Ron Wyden Puts Hold On FISA Amendments Act; Wants Answers To How Many Americans Have Been Spied On

from the good-for-him dept

Last week, we noted that as everyone was focused on the debt ceiling, some in the Senate Intelligence Committee saw it as an opportunity to rush through an extension for the FISA Amendment Act, which was originally passed to "legalize" the government's warrantless wiretapping program (already ongoing) with retroactive immunity. Of course, when that was passed, it was made clear that the intent was solely to use it to conduct surveillance on people outside of the US. However, as Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have made clear, intelligence officials have been using a very questionable "hybrid theory" to use the FAA and the Patriot Act to conduct widespread surveillance of Americans, most likely in the form of collecting tons of geolocation data from mobile phone operators.

There was no reason to approve the FAA extension last week, since it doesn't expire until next year. Even worse, the vote for the whole thing was in a "closed" session, not for classified reasons, since votes come out eventually, but basically to avoid public scrutiny. Wyden and Udall introduced an amendment requiring intelligence officials to explain the "problems" associated with secret interpretations of such laws that disagree with how most (including those in Congress) believe the law is intended for use. Since the vote was closed, there was no official notice on how it turned out, though we'd heard rumors that it was approved.

Senator Wyden has now come out and said that it was, in fact, approved, and his and Udall's Amendment was voted down 7-8. Because of this, Wyden is putting a hold on the FISA Amendments Act extension, and is pushing for a simple answer to the question that multiple intelligence officials said "is not reasonably possible" to answer: how many Americans are being spied under this Act, which was clearly intended to cover surveillance of foreigners.
As most of my colleagues remember, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act in 2008 in an effort to give the government new authorities to conduct surveillance of foreigners outside the United States. The bill contained an expiration date of December 2012, and the purpose of this expiration date was to force members of Congress to come back in a few years and examine whether these new authorities had been interpreted and implemented as intended.

I believe that Congress has not yet adequately examined this issue, and that there are important questions that need to be answered before the FISA Amendments Act is given a long-term extension.

The central section of the FISA Amendments Act, the part that is now section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act itself, specifically stated that it was intended to address foreigners outside the United States, and it even required the Attorney General to develop procedures designed to make sure that any individuals targeted with this new authority are believed to be outside the United States. So one of the central questions that Congress needs to ask is, are these procedures working as intended? Are they keeping the communications of law-abiding Americans from being swept up under this authority that was designed to apply to foreigners?
Wyden also notes that he has no intention of accepting the "not reasonably possible" language from the feds in response to his questions about how many Americans were spied on.

Hopefully this puts more pressure on the federal government to say how they've (mis)interpreted the law to collect vast aggregate data on Americans, abusing a law that was clearly designed for the sake of monitoring foreign communications.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    trish, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 2:33pm

    ya

    u know, i always thought usa was 'land of the free' til reading your blog. It seems your problems may require a more 'arab spring' type of approach, eventually. This is a democracy, people. You want to have secrets from your population? Conduct closed meetings where the citizens (who give up their governance of themselves so they can work for a living, and trust you to do it right) cannot even have a say, cannot EVEN see and hear what you're doing to THEIR country? Well to f'n bad punk. srsly makes me mad to see that 'democracy' is an illusion. And then we think we're better than China. BS.

     

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  2.  
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    keniri, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 2:41pm

    trish, I would very highly recommend watching a movie called "Enemy of the State". The movie, while it's typical Hollywood fanfare, raises the very same questions that Senator Wyden has asked about how many Americans are being spied upon.

    The movie stars Will Smith and Gene Hackman and it deals with the huge ramifications of what happens when the government is given unlimited power to spy on its own people.

    While I enjoyed the movie, it also frightened me that our government could be given such unlimited power to spy on its own people. They need to use this technology to prevent threats to our country, to track terrorists or even subversive groups like renegade militia and survivalist groups.

    The problem is that once government, those in power, get what they want, 99% of the time they abuse that power.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 2:43pm

    Re: ya

    ... a more 'arab spring' type of approach, eventually.


