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ALA Mentioned on Senate Floor During FISA Debate

On Tuesday, February 12, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) mentioned the American Library Association on the floor of the U.S. Senate, during debate over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Below is an excerpt from Mr. Feingold’s speech. A full transcript is available in the Congressional Record (PDF); start reading at the bottom right-hand corner.

[Congressional Record: February 12, 2008 (Senate)]
[Page S880-S891]

Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I must oppose Bond amendment No. 3938. I
do not object to expanding FISA to cover dangerous individuals involved
in the international proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,
which is the primary goal of this amendment.
But this amendment is drafted in such a way that its effect would be
much broader and could result in wiretaps issued by the secret FISA
Court being directed at U.S. companies and U.S. universities that are
engaged in perfectly legal research efforts or that are legally and
legitimately working with materials that have multiple purposes and
that aren’t intended to be used for weaponry at all.
In fact, the American Library Association and the Association of
Research Libraries have expressed serious concern about this amendment.
Here is what they said: “While we can appreciate the concerns for
those wanting FISA to address the issues of international proliferation
of WMDs, the language appears to also expose to secret wiretaps those
U.S. academic researchers, universities and companies doing legal
research into conventional and chemical/biological weapons.” Mr.
President, that is simply not acceptable.
Let me be clear: This amendment expands the core provisions of FISA
that authorize wiretaps and secret searches of the homes and offices of
people inside the United States. This is not about extending the new
authorities provided in the Protect America Act and reauthorized by the
Intelligence Committee bill…

I realize this all may seem very technical, but let me repeat the
upshot: What all of this means is that, under this amendment, U.S.
companies and U.S. universities conducting perfectly legal and
legitimate activities–meaning they are doing nothing wrong–could be
considered “foreign powers” under FISA and subject to court-ordered
secret wiretaps in this country without any suspicion of wrongdoing.
This has left organizations like the American Library Association and
the Association of Research Libraries with very serious concerns about
the amendment…

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

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