Unchecked Wiretapping to Continue: Obama Signs FISA Extension, Senate Votes against Oversight

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The U.S. government will continue to spy on Americans’ private communications without a warrant for another five years—and without oversight provisions that were shot down in the U.S. Senate.

 

While most Americans celebrated the holidays, President Barack Obama, on Sunday, December 30, quietly signed into law a five-year extension of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which made it legal for the National Security Agency (NSA) to perform warrantless wiretapping, something that originated under the George W. Bush administration.

 

The law permits the NSA to pry into Americans’ international emails and phone calls without obtaining a court order. The spying program, which would have ended on December 31 without the extension, has been heavily criticized by civil libertarians.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a prepared statement that the law’s “main purpose” is to “give the government nearly unfettered access to Americans' international communications.”

 

Before the Senate sent the legislation to Obama, it rejected four separate oversight amendments that would have gone “a long-way in curbing the law’s worst abuses,” according to Trevor Timm at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

 

One of the amendments, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oreon), would have required the NSA to reveal how many U.S. citizens it has monitored.

 

Another amendment, by Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), would have clarified how the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects against “unreasonable searches,” applies to the spying program.

 

The FISA legislation—with no oversight provisions attached—was approved by the Senate in a 73-23 vote, and then signed by Obama.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

Obama Quietly Signs Abusive Spy Bill He Once Vowed to Eliminate (by Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams)

Why the FISA Amendments Act is Unconstitutional (ACLU) (pdf)

Senate Votes to Let NSA, FBI Keep Spying on Your Email (by Kevin Collier, Daily Dot)

Is FISA Constitutional? (YouTube Video, The Alyona Show)

Obama Push to Continue Warrantless Wiretapping and Email Interception Meets Bipartisan Support—and Opposition—in Senate (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Obama Fights to Retain Warrantless Wiretapping (by Matt Bewig and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

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