    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

     

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  4.  
    icon
    Chosen Reject (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Re: ya

    What scares me is the thought that were we to have a modern day equivalent of the First/Second Continental Congress or Constitutional Convention, the same people in power now might show up. That goes from the Federal level all the way down to the local level. That has shaped how I vote dramatically. If I'm going to elect somebody who might have a hand in shaping the next constitution, I'm certainly not going to vote for somebody just because they're the lesser of two evils.

     

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  5.  
    icon
    ricebowl (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: ya



    It's interesting that you quote those words, but omit their opening, and to my mind far more important, sentences. Please, allow me:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 3:13pm

    all of them

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 3:46pm

    "not reasonably possible" is probably correct. here is why implement an enormous number of wire taps, aided by multiple complicit tel com companies all across the world.
    parse each conversation with voice recognition tech and gps coordinates into a set of key words and physical locations, feed all that information into data mining software that will spider for specif combination of key words such as bomb, car, pentagon, democrat, 2012 election. so its "not reasonably possible" because they need to know the nationality before the data gets entered. i hope I'm wrong.
    but i don't think so. bottom line is they are spending billions to catch dumb people for a minuscule chance in a slip up by the truly dangerous one's

     

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  8.  
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    Jordan (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 4:12pm

    In some book, hopefully fiction, I read a while back to avoid these types of problems with domestic spying the US government and UK government spied on the other government's citizens and shared the take.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Infowars, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 4:14pm

    I know..

    Buy GUNS AMMO FOOD WATER GOLD and SILVER.. (A nice bunker would be a good thing too). And get ready for the war..

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 4:31pm

    Hopefully the government doesn't make Wyden disappear since he's the only one that gives a damn.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 4:58pm

    Re:

    I'm more concerned he'll be found in his car with a hose attached to the tailpipe and duct taped to a cracked open window, the victim of an apparent "suicide".

     

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  12.  
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    gorehound (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 5:21pm

    Wyden is one of the few out of the whole lot that ever speaks up loudly against some of this insanity.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 5:51pm

    Re:

    Wyden is one of the few out of the whole lot that ever speaks up loudly...

    Oh, c'mon. Your memory is just short. Senator Obama spoke up real loudly about his intention to filibuster the FISA amendment.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Zevon, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 7:08pm

    Re: I know..

    And lawyers. Lawyers, guns and money. The shit has hit the fan.

     

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  15.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 8:28pm

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, and what is he doing about it while in office?

    Far as I'm concerned, that was him grandstanding along with everything else he did while a Senator.

     

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  16.  
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    Any Mouse (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 8:31pm

    Re:

    So, your answer to the question is 'all of them.'

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 8:43pm

    I ahve to wonder if Wyden's biggest campaign contribution comes from Rio Tinto Alcan, because this guy is a tin hatter at it's best. Every rock has a conspiracy hiding under it in his world.

     

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  18.  
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    Jay (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 10:31pm

    Re:

    You're exactly right.

    He learns that the Intelligence chief is spying on Americans privately, and is asking questions, (you know, that oversight power of Senators and Congressmen?) inquiring how much the FBI is abusing legislation for their own personal gain.

    That must be a great tin hat to have. A senator acts as if they have morals and ethics and we have some AC deciding to take down a Senator for not taking money on the backside.

    Bra-friggin- vo!

    *slow clap*

     

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  19.  
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    The eejit (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 11:13pm

    Re:

    Yeah, just like all those Birthers that are in the Senate!

    Oh, wait....

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Prisoner 201, Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 12:53am

    Re:

    Wow. Coming down on percieved tinfoil hattery using tinfoil hattery.

    Thats like a Picasso of trolling. Not really touching reality at any point, but strangely beutiful.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Tin Hat, Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 3:09am

    Tinfoil hat, tinfoil hat

    The funny thing is that I remember this (actual conspiracies being shouted down) happening with the Iran-Contra Affair... with Microsoft's code pollution... with Oracle's business dealings... with the 1996 Telcom Act... with at least 50 things off the top of my head I can recall.

    "No, there's no conspiracies anywhere; anyone who thinks so must be nuts." Great way to shut off all examination, conjecture, thought or debate. "It can't happen here." It did; the foundation of this country is based on a conspiracy, no matter how you look at it.

    There should be no conjecture in several things happening simultaneously?

