sponsors

This is a revised version of S. 849, which passed the Senate in August, but did not move in the House of Representatives. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) co-sponsored the legislation. Senator Cornyn said, " Passage of these long-overdue open government reforms is a victory for the American people. This sweeping legislation to let more sunshine in government will be one of the signature achievements of this Congress. Our bipartisan bill holds politicians and bureaucrats accountable in an age of ever-expanding size and scope of government. "

On October 12, 2001, then Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a memorandum informing government agencies that they should err on the side of releasing too little information, rather than complying with public Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Ashcroft committed to defending agencies that restricted public information, if challenged in court. This bill does a 180-degree turn from Ashcrofts policies, by penalizing agencies that don't comply with FOIA requests within a 20-day period of time. Government contractors who hold nonproprietary information would also be subject to the law.

According to Secrecy News, "For all of its procedural virtues, the OPEN Government Act does not touch the root of government secrecy, namely the decision to withhold information. The Act does not repeal or modify any of the more than one hundred statutory exemptions from disclosure under the FOIA. And it does not address the proper scope or application of the classification system. That is a task for another day."



Intelligence and Intelligence Oversight

A Resolution to Enhance Intelligence Oversight

Bill Number: H Res 35
Status: Passed/agreed to in House on January 9, 2007. By recorded vote: 239 - 188. (Roll Call 13)
Sponsor: Representative Dave Obey (R-WI-7th)

Statement of Rep. Dave Obey on January 8, 2007 about this bill.


Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007

Bill Number: H.R. 1
Related Bill: S. 4
Status: Passed House of Representatives on January 9, 2007. By recorded vote: 299-128. (Roll Call 15)
Conference Report passed by Senate on July 26, 2007 by a vote of 85-8. Roll Call 285
Conference Report passed by House on July 27, 2007 by a vote of 371 to 40. Roll Call 757.
Signed by the President on August 3, 2007. Public Law 110-53.
Sponsor: Representative Bennie G. Thompson (R-MS-2nd)
List of Co-sponsors

Text of H.R. 1

There is concern that H.R. 1 contains some hidden and troubling provisions, such as the fusion center programs in Title VII. Following are four articles, including one from the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, expressing concern about some of the bill's less well-known provisions.

Additional Information on Fusion Centers:

Spies Among Us, a 2005 background article on Fusion Centers by US News and World Report

9/11 Bill Contains Little Known Provisions, a U.S. News and World Report on H.R. 1

States Setting Up Own Anti-Terror Centers, a Boston Globe report

100-Hours Homeland Security Bill Not Ready for Prime Time by the Heritage Foundation

A positive outcome of the passage of H.R. I, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), is that it's a step forward for Congress, since the legislative body began debating the issue three decades ago. The legislation "will require -- not merely recommend -- public disclosure of the total national intelligence budget....it would lead to the first authorized disclosure of current U.S. intelligence spending since the aggregate budgets were disclosed in 1997 ($26.6 billion) and 1998 ($26.7 billion) in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Federation of American Scientists. (Those figures included spending on "national" as well as "tactical" intelligence.)" Read excerpts from the conference report regarding the intelligence budget.

 

Improving America's Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007

Bill Number: S 4
Bill Title: A bill to reaffirm the authority of the Comptroller General to audit and evaluate the programs, activities, and financial transactions of the intelligence community, and for other purposes.
Related Bill: H.R. 1
Status: On March 13, 2007, passed Senate with an amendment by Yea-Nay Vote. 60 - 38. Roll Call 73.
Sponsor: Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)
List of Co-sponsors

S.4, does not correct the emerging problems with the president's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) being too closely allied with the administration. S 4 and H.R. 1 both expand fusion centers without providing any meaningful privacy protections (for example, it requires training to protect privacy as recommended by the PCLOB, which has repeatedly praised the illegal NSA wiretapping program).

S. 4 implements almost all of the remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations, but tucks in some provisions amid its 230+ pages, such as asking for a presidential report on doing away with privacy protections for US persons. Those provisions do not inspire confidence, from a civil liberties perspective. Unfortunately, this bill misses some important opportunities to add genuine enhancements for privacy and civil liberties.

Read Creating a Real Civil Liberties Oversight Board by Isaac Kaufman, of the Minnesota Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

On March 2, Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) introduced an amendment to S. 4, which would penalize employees of the House or Senate or other authorized personnel who knowingly disclose classified information that is contained in a report to Congress

The amendment when originally proposed in late February which seemed to be a threat to whistleblowers, drew strong opposition among civil liberties advocates because of its threat to whistleblowers. Open the Government and Sunshine in Government voices opposition to the amendment before it was introduced. As a result, Kyl modified the amendment and re-introduced a modified version on March 2.

Open Government Letter to Senators Leahy and Specter
Sunshine in Government Letter

Intelligence Community Audit Act of 2007
Bill Number: S 82
Bill Title: A bill to reaffirm the authority of the Comptroller General to audit and evaluate the programs, activities, and financial transactions of the intelligence community, and for other purposes.
Status: Read twice and referred to the Select Committee on Intelligence on January 4, 2007.
Sponsor:Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI)
List of Co-sponsors

Additional Information: Statement by Sen. Akaka on the Senate floor.

 

REAL ID

Amendment to a Homeland Security Appropriations Bill Providing No Funds for National ID Card

Bill Number: H.R. 2638 -- Homeland Security Appropriations
Status: Passed House June 15, 2007.
Passed Senate July 26, 2007 with amendment relating to REAL ID by a vote of 89-4. Roll Call 282

House and Senate are reconciling differences between the two bills. Senate Conferees: Byrd; Inouye; Leahy; Mikulski; Kohl; Murray; Landrieu; Lautenberg; Nelson NE; Cochran; Gregg; Stevens; Specter; Domenici; Shelby; Craig; Alexander. House has not named conferees.

