What: All Issues : Human Rights & Civil Liberties : Government Surveillance of Citizens : S 2248. (Revisions to foreign intelligence surveillance law) Feingold of Wisconsin amendment that would limit how information obtained through secret surveillance efforts can be used/On agreeing to the amendment
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S 2248. (Revisions to foreign intelligence surveillance law) Feingold of Wisconsin amendment that would limit how information obtained through secret surveillance efforts can be used/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 11     Feb 07, 2008
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Conservative

This vote was on an amendment by Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that would give the federal court that oversees requests for surveillance warrants the power to prevent the government from using information on American citizens it had collected through means later found to be illegal.

The amendment was offered to a bill that makes revisions to electronic surveillance laws.

Feingold said current law allows the government to use information collected with procedures later declared to be unlawful, and that this provides a disincentive for federal spy agencies to develop lawful intelligence collection procedures.

"Importantly, under my amendment, information about foreigners or information that indicates a threat of death or bodily harm could always be used by the Government, even if it were collected under illegal procedures. The FISA Court also has the discretion to allow the Government to use illegally collected information about U.S. persons," Feingold said. "So it is an extremely modest safeguard, a very reasonable amendment.

In opposing the amendment, Christopher Bond, R-Mo., said it would place a tremendous extra burden on intelligence analysts, who would be required to examine each piece of information for how it was gathered.

Republicans weren't the only senators concerned about the amendment. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who chairs the Intelligence Committee, said the amendment does not give the court enough discretion to determine whether or not to allow intelligence agencies to use information collected under methods later deemed to be unlawful.

"Nondisclosure could be required even if the information is particularly significant foreign intelligence information, or if there is only a minor deficiency in the procedure that cannot be corrected within 30 days," Rockefeller said. "It is a very short way of saying that I oppose this amendment strongly."

The Senate defeated the amendment by a vote of 40-56. Every Republican present voted against the amendment. Of Democrats present, all but seven voted for the amendment. (All of the most progressive senators voted yes.) Thus, the measure went forward without language that would have placed severe limits on how intelligence information can be used if it was gathered illegally..

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