    1. The push yet again for "real names" and "accountability" and "responsibility" (ie tracking) on the nets - happen to remember at least 3 attempts at this, including RealID, in the last 20 yrs. Google a big name in this, right behind Facebook.

    2. Google being under anti-trust pressure with its sore business and profit source at risk.

    3. The ISP Snoop Bill (PCICA)

    4. The little action detailed above, which Sen. Wyden is attempting to drag into the light.

    - Bunch of other current and just-past events I am too bored to enumerate here and are probably known to most of this readership.


    So, although I am trained to troubleshoot a system, juggling a ton of possibility-vectors in my head while tracking a problem, sorting through system models, behavioural models and pattern-matching, I suddenly am being a "tin-foil hat" when patterns emerge that suggest at least some attention and scrutiny to determine if they are relevant, their hypotheses test out and they make sense in light of all the other data?

    I'm supposed to pretend that none of that skill could possibly apply to anything outside a computer network or system? That I feel it relevant to at least examine the patterns and data?

    Yeah, right. I'll keep my tin-foil hat, if you please, rather than become some opinion-spouting asshat with closed eyes who insists that "there are no conspiracies anywhere" and who obviously forgot his high-school history classes*

    *can start with JP Morgan, William Randolph Hearst, Oliver North, Nigerian Yellowcake...

     

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  22.  
    icon
    WysiWyg (profile), Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 4:12am

    Re: I know..

    Guns and ammo might work, but it's probably better to invest in something that can be reused, where you can fairly easily make new ammo. Me, I'm going for a crossbow. ;-)

    Food and water is probably not worth the time, what you want is a replenishing source of food and water, i.e. a farm.

    Gold and silver is definitely not worth it. When the going gets tough, people will realize that gold and silver can't be eaten, and they make for crappy ammo (except for against werewolfs of course).

    Have I thought about this way too much? Yes, I have.

     

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  23.  
    icon
    WysiWyg (profile), Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 4:15am

    Re:

    Always remember that the last decade or two, those "tin foil hats" have had a nasty habit of being proven right in the end.

     

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  24.  
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    WysiWyg (profile), Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 4:16am

    There's your answer...

    "not reasonably possible"

    That's all the answer we really need. If they were following the law, then the answer would be zero. If they don't know for certain that the answer IS zero, then by definition they have broken the law.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 6:00am

    if they don't know how many Americans are involved then they have badly implemented congresses directives and should be shut down and investigated for constitutional violations.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Someantimalwareguy, Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 7:12am

    Re: Re: I know..


    Gold and silver is definitely not worth it. When the going gets tough, people will realize that gold and silver can't be eaten, and they make for crappy ammo (except for against werewolfs of course).
    Barter would be the coin of the realm should there be a total collapse of the economy where money was both useless and worthless.

    Having supplies of needed comodities like sugar, salt, coffee, etc could be used to trade for things you do not have, but need for whatever reason. The only thing Gold and Silver would be useful for would be as door stops with sufficient weight...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 8:05am

    Re: Re:

    "He learns that the Intelligence chief is spying on Americans privately, and is asking questions"

    Imagine that - doing his job 'n stuff.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    billy, Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 12:30pm

    Re: I know..

    Guns, food, ammo are fine, but in the coming end of days, just as important will be ...toilet paper...women's napkins...and ..soap...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    shane, Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Americans?

    You say renegade militia and survivalist groups are ok to be monitored? actually you say they should be monitored...arnt they Americans too? Have you read the Declaration of Independence lately? We being "Americans" have a DUTY to keep OUR government in check and if they start to oppress to public, to SHUT THEM DOWN OURSELVES!! Dont you know that this country was saved by Militias when the redcoats came to smash it all down..you sir,have seen one too many movies and obviously beleive everything you read and hear..

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2012 @ 8:24am

    Re: Re: Americans?

    Exactly.

    Arm yourselves people - a revolution is inevitable.

    Too long have the people in this country been sheltered and led to believe their beloved government holds their best interests in mind.

    Eventually, they will go too far, and the people in this country will rise up to remind them again exactly whose country it is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Guest, Jun 27th, 2012 @ 7:08am

    There is a related article at People's blog for the Constitution, check it out for more information
    http://www.constitutioncampaign.org/blog/?p=8352

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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