In 2005, when the REAL ID Act was introduced, the Senate escaped having to vote on it, because the amendment adding REAL ID came in the House, during a must-pass troop appropriations, tsunami, Hurricane Katrina relief bill. So, 2007 marks the first time the Senate has voted on REAL ID, affirming Senate Amendment 2406 offered by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). The amendment prohibits the use of funds for planning, testing, piloting, or developing a national identification card. Montana is one of six states, which voted to reject REAL ID, and dozens more, including Arkansas that are still considering a state response.

For More Information:

 

Warrantless Wiretapping

FISA Amendments Act of 2008

Bill Number: H.R. 6304, S. 2248
Status: FISA Amendments Act of 2008 passed the House on June 20, followed by the Senate on July 9. President Bush signed it into law on July 10.
Sponsors: Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX)
Co-sponsors

Originally introduced in October 2007, the FISA Amendments Act went through many revisions and votes prior to becoming law, including Judiciary Committee hearings in October 2007 and passage of a previous version by the Senate (but not the house) in February 2008.

In May 2008, Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) issued a proposal that he believed to be a compromise on warrantless surveillance. Under this proposal, the telecommunications companies accused of breaking the law by providing the government with personal subscriber information without receiving a warrant would be let off the hook. Lawsuits against them would be sent to a federal court that would not review whether the companies actually broke the law, but would instead ask whether the companies followed what the Bush administration told them was the law. If the President told them his request for information was legal, the companies will not be held responsible for violating their customers' privacy rights.

The FISA Amendments Act of 2008, Senator Bond's "compromise," was passed 293-129 by the House on June 20, 2008. The Senate passed the bill on July 9 by a vote of 69 to 28. Three amendments that would have mitigated the harmful effects of the bill were rejected:

  • An amendment introduced by Senators Feingold, Dodd, and Patrick to remove the immunity provision (32 to 66).
  • The Specter amendment, which would have required federal courts to determine whether the wiretapping program was constitutional before granting immunity to the telecommunications companies (37 to 61).
  • The Bingaman amendment, which would have halted pending lawsuits against telecommunications companies until 90 days after Congress received the Inspectors General report on the legality of the President’s surveillance program (42 to 56).

 

Protect America Act of 2007

Bill Number: S. 1927
Status: Introduced on August 1, 2007. Read for the first time. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar.
Sponsor: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Co-sponsors

Passed by Congress on August 3 and 4, and signed into law by President Bush on August 5.

In the House, the August 4 vote was 227-183. In the Senate, the August 3 vote was 60-28.

Many good speeches were made on the floor of the House and Senate defending the Bill of Rights, and denouncing S. 1927 for purporting to protect Americans from terrorism, while devising more ways to legalize the White House's illegal spy programs. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) stated the obvious -- that the President broke the law by conducting illegal wiretaps after September 11, but Republicans, forced him to revise his words for the Congressional record. Still Nadler said, "I retain my opinion." It is a grievous time indeed, when the President's crimes cannot be publicly mentioned in Congress, when they are pretended away by passage of the "Protect America Act."

Click here for talking points about this bill, which is a seismic shift in how surveillance is conducted in the U.S.

 


Legislation Proposed but Not Passed

Datamining

Federal Agency Data Mining Reporting Act of 2007

Bill Number: S 236
Bill Title: To require reports to Congress on Federal agency use of data mining.
Status: Introduced by Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI), John Sununu (R-NH), Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on January 10, 2007 and referred to the Judiciary Committee. On March 15, the Judiciary Committee considered the bill, and held a mark-up session. Reported out of committee by Senator Leahy on June 4 and placed on Senate calendar. No. 184.
List of Co-sponsors

Additional Information: Statement by Senator Feingold on the Senate floor.

 

Executive Power

Executive Order Integrity Act of 2008

Bill Number: S. 3405
Status: Introduced July 31, 2008. Referred to Senate Committee and read twice. Transferred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Sponsor: Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

The Executive Order Integrity Act of 2008 would prohibit the President from changing a published executive order without informing Congress and the public. It would do so by requiring the President to place a notice in the Federal Register within 30 days of the time that he/she “revokes, modifies, waives, or suspends a published Executive order or similar directive.” Further, the bill would require that the President’s notice in the Federal Register specify the order or provision affected, the change being implemented, and the nature of that change.

Senators Feingold and Whitehouse introduced this bill in response to a memorandum written by the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice that asserted the President’s right to disregard or revoke a published executive order. According to Senator Feinfold, the memorandum asserted that the President does not need to revise or revoke a pre-existing executive order because his very action modifies or waives that order.

Read Senator Feingold’s statement on the introduction of this bill.

Read Bill text.

Reaffirming the Constitutional and Statutory Protections Accorded Sealed Domestic Mail, and for Other Purposes

Bill Number: S. Res 22
Status: Submitted January 10, 2007 and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. On June 13, 2007, it was favorably reported out of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs without amendment.
Sponsor: Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
List of Co-sponsors

Senator Collins' resolution is an effort to clarify a bill she co-sponsored, which passed in the waning days of the 109th Congress (H.R. 6407, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act). In response to President Bush's recent signing statement which asserts the right of the President to open mail without a warrant, Senator Collins said, "I want to be perfectly clear: Nothing in the Postal Reform Act, nor the President’s signing statement alters the privacy and civil liberties protections provided to a person who sends or receives sealed mail. Mail sealed against inspection is entitled to the strongest possible protections against physical searches. With only very limited exceptions, the government needs a court-issued warrant before it can search mail.”"

