More unlimited surveillance in our Police State post-911

Published on Friday, December 28, 2012 by Common Dreams
Senate Votes to Extend Sweeping Bush Era Surveillance Powers
Even modest attempts to reign in domestic spying law fail as Senators defend sweeping powers for NSA
- Jon Queally, staff writer


Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-OR) offered an amendment to the surveillance bill that would have forced the government to declassify the rulings or at least summaries of them. It was among four amendments defeated. (Image: Screen grab via C-SPAN) The US Senate on Friday voted to reauthorize the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a spying bill that critics say violates the Fourth Amendment and gives vast, unchecked surveillance authority to the government.

The move extends powers of the National Security Agency to conduct surveillance of Americans’ international emails and phone calls.

The FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5949), passed on a 73-23 vote.

“It’s a tragic irony that FISA, once passed to protect Americans from warrantless government surveillance, has mutated into its polar opposite due to the FISA Amendments Act,” said said Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel at the ACLU. “The Bush administration’s program of warrantless wiretapping, once considered a radical threat to the Fourth Amendment, has become institutionalized for another five years.”


Earlier: Oversight Amendments to FISA Crumble in US Senate: Obama, Democrats Push to Make Bush Spying Laws Permanent

Four separate amendments designed to install oversight mechanisms into the National Intelligence Agency's vast spying capabilities enshrined in the 2008 FISA Amendments Act all failed Thursday with the majority of US Senators insisting that secrecy continues to trump civil liberties in the post 9/11 era.

With a final vote for full passage of the bill expected Friday, the defeat of the amendments spells near complete legalization of domestic spying practices which would have previously been found criminal. First uncovered during the Bush years and slammed by Democrats, the FISA law passed in 2008 gave retroactive immunity to the Bush era abuse and strove to codify the program going forward.

Though he ran against such measures during his first run for president, the secret spying laws have now been embraced fully and championed by President Obama.

Rights groups and advocates of the amendments voiced outrage with the votes.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Trevor Timm, who summarized each amendment here, predicted that a complete re-authorization of the law would likely pass the Senate but argued the amendments "would go a long-way in curbing the law’s worst abuses."

Describing the FISA law in brief, Timm explained that

the law allows the government to get secret FISA court orders—orders that do not require probable cause like regular warrants—for any emails or phone calls going to and from overseas. The communications only have to deal with "foreign intelligence information," a broad term that can mean virtually anything. And one secret FISA order can be issued against groups or categories of people—potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans at once.

EFF marked each successive amendment's defeat via Twitter: