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Freedom House concerned about eavesdropping law, attempt to make it permanent

(Freedom House/IFEX) - The following is a 13 February 2008 Freedom House press release:

House Should Reject Bill Making Eavesdropping Law Permanent

February 13, 2008 - The House should reject legislation extending the U.S. government's ability to monitor citizen communications, Freedom House said today, adding that the organization was very disappointed that the Senate passed the bill.

Last night, the Senate voted to make permanent a temporary provision allowing the U.S. government to eavesdrop on citizens' international telephone calls and email messages without a warrant. An earlier provision, passed in August, expires this weekend, and the House is considering the bill now.

"Freedom House opposed the surveillance legislation when it was passed in August, and we still view it as an unnecessary policy that eliminates very reasonable checks and balances on the U.S. government," said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. "We strongly encourage the House to vote against this bill."

Ms. Windsor continued, "Throughout history, legitimate security concerns have been used to justify unnecessary and excessive uses of executive power. In this case, the eavesdropping legislation poses an unneeded threat to U.S. citizens' civil liberties, while putting the U.S. on a slippery slope towards stifling legitimate political expression and dissent."

Prior to the passage of the law in August, wiretapping in the U.S. required a court-approved warrant, though the administration admitted to conducting warrantless wiretapping without the public's knowledge until 2005.

For more information on the U.S., visit:

Freedom in the World 2007: United States
http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=22&year=2007&country=7298

Freedom of the Press 2007: United States
http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=251&country=7298&year=2007

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expression of freedom around the world, has monitored political rights and civil liberties in the United States since 1972.

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