Additional Information

Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007

Bill Number: H.R. 1255 (House); S. 886 (Senate)
Status: Introduced on March 9, 2007. Passed the House on March 14, 2007 by a 333-93 vote. Roll Call 143

In the Senate -- Introduced on March 14, 2007. Assigned to Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Reported out of committee on June 20 by Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) with amendment. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar No. 212.
Sponsor: In the House: Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA-30th)

In the Senate: Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
List of House Co-sponsors
List of Senate Co-sponsors

This is a bi-partisan measure that repeals Executive Order 13233, issued by President Bush in 2001, which closed presidential records from public view. Ironically, the presidential records of former President George H.W. Bush would have been among the first released in 2001, had his son, George W. Bush not issued the executive order.

Watch video of March 1 hearing of the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives on the Presidential Records Act.

 

Congressional Lawmaking Authority Protection Act of 2007

Bill Number: H.R. 264
Status: Introduced on January 5, 2007. Referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Sponsors: Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX-18th)
List of Co-sponsors

This bill addresses the arguably overused executive practice of issuing an extraordinary number of signing statements, exerting presidential authority over bills passed Congress. Read more about the effect of recent signing statements.

Bill to Restore Authority for Invoking Insurrection Act

Bill Numbers: S. 513 (Senate); H.R. 869 (House)
Status:  

In the Senate -- Read twice; referred to the Armed Services Committee 2/7/07. Senate Judiciary Hearings held on April 24, 2007.                

In the House -- Referred to the House Armed Services Committee 2/7/07
Sponsors:  In the Senate -- Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
                In the House -- Representative Tom Davis (R-VA-11th)
List of Co-sponsors for S. 513
List of Co-sponsors for H.R. 869

This bill is a bi-partisan effort to carve out a troubling piece of the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007, which gave the President power to command the National Guard. Senator Leahy's bill would restore that command to the governor of each state. A nearly identical bill, H.R. 869 has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Republican Tom Davis from Virginia.

 

Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2007

Bill Numbers: H.R. 3045 (House); S. 1747 (Senate)
Status:
In the House: Introduced on July 16, 2007 and referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
In the Senate: Introduced on June 29, 2007 and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sponsor:
In the House: Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1)
In the Senate: Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA)

List of House Co-sponsors
List of Senate Co-sponsors

This bill, introduced in identical version in both House and Senate, attempts to prevent Presidential Signing Statements from taking on the force of law, as occasionally used by courts in determining the intent of the law. Congress wants to hold that distinction for itself through this legislation.

Full text is available through the Bill Summary page (above), but here is a quote from the legislation describing its intent: "Much more recently, some courts have begun using presidential signing statements as a source of authority in the interpretation of Acts of Congress. This judicial use of presidential signing statements is inappropriate, because it in effect gives these statements the force of law. As the Supreme Court itself has explained, Article I, section 7, of the Constitution provides a `single, finely wrought and exhaustively considered, procedure' for the making of Federal law. I.N.S. v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 951 (1983). Presidential signing statements are not passed by both Houses of Congress pursuant to Article I, section 7, so they are not the supreme law of the land. It is inappropriate, therefore, for courts to rely on presidential signing statements as a source of authority in the interpretation of Acts of Congress."


Guantánamo Bay

Guantánamo Bay, Cuba Detention Center Closure Act of 2007

Bill Number: S. 1469
Status: Introduced May 23, 2007, read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.
Sponsor: Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)
List of Co-sponsors

This bill requires the closure of the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba starting within 120 days of its enactment. The bill requires that:

  • all funding to Guantánamo be cut off, except funds used to transfer detainees
  • if charged or sentenced, detainees be transferred to Fort Leavenworth
  • if uncharged, detainees be transferred back to their home countries or other nations where they are not at risk of torture

Read Bill text.

Read an article by the ACLU concerning the bill and an article in which the ACLU ties the recent suicide at Guantánamo to a need for the passage of S. 1469.

To require the President to close the Department of Defense detention facility Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and for other purposes

Bill Number: H.R. 2212
Status: Introduced May 8, 2007, referred to the House Committee on Armed Services.
Sponsor: Representative Jane Harman (D-CA)
List of Co-sponsors

The bill is the House companion legislation to the Senate bill introduced by Senator Feinstein (D-CA), S 1249 discussed above.

Read Bill text.

Read a press release on Representative Harman's website.

Read an article about the bill from The Jurist.

 

Closure of Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility

Bill Number: S. 1249
Status: Introduced April 30, 2007 and referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sponsor: Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
List of Co-sponsors

This bill would require the President to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba within a year of its enactment. All detainees would be relocated to one of these locations:

  • a military or civilian detention facility in the U.S. and tried
  • a military or civilian detention facility without being charged, if held as an enemy combatant
  • an international tribunal under the authority of the United Nations
  • to their country of citizenship or other country for legal process, provided the country assures the U.S. the individual will not be subjected to torture or inhumane or degrading treatment.
  • released from further detention.

Read Bill text.

Read Senator Feinstein's Statement on the introduction of this bill. On the same day this bill was introduced, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case involving two detainees, Omar Khadr and Adel Hamdan, with two justices, John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy saying the two must first exhaust judicial remedies before appealing to the Court.

