Today's Washington Post reports that the Bush Administration has asked Congress for greater authority to conduct surveillance of foreign citizens and international communications.
Currently, under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, individuals have to be associated with a foreign terrorism suspect or a foreign power to fall under the auspices of the FISA court, which can grant the authority to institute federal surveillance. The White House proposes expanding potential targets to include non-citizens believed to possess, transmit or receive important foreign intelligence information, as well as those engaged in the United States in activities related to the purchase or development of weapons of mass destruction.
The proposed revisions to FISA would also allow the government to keep information obtained "unintentionally," unrelated to the purpose of the surveillance, if it "contains significant foreign intelligence." Currently such information is destroyed unless it indicates threat of death or serious bodily harm.
And they provide for compelling telecommunications companies and e-mail providers to cooperate with investigations while protecting them from being sued by their subscribers. The legal protection would be applied retroactively to those companies that cooperated with the government after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.