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From The Associated Press: American Opinion - On an overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act:

An excerpt from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States:

On an overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act:

Behind closed doors in Washington, American officials are shaping an overhaul of the 1994 federal statute that requires phone and broadband carriers to ensure their networks can be wiretapped.

Based on a chilling recent precedent, the risk is substantial that this so-called technical updating will spread far beyond what's said to be contemplated -- and greatly expand the already expansive power of the government to spy on Americans. Congress should be especially cautious about the scope of the revision.

The precedent is the 2008 amendment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. While it also needed updating to keep pace with technology, the Bush administration added measures that sanctioned spying without a warrant, without suspicion, and without court approval. Retroactively, it gave legal cover to more than five years of the administration's illegal spying. Congress turned those provisions into law.

The Obama administration has no similar tracks to cover, but the risks of executive overreach are still there. It's essential for Congress to be deliberate about providing a check on the executive branch and striking a balance with other American interests. ...

The government's contention is that it seeks only to maintain its ability to conduct surveillance so that it can engage in legitimate spying via new technologies with the same proficiency that it can via old ones. If the goal were as straightforward as that, it would be difficult to challenge. Despite its abuses, wiretapping has long been accepted as a tool of law enforcement when used properly. ...

Officials have recounted how some carriers have been unable to carry out wiretap orders and how the Federal Bureau of Investigation has spent tens of millions of dollars to help fix the problems. But there is no public data about how often a communication service's technical makeup thwarts surveillance approved by a court. Congress must understand why these changes are so pressing before it considers the likely major new legal requirements needed to ensure that new technologies can be wiretapped.

-- The New York Times