See also Interrogation and Detention Reform Act of 2008.

Habeas Corpus, Interrogation, and Detention

To amend titles 28 and 10, United States Code, to restore habeas corpus

Bill Number: H.R. 2826
Status: Introduced 6/22/07. Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on Armed Services. Hearing held on July 26, 2007 with witnesses, including Stephen Abraham, Lt. Colonel in the US Army Reserves, who has questioned the fairness of procedures in the Combatant Status Review Tribunals.

Sponsor: Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO-4)
List of Co-sponsors

H.R. 2826 proposes to restore the right of habeas corpus to all detainees housed at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

 

Military Commissions Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007

Bill Number: H.R. 267
Status: Introduced January 5, 2007. Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
Sponsors: Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX-18th)
List of Co-sponsors

This bill amends title 28, United States Code, to repeal the restriction on the jurisdiction of courts, justices, and judges to hear or consider applications for writs of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of certain aliens detained by the United States. It is related to Senate Bill 185, co-sponsored by Senators Specter and Leahy, though the two bills are not identical.

 

To Preserve the Right of Habeas Corpus

Bill Number: H.R. 1189
Status: Introduced February 16, 2007. Referred to the Committee on Armed Services, and in addition to the Committees on the Judiciary, and Foreign Affairs, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker.
Sponsor: Representative David Wu (D-OR-1st)
List of Co-sponsors

This two-sentence bill is aimed at one part of the Military Commissions Act -- to guarantee the right of habeas corpus to all U.S. residents. Nothing in the act "shall affect the right of any resident of the United States of America to habeas corpus." Though some say that Wu's bill is unnecessary, others recall that immediately after the passage of the Military Commissions Act, the Bush Administration announced that the President can and will use the bill to indefinitely detain non-citizens in the United States.

Wu remembers as a six-year-old when people "disappeared" as Japanese-Americans were imprisoned in the U.S. during World War II. He said, ""I remember people talking about folks who were taken away in the dead of night.""

Additional Information:

 

Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 (House)

Bill Number: H.R. 1415
Status: Introduced on March 8, 2007 and referred to Committee on Armed Services, and in addition to the Committees on the Judiciary, and Foreign Affairs.
Sponsor: Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-8th) and Jane Harman (D-CA-36th)
List of Co-sponsors

Like S. 576, the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 in the Senate, H.R. 1415 selects a number of provisions from the Military Commissions Act for overhaul.

  • It restores habeas corpus,
  • Narrows the definition of enemy combatant,
  • Restricts the government from conducting torture and from using torture to compel testimony that can be used in court,
  • Makes it clear the U.S. government must abide by the Geneva Conventions,
  • Ensures that regardless of rank, no U.S. personnel can commit torture without consequences.
Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 (Senate)

Bill Number: S 576
Status: Introduced on February 13, 2007, read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.
Sponsor: Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
List of Co-sponsors

The bill's purpose is to restore the right of habeas corpus and other constitutional protections that were stripped via the 2006 Military Commissions Act.

Additional Information

Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 (House)

Bill Number: H.R. 1416
Status: Introduced March 8, 2007. Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, and to the Committee on Armed Services.
Sponsors: Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-8th) and Jane Harman (D-CA-36th)
List of Co-sponsors

This bill is similar to the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 introduced in the Senate, which seeks to restore habeas corpus.

Read News account of this bill's introduction.

Rep. Nadler, chair of the Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, has promised to hold hearings on H.R. 1416 to move this bill out of committee and into Congressional action.

Read Statement by Rep. Nadler on H.R. 1416.

 

Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 (Senate)

Bill Number: S 185
Sponsors: Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Status: Introduced on January 4, 2007. On June 7, it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 11-8 (with Specter as the lone Republican supporter) and on June 26, placed on Senate Legislative Calendar No. 220.
List of co-sponsors

This bill restores habeas corpus for those detained by the United States. It is similar to, but not identical to H.R. 267, a bill sponsored in the House by Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX-18th).

Unfortunately, restoration of habeas corpus alone will not fix what's wrong with the Military Commissions Act. Much more must be addressed, including the President's sole authority for naming "enemy combatants," the President's sole authority for interpreting Geneva Conventions, the use of evidence gained through torture and coercion, and allowing individuals to be held indefinitely without trial.

Additional Information:

 

Military Commissions Revision Act of 2007

Bill Number: H.R. 2543
Status: Introduced May 24, 2007, referred to the House Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on the Judiciary. On June 25, 2007, referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.
Sponsor: Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA)
List of Co-sponsors

The bill amends the Military Commissions Act of 2006 by defining the term "unlawful enemy combatant," excluding evidence obtained by coercion, and providing some habeas corpus protections.

Read Bill text.

Interrogation and Detention Reform Act of 2008

Bill Number: H.R. 7056
Status: Introduced 9/24/08. Referred to the Committee on Armed Services, and in addition to the Committees on the Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence.

Sponsor: Rep. David E. Price (D-NC-4)
List of Co-sponsors

H.R. 7056 proposes to "improve United States capabilities for gathering human intelligence through the effective interrogation and detention of terrorist suspects and for bringing terrorists to justice through effective prosecution in accordance with the principles and values set forth in the Constitution and other laws." It aims to repeal the Military Commissions Act of 2006, close the Guantánamo Bay detention center, prohibit torture, and set out standards for detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects.

 

Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Raids and Detention Act

Bill Number: S. 3594
Status: Introduced 9/25/08. Referred to Committee on the Judiciary.

