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Warrantless wiretapping wins House approval

Warrantless wiretapping in the US got a green light late Thursday, when the House voted through the controversial surveillance measure 232 to 191.

House majority leader John Boehner of Ohio’s Eighth Congressional District applauded the passage of the Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act (H.R. 5825), which intends to legalise President Bush’s terrorist surveillance program.

“A large majority of Americans strongly support the Terrorist Surveillance Program because it represents a common sense weapon in the fight against terrorism. The President must have access to the necessary tools to confront the terrorist threat and stop potential terrorist attacks before they happen,” Boehner said.

“The Democrats’ irrational opposition to strong national security policies that help keep our nation secure should be of great concern to the American people,” he added.

The bill, which legalises Bush’s warrantless wiretapping of calls and emails within the US, has stirred up plenty of controversy. Under the measure, the president would be authorised to request wiretaps as long as he notifies the House and Senate intelligence committees; believes an attack is imminent and is in a position at a later date to explain the reasoning behind this and identify the individuals involved; and renews his certification of the scheme every 90 days.

But it looks increasingly unlikely that House and Senate representatives will be able to reach an agreement on a final proposal to deliver to the president, which means that the bill will not be finalised before the pre-election recess this week.

The news comes as time runs out for the government to appeal the ruling of Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of Federal District Court, Detroit, which found that the surveillance operation approved by Bush after the September 11 attacks was illegal and unconstitutional.

The program, carried out by NSA, came to light in December of last year, when the New York Times reported that the president of the US had authorised the agency to intercept telephone and internet communications inside the country without the authorisation of any court.

It has since emerged that the NSA program has been intercepting and analyzing millions of US citizens’ communications, with the cooperation of companies such as AT&T.


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