Blog

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

    posted by Keito
    2012-12-29 11:33:54
    'Today, after just one day of rushed debate, the Senate shamefully voted on a five-year extension to the FISA Amendments Act, an unconsitutional 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.

    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 unconsitutional 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.'

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/12/congress-disgracefully-approves-fisa-warrantless-eavesdropping-bill-five-more
  • Internet enemy number one, Lamar Smith, is sponsoring the FISA FAA renewal and pushing it to a vote in the House on Wednesday. This is the bill that retroactively legalized NSA warrantless wiretapping. We need to stop this now.

    posted by Keito
    2012-09-11 15:03:19
    'It’s back. On Thursday the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a five-year reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), the 2008 law that legalized the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program and more. It permits the government to get year-long orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications—including phone calls, emails, and internet records—for the purpose of collecting foreign intelligence. The orders need not specify who is going to be spied on or even allege that the targets did anything wrong. The only guarantees that the FAA gives are that no specific American will be targeted for wiretapping and that some (classified) rules about the use of intercepted information will be followed.

    After four years, you’d hope that some basic information or parameters of such a massive spying program would be divulged to the public, or at least your rank-and-file member of Congress, but they haven’t. Only a small handful of members have either personally attended classified briefings or have staff with high enough clearances to attend for them. Sen. Ron Wyden—who has been on the Senate Intelligence Committee for years—has even been stonewalled by the Obama administration for a year and a half in his attempts to learn basic information about the program, such as the number of Americans who have had their communications intercepted under the FAA.

    Yet the House ambles on, ready to rubber stamp another five years of expansive surveillance that can pick up American communications without meaningful judicial oversight and without probable cause or any finding of wrongdoing. Instead of blind faith in the executive branch, every member of the House should demand that the administration publicly disclose the following before proceeding with reauthorization:
    • Copies of FISA court opinions interpreting our Fourth Amendment rights under the FAA, with redactions to protect sensitive information (the Department of Justice can write summaries of law if necessary);
    • A rough estimate of how many Americans are surveilled under the FAA every year;
    • A description of the rules that govern how American information picked up by FAA surveillance is protected.

    Can you believe that 435 members of Congress who have sworn to uphold the Constitution are about to vote on a sweeping intelligence gathering law without this basic information? Act now to let them know that it’s time for Congress to fix FISA. Keep an eye on this space and the @ACLU on Twitter for updates this week (for more detailed tweets about FISA, follow @Richardson_Mich, A.K.A. Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s lobbyist who works on FISA).

    Relatedly, on October 29th, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the ACLU’s constitutional challenge to the FAA, which was filed in 2008 less than an hour after President Bush signed the amendments into law.'

    http://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/house-vote-fisa-amendments-act-wednesday