Sponsor: Sen. Robert Menéndez (D-NJ)
List of Co-sponsors

The Rights Working Group provides the following description:

[Recently], Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has dramatically stepped up interior enforcement in the U.S.  Immigrant communities face the threat of raids, deportation and detention with little chance of relief.  Inadequate due process protections in our current law and a failure by the federal government to guarantee protections have led to the following crisis:

  • U.S. citizens, the mentally ill, children and other vulnerable individuals have been mistakenly detained.
  • ICE officials have entered private homes in residential raids without warrant and questioned individuals about their immigration status.
  • Mothers responsible for caring for their small children have been detained and transferred to detention facilities thousands of miles away from families and attorneys.
  • Workers have suffered immigration raids because they exercised their rights in the workplace.

The Menendez-Kennedy bill (S. 3594) would restore basic due process protections to our immigration enforcement system.

  • Protection for U.S. citizens, lawful residents and immigrants during immigration raids;
  • Protection for workers during immigration raids;
  • Requires DHS to treat immigration detainees humanely;
  • Creates new alternatives to detention and new parole opportunities for vulnerable populations in detention; and
  • Requires DHS accountability.

Intelligence and Intelligence Oversight

Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

Bill Number: House H.R. 1955
                   Senate S. 1959
Status: House: Introduced on April 19, 2007. Referred to the Homeland Security Committee. Passed out of committee October 16, 2007. Passed by a vote of 404-6 on October 23, 2007. Roll Call Number 993
           Senate: Introduced on August 2, 2007. Referred to Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Received House version October 16, 2007.
Sponsor: House: Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA-36th)
              Senate: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
House Co-sponsors
Senate Co-sponsors

The U.S. government search for "homegrown terrorists" has been in the works for more than a year. The Associated Press reported on August 30, 2006 of the Department of Homeland Security's concern that "homegrown terrorists" may be rising up throughout the U.S., ready to strike. This bill would create a 10-member national commission to "examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States, including United States connections to non-United States persons and networks, violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in prison, individual or `lone wolf' violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence, and other faces of the phenomena of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence that the Commission considers important." The Commission will issue a report to the President and to Congress 18 months after its first meeting.

It's clear that this bill, though it creates a commission rather than providing law enforcement with more tools to hamper First Amendment rights, also poses a threat to Constitutional rights of free speech and freedoms of religion and association, because of its ambiguous language.

See articles below for commentary.

Only six Congressional representatives voted against H.R. 1955. They are: Neil Abercrombie (HI-1st), Jerry Costello (IL-12th), John J. Duncan, Jr. (TN 2nd), Jeff Flake (AZ-6th), Dennis Kucinich (OH-10th), and Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46th). 22 Congresspersons failed to vote.

What You Can Do:

  • Download and distribute BORDC's flyer, "Stop Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act" available in pdf in two sizes: full page and half page.
  • If your senator is on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, you can meet locally with the senator's aides. Senators do listen to their aides, especially when groups of constituents take the time to visit with and help educate them about the local feeling on a particular piece of legislation. Letters to the editor and opinion editorials that are published, clipped and sent to senators are also helpful. See our tips on how to arrange meetings with aides.

Bill sponsor Jane Harman (D-CA-36th) made this statement upon the bill's passage in the House: "The threat of a ‘Made in the USA’ suicide bomber has never been greater. This bill, though not a silver bullet, will help develop a better understanding of the root causes of homegrown terrorism, and the steps we can take to stop it. We must intervene before a person crosses the line separating radical views from violent behavior, create an environment that discourages disillusionment and alienation, and instill in young people a sense of belonging and faith in the future."

Representative Bennie Thompson, chair of the Committee on Homeland Security made this statement, "This vital legislation puts our nation on the path to addressing an emerging threat—homegrown terrorism. We simply don’t know how many ‘would-be terrorists’ are living right next door. Now we will have the ability to analyze our and other nations’ experience with this critical issue, propose and adopt recommendations for a safer America, and also protect civil rights and liberties of U.S. Citizens."

Testimony provided to the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment

 

National Security Letters

National Security Letters Reform Act of 2007 (House)

Bill Number: H.R. 3189
Status: Introduced on July 26, 2007 by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-8th). Referred to House Judiciary Committee and House Financial Services Committee.
List of Co-sponsors

The purpose of Representative Nadler's bill is to establish procedural protections for the use of National Security Letters (NSLs). Here are some of the higlights:

  • The bill raises the standard for the FBI to obtain NSLs, to include "specific and articulable facts" giving reason to believe that the information or records sought pertain to a foreign power or agent of a foreign power.
  • An NSL may not be used in connection with a U.S. person based solely on First Amendment activities.
  • An NSL must provide information to the recipient about their rights to judicial review, and procedures for seeking a judge's perusal of the NSL.
  • Within 20 days of receiving the NSL, the recipient may file in U.S. district court, an appeal to modify or set aside the NSL.
  • The bill requires that all information retrieved about innocent people must be destroyed.
  • Semi-annually, the FBI must report to Congress 1) the number of NSLs issued in previous 6 months, 2) a summary of challenges made by recipients, 3) a description of how NSLs have aided investigations and prosecutions.
  • FBI field supervisors are still able to issue NSLs.

Read Rep. Nadler's press release on H.R. 3189.
Watch statement by Rep. Nadler at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, following the Inspector General's report revealing widespread FBI abuses and misuses of National Security Letters.
Find BORDC's video, FBI Unbound: How National Security Letters Violate Our Privacy, and supporting materials.

