Congress Disgracefully acthe FISA Warrantless Spying Bill for Five More Years, Rejects All Privacy Amendments

truther 2

Trevor Timm
EFF

Today, after just one day of rushed debate, the Senate shamefully voted on a five-year extension to the FISA Amendments Act, an unconstitutional law that openly allows for warrantless surveillance of Americans’ overseas communications.

Incredibly, the Senate rejected all the proposed amendments that would have brought a modicum of transparency and oversight to the government’s activities, despite previous refusals by the Executive branch to even estimate how many Americans are surveilled by this program or reveal critical secret court rulings interpreting it.

Congress Disgracefully Approves the FISA Warrantless Spying Bill for Five More Years, Rejects All Privacy Amendments

The common-sense amendments the Senate hastily rejected were modest in scope and written with the utmost deference to national security concerns. The Senate had months to consider them, but waited until four days before the law was to expire to bring them to the floor, and then used the contrived time crunch to stifle any chances of them passing.

Sen. Ron Wyden’s amendment would not have taken away any of the NSA’s powers, it just would have forced intelligence agencies to send Congress a report every year detailing how their surveillance was affecting ordinary Americans. Yet Congress voted to be purposely kept in the dark about a general estimate of how many Americans have been spied on.

You can watch Sen. Ron Wyden’s entire, riveting floor speech on the privacy dangers and lack of oversight in the FISA Amendments Act here.

Sen. Jeff Merkley’s amendment would have encouraged (not even forced!) the Attorney General to declassify portions of secret FISA court opinions—or just release summaries of them if they were too sensitive. This is something the administration itself promised to do three years ago. We know—because the government has admitted—that at least one of those opinions concluded the government had violated the Constitution. Yet Congress also voted to keep this potentially critical interpretation of a public law a secret.

Tellingly, Sen. Rand Paul’s “Fourth Amendment Protection Act,” which would have affirmed Americans’ emails are protected from unwarranted search and seizures (just like physical letters and phone calls), was voted down by the Senate in a landslide.

The final vote for re-authorizing five more years of the FISA Amendments Act and secretive domestic spying was 73-23. Our thanks goes out to the twenty-three brave Senators who stood up for Americans’ constitutional rights yesterday. If only we had more like them.

Of course, the fight against illegal and unconstitutional warrantless wiretapping is far from over. Since neither the President, who once campaigned on a return to rule of law on surveillance of Americans, nor the Congress, which has proven to be the enabler-in-chief of the Executive’s overreach, have been willing to protect the privacy of Americans in their digital papers, all eyes should now turn to the Courts.

EFF was just in federal court in San Francisco two weeks ago, challenging the NSA’s untargeted dragnet warrantless surveillance program. And the Supreme Court will soon rule whether the ACLU’s constitutional challenge to the “targeted” portions of the FISA Amendments Act can go forward.

But make no mistake: this vote was nothing less than abdication by Congress of its role as watchdog over Executive power, and a failure of its independent obligation to protect the Bill of Rights. The FISA Amendments Act and the ongoing warrantless spying on Americans has been, and will continue to be, a blight on our nation and our Constitution.

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2 Comments »

  1. Dan January 1, 2013 at 11:02 am - Reply

    This is treason. Simple Treason.

  2. Booyah Slim January 1, 2013 at 1:25 am - Reply

    Grand Rapids,Michigan in Western lower Michigan in the USA is definitely one more area where this warrantless spying program is running wild,from spying on your computer and Wi-Fi use to physically following you and the use of a radio frequency unit in the form of a radio that allows electronic searches for conversation into every building and who knows what else is next? I ask,what happened to our 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution regarding searches? Senator Ron Wyden is definitely on the right track and he should contact “me” personally if he wants first hand information on this and other personal horror stories of abuse of powers and obstructionist tactics being used to obstruct personal civil lawsuits.Personnel participating in all of this are even in and around the homeless shelters here.Once someone makes you homeless in Western Michigan it appears that the next logical step will be to make homelessness a crime and then surveil everyone so certain parties can have convenient scapegoats when the need arises. Someone has to push these agencies to use some common sense.

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