House passes surveillance bill; Hirono opposed

The House of Representatives passed a “compromise” surveillance bill yesterday, granting new powers to the Bush administration and essentially guaranteeing full amnesty to telecommunications companies that may have broken the law in helping the government illegally spy on American citizens.

HR 6304, titled the FISA Amendments Act, breezed through the House, 293 to 129; Democrats were split, voting against the measure by a 128 to 105 margin, while all but one of 189 voting Republicans were in favor.

Both Hawai‘i representatives, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-1st District, and Mazie Hirono, D-2nd District, were among those opposed.

The congresswoman issued a statement after yesterday’s vote.

“The FISA bill I voted against today goes too far in granting broader wiretapping authority to the executive branch with little court oversight and virtually ensuring the dismissal of all pending cases against telecommunications companies for their participation in the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program,” said Hirono in the statement.

“The underlying FISA law provides the framework for our surveillance activities, even without the overbroad changes contained in HR 6304.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, originally passed in 1978, has been updated multiple times and covered the government’s electronic spying program through the end of the Cold War and for more than five years after Sept. 11.

Hirono told constituents in an open forum one week ago in Hanalei that she would try to protect their civil rights and hold the Bush administration responsible for actions taken in recent years.

“If you look at the record, and what’s really the reality, there are a lot of people who have come to the conclusion that we are no safer from terrorism because of these kinds of expanded powers that the Bush administration has sought to utilize,” Hirono said in an interview with The Garden Island on June 14.

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