National Security Letters Reform Act of 2007 (Senate)

Bill Number: S. 2088
Bill Title: A bill to place reasonable limitations on the use of National Security Letters. Status: Introduced on September 25, 2007 and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sponsor: Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI)
Co-sponsors

Requiring Judicial Oversight for National Security Letters

Bill Number: H.R. 1739
Bill Title: To require the approval of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge or designated United States Magistrate Judge for the issuance of a national security letter, to require the Attorney General to submit semiannual reports on national security letters
Status: Referred to House Judiciary, House Intelligence and House Financial Services on March 28, 2007.
Sponsor: Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA-36)
List of Co-sponsors

This is the first piece of legislation drafted to address FBI abuses brought to light by a March 9 Inspector General's report, relating to the use of National Security Letters (NSLs). The powers of NSLs was expanded by the 2001 PATRIOT Act, the Intelligence Authorization of 2004, and the PATRIOT Act Reauthorization of 2006. In addition to requiring approval of National Security Letters by a FISA judge or U.S. magistrate judge, H.R. 1739 would also:

  • require the government to show a connection between the records sought with an NSL and a terrorist or foreign power;
  • create an expedited electronic filing system for NSL applications;
  • require the government to destroy information obtained through NSL requests that is no longer needed; and
  • mandate more robust congressional oversight, requiring semi-annual reports to both the Congressional Intelligence and Judiciary Committees on all NSLs issued, minimization procedures, any court challenges and an explanation of how NSLs have helped investigations and prosecutions.

Read Representative Harman's statement on the introduction of the bill.


REAL ID

REAL ID Repeal and Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007

Bill Number: H.R. 1117
Status: Introduced 2/16/07. Referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
Sponsor: Rep. Thomas H. Allen (D-ME-1st)
List of Co-sponsors

The purpose of this bill is to repeal title II of the REAL ID Act of 2005, to reinstitute section 7212 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which provides States additional regulatory flexibility and funding authorization to more rapidly produce tamper- and counterfeit-resistant driver's licenses and to protect privacy and civil liberties by providing interested stakeholders on a negotiated rulemaking with guidance to achieve improved 21st century licenses to improve national security.

 

Extending the Deadline By Which States Must Comply with REAL ID

Bill Number: S 563
Status:Introduced on 2/13/07. Read twice and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Sponsor: Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
List of Co-sponsors

The purpose of this bill is to extend the deadline by which State identification documents shall comply with certain minimum standards under REAL ID.

Some conservative groups, such as the CATO Institute, have accused Senator Collins of proposing a delay in implementation in order to save REAL ID. According to CATO, delaying implementation helps a national ID go forward by giving the companies and organizations that sustain themselves on these kinds of projects time to shake the federal money tree and get this $11 billion surveillance mandate funded. Click here to read related article from the CATO Institute.

Even the Bush Administration has signed on to the delay tactic, as evidenced by this Washington Post article.

 

Repealing Title II of REAL ID

Bill Number: S. 717
Status:Introduced on February 28, 2007, read twice and referred to Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sponsors: Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and John Sununu (R-NH)
List of Co-sponsors

Senators Akaka and Sununu teamed up in a bi-partisan effort to roll back provisions of REAL ID in the 109th Congress, and have reprised that bill in the 110th. It is praised by civil liberties groups as one that will add important safeguards regarding privacy and civil liberties to the Real ID Act. Click here to read ACLU news release on S. 717.

 

Restoring the Bill of Rights

American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007

Bill Number: H.R. 3835
Status: Introduced on October 15, 2007 and referred to the House Judiciary, Intelligence, Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.
Sponsor: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14th)
List of Co-sponsors

This bill straddles the categories of habeas corpus, torture, rendition, secret evidence, signing statements, and protecting journalists who want to publish material received from the legislative or executive branch. The bill would do the following:

  • Repeal the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and re-establish the traditional practice that military commissions may be used to try war crimes in places of active hostility where a rapid trial is necessary to preserve evidence or prevent chaos.
  • Clarifies that no information shall be admitted as evidence if it is obtained from the defendant through the use of torture or coercion.
  • Codifies the FISA process as the means by which foreign intelligence may be obtained.
  • Gives members of the Senate and the House of Representatives standing in court to challenge presidential signing statements that declares the president's intent to disregard certain aspects of a law passed in the U.S. Congress.
  • prohibits kidnapping and extraordinary rendition of prisoners to foreign countries on the president's unilateral determination that the suspect is an enemy combatant.
  • Clarifies that journalists are not to be prevented from publishing information received from the legislative or executive branch unless such publication would cause immediate, direct, and irreparable harm to the United States.
  • Prohibits the use of secret evidence to designate an individual or organization with a United States presence to be a foreign terrorist or foreign terrorist organization.

 

State Secrets

State Secrets Protection Act

Bill Number: S 2533
Bill Title: A bill to enact a safe, fair, and responsible state secrets privilege Act.
Bill Status: Introduced on January 22, 2008, and referred to the Judiciary Committee.
Sponsor: Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
Co-sponsors

The United States government has used its "state secrets privilege" to shut down court cases that it maintains would reveal information that would jeopardize U.S. national security. The precedent for the "state secrets privilege" was set in U.S. vs. Reynolds, a 1953 case in which widows of men killed in a 1948 plane crash sought accident reports on the crash. The U.S. government declared those accident reports could reveal state secrets, and the case was thrown out of court. Today, the accident reports can be easily found, showing there was no sensitive information contained in them, then or now.

