In an editorial today, The Washington Post does a decent job responding to completely overblown claims coming from Senate liberals about what the FISA bill does and doesn’t do:
Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) … said the measure overhauling the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, on the verge of congressional passage, “gives the government broad new powers to collect information on innocent Americans within the United States without providing nearly enough protections for privacy.” It means, Mr. Feingold said, that “Americans e-mailing relatives abroad or calling business associates overseas could be monitored with absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing by anyone.”
It is true, as Mr. Feingold suggested, that Americans’ communications with parties overseas could be monitored without any showing of cause — but it is true, as well, that such warrantless monitoring is permitted under the original FISA so long as the collection is done overseas. In addition to the extra protections for Americans abroad, the special FISA court would have to approve the targeting and minimization procedures involving domestic surveillance to ensure that they are consistent with the Fourth Amendment and the law. In addition, the measure prohibits so-called “reverse targeting” — using the authority to intercept foreign communications without an individual warrant if the real purpose is to spy on a “particular, known person” in this country. This hardly seems unfettered.