House Approves Rep. Lamar Smith's Bill To Keep Spying On Americans

from the of-course-they-did dept

As was expected, despite not knowing the details of how the feds interpret the FISA Amendmens Act, which grants massive spying and surveillance power to the feds — in fact, while proactively stopping any efforts to find out more about the interpretation, the House of Representatives today approved Lamar Smith’s FISA Amendment’s Act by a vote of 301-118. You can see which representatives voted which way at that link. The bill would extend the current rules (and the secret interpretation) for another five years. Republicans, who are supposedly against bigger government, only had 7 members vote no, while the remaining 111 no votes came from Democrats.

There had been an attempt to introduce amendments, but that was shot down procedurally. And an hour debate did little to get to the heart of the matter. Rep. Zoe Lofgren fought the good fight, pointing out that “I think the government needs to comply with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution all the time… We can be safe while still complying with the Constitution of the United States.” However, Rep. Dan Lungren — who previously had insisted that there was no evidence that the NSA was abusing its powers, while refusing to even ask the NSA for basic info on how it was using the powers — insisted based on absolutely nothing that “this is critical to the protection of the American people.”

Even worse, Rep. Terry Gowdy made a ridiculously ignorant statement in response to Lofgren’s highlighting of the 4th Amendment:

”Intelligence is the lifeblood of our ability to defend ourselves,” he said. Moments later, he added: “Are we to believe that the Fourth Amendment applies to the entire world?”

But, uh, the concern isn’t with the rest of the world. Even without the FISA Amendments Act, the NSA already had the right to seek info on foreign communications. They have no 4th Amendment rights, so that’s not even an issue. The issue is that the FISA Amendments Act appears to include some weasel words that have been twisted by the government to suggest that it can spy on Americans too. But Gowdy misleads the public by pretending, falsely, that this is about foreigners? It’s not. Has he asked the NSA how many Americans it’s spied on? Even the NSA has admitted that it’s violated the 4th Amendment under the act in spying on Americans… but Gowdy pretends this is just about foreigners? How do you stand up and call yourself a “Representative” when you can’t even get the very basics right?

Of course, House approval is just one step. The Senate version remains on hold thanks to Senator Wyden, who is one of the only elected officials who is actually asking the NSA and the Obama administration to (a) reveal the secret interpretation and (b) disclose how many Americans are being spied on under the rule.

As Julian Sanchez explained recently a former DOJ official has basically revealed part of the secret interpretation, which more or less says that if the target is al Qaeda, then anything goes:

For example, an authorization targeting “al Qaeda”—which is a non-U.S. person located abroad—could allow the government to wiretap any telephone that it believes will yield information from or about al Qaeda, either because the telephone is registered to a person whom the government believes is affiliated with al Qaeda, or because the government believes that the person communicates with others who are affiliated with al Qaeda, regardless of the location of the telephone.

Take that and expand it, and you’ve basically given the feds and the NSA a blank slate to spy on Americans by claiming that if it believes the spying will yield information about a threat, then it’s fine. And our “Representatives” are standing up and — either through ignorance or straight-up dishonesty — are pretending that this is about spying on foreigners only. Shameful.

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Comments on “House Approves Rep. Lamar Smith's Bill To Keep Spying On Americans”

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30 Comments
kenichi tanaka says:

The United States has been slowly transforming into a communism/dictatorship ran country instead of the country who respects the human dignity and basic civil rights that used to be enjoyed.

This is why I no longer respect the government, who is supposed to be protecting my rights under the constitution and why I don’t have any respect for those we have elected to protect our interests.

Where is “violating my first and fourth amendment rights” anywhere in those choices?

Anonymous Coward says:

This is seriously getting ridiculous

Gotta do something, otherwise their political opponents might paint them as “soft on terrorism”.
Can’t do something effective though, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to keep using the threat of terrorism as a scapegoat.

Collect a few bribes, make a stupid statement, brush off any complaints, pass a horrible law, make plans for the reelection campaign. All in a day’s work for a slimeball politician.

Anonymous Coward says:

The issue is that the FISA Amendments Act appears to include some weasel words that have been twisted by the government to suggest that it can spy on Americans too.

As usual, you’re way out ahead of yourself Chubby. Congress enacts the law, then if there’s a problem the law is challenged in the courts on Constitutional grounds. Shockingly, a declaration by Techdirtbag Nation that a law violates the 4th Amendment doesn’t cut it. That determination is actually vested in the judiciary. Who writes this shit for you Masnick, your friends over at Russia Today?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re:

Congress enacts the law, then if there’s a problem the law is challenged in the courts on Constitutional grounds.

How do you challenge a law that has a secret interpretation that no one outside of “cleared” individuals is allowed to know? Especially when those who get evidence that they’ve been illegally spied on then have their cases tossed out due to “national security” reasons. Or, those who gather evidence of the illegality can’t bring suit, because they’re told they don’t have standing?

Please, do tell.

We’re all interested.

Shockingly, a declaration by Techdirtbag Nation that a law violates the 4th Amendment doesn’t cut it. That determination is actually vested in the judiciary

That’s not even the concern we’re expressing here. It amuses me that you’re so quick to slam me you don’t even understand what’s happening here. The problem is that those who voted on the issue don’t even know how the Feds have interpreted the law, because that’s secret. They don’t even bother to ask how often the NSA has spied on Americans, because they don’t even want to know.

Why doesn’t this concern you?

brandon (profile) says:

“This is why I no longer respect the government, who is supposed to be protecting my rights under the constitution and why I don’t have any respect for those we have elected to protect our interests.”

when you rely on someone else to protect your rights or interests, you automatically empower them to decide what is in your best interest. this might be the biggest problem the american people face today; a perception of the government that is flawed at the foundation. our government was not set up to protect our interests, it was set up to take care of mundane daily business so the people could pursue life, liberty and happiness. we removed the old government of england for exactly the reason that it decided what was in our best interest and would not be persuaded otherwise. it was a bloody work, and likely will be again when the people finally get tired of the same treatment.

Rushthezeppelin says:

Worth noting

They haven’t been small government in a long time….the are basically turtle pace democrats with social “conservative” views which are just liberal slanting to the other side as dems more or less. Government should have no place dictating any social matters in the first place. I’m not sure elections are doing any good anymore because its all just special interests no matter where you look. I’m still amazed there wasn’t insurrection on these matters long ago but 9/11 blinded most of the country…slowly people are starting to be able to see again though.

Dave says:

Vote out Lamar Smith

Been following all your really great law proposals from the UK, in the hope that OUR politicians pick up on them and do the same in this country. Oops! Switches off sarcasm and cynical modes. Just whose pocket is Lamar Smith in? Is he on something? Is ANYTHING he does of real benefit to the people that elected him? I think we should be told, as it looks from this limey’s viewpoint that the guy is just grandstanding and trying to make a name for himself. Wonder what it’s like to be so incredibly unpopular?

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re:

while i do agree with your sentiments in general, i can’t get behind -so to speak- your call for them to ‘lick dirty dog butts’…
my dogs keep their butts quite clean by licking themselves, thank you very much; and i certainly do NOT want some dirty politicians (who *KNOWS* where those filthy mouths have been) licking my dogs’ already clean butts…

otherwise, *my* fantasy is that i could projectile vomit over the WHOLE of washingtoon; after all, turnabout is fair play…

PS its only about half the kongresskritters that are millionaires+, surely they ‘represent’ all us li’l peeps scraping by paycheck-to-paycheck…
surely they do… *cough*cough*

art guerrilla
aka ann archy
eof

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