Senator Kennedy's bill is an effort to place limits on when the government can claim the state secrets privilege, as a response to the many recent cases in which individuals have tried to expose wrongdoing in the government. Those many efforts have been squashed by the Bush Administration's frequent claims of state secrets privilege. Click here for a complete list of those cases. Here is a partial list:

There is also a new film on this topic, called Secrecy, which " is about the vast, invisible world of government secrecy. By focusing on classified secrets, the government's ability to put information out of sight if it would harm national security, Secrecy explores the tensions between our safety as a nation, and our ability to function as a democracy." The film is produced by filmmakers Peter Galison and Robb Moss.

On February 13, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the state secrets privilege.


Torture and Extraordinary Rendition

To establish uniform standards for interrogation techniques applicable to individuals under the custody or physical control of the United States Government.

Bill Number: S 1943
Status: Introduced on August 2, 2007 and referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
Sponsor: Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
Co-sponsors

Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act

Bill Number: H.R. 1352
Status: Introduced on March 6, 2007 and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Sponsor:Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA-7th)
List of Co-sponsors

The purpose of H.R. 1352 is to prohibit the return or other transfer of persons by the United States, for the purpose of detention, interrogation, trial, or otherwise, to countries where torture or other inhuman treatment of persons occurs.

Additional Information:

 

Anti-Torture Clause in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

Bill Number: H.R. 2082
Status: Introduced in House May 1, 2007. Passed House May 11, 2007 225-197 Passed Senate on October 3, 2007 by unanimous consent. Sent to Conference Committee. Thirty retired admirals and generals had written a letter in mid-December, urging Congress to ignore Bush's threat to veto the bill and to pass legislation to ban waterboarding. House passed (222-199) a version on December 13, 2007 with a provision prohibiting the use of any interrogation technique not found in the Army Field Manual. On February 13, 2008, the Senate approved the conference report, 51-45 with the interrogation procedure prohibition intact. On March 8, 2008, the President fulfilled his promise to veto the bill. On March 11, a House vote of 225-188 failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto.

Sponsor: Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16th)
Co-sponsors

The bill includes Section 327, which limits interrogation techniques. Here is the exact wording:

  • (a) Limitation- No individual in the custody or under the effective control of an element of the intelligence community or instrumentality thereof, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by the United States Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations.
  • (b) Instrumentality Defined- In this section, the term `instrumentality', with respect to an element of the intelligence community, means a contractor or subcontractor at any tier of the element of the intelligence community.

 

National Security with Justice Act of 2007

Bill Number: S. 1876
Status: Introduced on July 25, 2007 and referred to Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sponsor: Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE)
List of Co-sponsors

A bill to prohibit extraterritorial detention and rendition, except under limited circumstances, to modify the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant" for purposes of military commissions, and to extend statutory habeas corpus to detainees.

Senator Biden is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A hearing on "Extraordinary Rendition, Extraterritorial Detention, And Treatment Of Detainees: Restoring Our Moral Credibility And Strengthening Our Diplomatic Standing" was held on July 26, 2007, with these witnesses:

 

American Anti-Torture Act of 2007

Bill Number: H.R. 4114
Status: Introduced on November 8, 2007 and referred to Committee on Armed Services and Committee on Judiciary.
Sponsor: Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-8th)
Co-sponsors

For more information:

 

See also Interrogation and Detention Reform Act of 2008.

Whistleblowers

Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act

Bill Number: H.R. 985
Status: Introduced February 12, 2007. Passed the House on March 14 by a vote of 331-94. Roll Call 153. On March 15, 2007, it was received in the Senate, read twice and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Sponsor: Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA-30th)
List of Co-sponsors

This bill would amend title 5, United States Code, clarifying which disclosures of information are protected from prohibited personnel practices and requiring a statement in nondisclosure policies, forms, and agreements to the effect that such policies, forms, and agreements are consistent with certain disclosure protections.

Additional Information:

 

Whistleblower Protection Bill

Bill Number:S 274
Companion Bill:H.R. 985 Status: Introduced on January 11, 2007. On June 13, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted to approve the bill and send it to the Senate for debate, after one amendment was added. Committee member, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) subsequently placed a hold on the bill, which will keep it from a vote.
Sponsor: Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
List of Co-sponsors

This whistleblower protection legislation is companion to H.R. 985, which passed the House by a vote of 331-94 on March 13, 2007. The hold that Senator Coburn put on S 274 appears to be a nod to the White House, after President Bush promised to veto the House version of the bill. Click here to send a message to your Senator, telling her or him the importance of passing S. 274 to protect those who blow the whistle on governmental misdeed. More information can be found at the National Whistleblower Center.

Warrantless Wiretapping

To amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to update the definition of electronic surveillance

Bill Number: H.R. 3138
Status: Introduced July 24, 2007 and referred to both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.
Sponsor: Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1st)
List of Cosponsors

Rep. Heather Wilson's bill is one page in length, but makes subtle yet far-reaching changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Though she merely defines "electronic surveillance," the definition itself suggests that the National Security Agency (NSA) can continue its secret programs that tap the phone and email conversations of U.S. residents simply because what they're doing will no longer be considered "electronic surveillance" if H.R. 3138 is passed. It gives the NSA the ability to determine what's a domestic call, and what is not.

As long as you're not the subject of a search, you should feel relief, right? Wrong. According to H.R. 3138, as long as the government doesn't target a specific person with "electronic surveillance," it should be able to search anyone's phone and email conversations. This bill is being given a hard push before the August recess, with the assumption that any member of Congress who doesn't vote for it isn't willing to do all that it takes to stop terrorism, even though the Administration has refused repeatedly to provide key information to Congress on its NSA wiretapping program(s).

Additional Information:

 

NSA Oversight Act

Bill Number: H.R. 11
Status: Introduced on January 4, 2007. Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on 2/2/07.
Sponsors: Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA-29th) and Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6th)
List of Co-sponsors

This bill reiterates that chapters 119 and 121 of title 18, United States Code, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 are the exclusive means by which domestic electronic surveillance may be conducted.

Additional Information:

 

Foreign Surveillance Expedited Review Act

Bill Number: S 139
Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary on January 4, 2007.
Sponsor: Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)
List of Co-sponsors

The purpose of S 139 is to expedite review by the Supreme Court of the warrantless electronic surveillance program of the National Security Agency.

 

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Oversight and Resource Enhancement Act of 2007

Bill Number: S 187
Status: Read twice and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 4, 2007.
Sponsor: Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA)
List of Co-sponsors

S 187 is a bill to provide sufficient resources to permit electronic surveillance of United States persons for foreign intelligence purposes to be conducted pursuant to individualized court-issued orders for calls originating in the United States, to provide additional resources to enhance oversight and streamline the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, to ensure review of the Terrorist Surveillance Program by the United States Supreme Court.

Additional Information: Statement by Sen. Specter on the Senate floor.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Improvement and Enhancement Act of 2007

Bill Number: S. 1114
Status: Introduced on April 16, 2007, read twice and referred to Committee on the Judiciary.
Sponsor: Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) with Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA)
List of Co-sponsors

Major Provisions of S 1114:

Attempts to close some of the loopholes used by the Bush Administration to ignore FISA as the "exclusive means by which electronic surveillance may be conducted."

Grants significant latitude to the Department of Justice to conduct emergency surveillance without using FISA -- extending from 3 days to 7 days the amount of time it can conduct surveillance without a warrant and extending from 15 to 30 days the amount of time the executive branch is allowed to conduct surveillance without a warrant, 1) in a national emergency, 2) after a Congressional declaration of war, or 3) with Congressional authorization to use military force.

Requires the President to brief Congressional intelligence committees on the so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program," (TSP) commonly known as warrantless wiretapping -- and to report to Congress any other program that involves electronic surveillance.

Provides a means for the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the TSP or any other such electronic surveillance program.

Allows the Attorney General to appoint individuals in the FBI and National Security Agency to approve electronic surveillance warrants on an emergency basis.

S. 1114 clearly poses an alternative to recent Bush Administration plans, announced only days before S. 1114 was introduced in Congress. The administration hopes to reconstruct FISA in ways that would further expand executive powers, proposing to:

  • monitor foreign nationals without approval from the FISA Court;
  • lower the standards of proof required for obtaining phone call and email information through FISA Court orders;
  • extend FISA surveillance warrants from 120 days to one year;
  • indemnify phone companies from privacy invasion lawsuits related to their cooperation with warrantless wiretapping programs; and
  • allow intelligence officers to conduct surveillance without a FISC court order for one week in emergency situations (previously a 72-hour permission).

For more information on Bush Administration plans to expand FISA see these articles:


Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Modernization Act of 2007

Bill Number: H.R. 3782
Status: Introduced on October 9, 2007 and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and to the Committee on Intelligence.
Sponsor: Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ-12th)
List of Cosponsors

Representative Holt's bill repeals the "Protect America Act," as well as establishing FISA as the exclusive means by which surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes can take place. It also maintains the traditional FISA protections of personal communications between U.S. persons.

 

RESTORE Act of 2007 (Responsible Electronic Surveillance that is Overseen, Reviewed and Effective Act)

Bill Number: H.R. 3773
Status: Introduced on October 9, 2007. Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and to the Committee on Intelligence.
Passed on October 10 by the Committee on Intelligence by a vote of 12-7 with three amendments.
Passed the House of Representatives on November 15, 2007 by a vote of 227-189.
Amended to resolve differences with Senate bill S 2248 and passed by the House on March 14, 2008, by a vote of 213-197. See key features of this bill.
Sponsors: Representative John Conyers (D-MI-14th) and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16th)
List of co-sponsors

The RESTORE Act was introduced by House Judiciary Chair Conyers and Intelligence Committee Chair Reyes to undo the damage from the "Protect America Act" (PAA), which was hurriedly passed before the August recess. Click here for text of the legislation. The RESTORE Act:

  • Clarifies that no warrant is required to intercept communications between non-U.S. persons outside the United States.
  • Requires an individualized warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when targeting an individual inside the United States, which is the same as current law.
  • Maintains the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as the exclusive means of electronic surveillance in the United States, and prohibits modifications to FISA without express legal authority.
  • Establishes quarterly audits by the Department of Justice's Inspector General, including the number of U.S. persons identified in intelligence reports.
  • Allows the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence to apply to the FISA Court to conduct surveillance of foreign targets or groups of targets for up to one year.

Unlike the Senate's FISA Amendments Act, HR 3773 as amended on 3/14/2008 would not provide retroactive immunity for the telecommunications carriers that carried out the warrantless surveillance of Americans' communications. It would sunset on 12/31/09, five years earlier than the Senate bill, and it would require the DOJ Inspector General audit and report publicly on all warrantless electronic surveillance. It would also:

  • Require judicial review in advance of surveillance except in emergencies.
  • Provide specific protections for Americans' international communications.
  • Require a court order based on probable cause to target Americans who are overseas.
  • Retain FISA at the exclusive means for wiretapping in the United States.

 


 

Other Resources

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BORDC Resources on Civil Liberties Issues
Literature and Analyses on Civil Liberties Issues