After Basically No Debate, And No Opportunity For Amendments, Senate Votes To Expand NSA Surveillance

from the not-unexpected,-but-dumb dept

As was unfortunately expected, after a very short (and fairly stupid) debate that was full of misleading statements that focused more on “but… but… terrorism!” than anything substantive, the Senate has voted for cloture on the same bill the House approved last week that extends and expands the NSA’s 702 surveillance program, opening it up to widespread abuse and refusing to do simple things like adding in a warrant requirement when used to spy on Americans. The vote was actually surprisingly close — going right down to the wire. They needed 60 votes to get this bill over the top and they almost didn’t get them. The final vote was 60 to 39 with the final vote (well over an hour after the vote starting) coming from Senator Claire McCaskill in favor of warrantless spying on Americans.

This is not all that surprising, even if it’s disappointing. It follows the pattern that we’ve seen with surveillance programs over the past decade. Whenever they are up for renewal, Congress refuses to debate or discuss serious reforms until there’s like a week left… and then they have a simplistic and rushed debate that basically consists of the hawks freaking out about how we’re all going to die if the NSA can’t keep spying on people, and civil liberty defenders pointing to the 4th Amendment, only to have the surveillance state supporters push back that the NSA protects us and is full of good people and how dare you question their good nature by insisting on petty little things like “warrants” as required by the Constitution.

The cloture vote is not technically the final vote. It just shuts down debate and blocks the ability to raise any amendments. There will be a final vote soon, but the cloture vote is, effectively, the important vote here, and having voted for cloture the bill will pass — and despite President Trump’s confusion last week, he will sign the bill, and the NSA will get to turn back on its “about” surveillance capabilities it had been forced into shutting down last year, and the FBI will continue to get full, warrantless access to the “backdoor” or “incidental” collections of the communications of many, many Americans without a warrant and without anything approaching probable cause.

While this was expected to turn out this way, it’s still bad. It’s our Senate (and the House and the White House) purposely spitting on the 4th Amendment of the Constitution to appease the NSA and the FBI. And, as with last week, it’s especially incredible to see a number of Senators who have spoken out against Donald Trump — including Senators Jeff Flake and Dianne Feinstein — then turn around and vote for this. Last week, Flake compared Trump to Stalin. And just days later he votes to give that same Trump vast surveillance powers over Americans. Incredible. Meanwhile, Trump has been attacking Claire McCaskill left and right as she’s up for re-election… and she repays that by giving him more surviellance power and selling out the American public. Missouri voters should remember that.

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Comments on “After Basically No Debate, And No Opportunity For Amendments, Senate Votes To Expand NSA Surveillance”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Its wrong to wonder what the NSA was texting to the lawmakers to get the vote to happen.

I thought they all swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, perhaps its time to remind them of that.

They really need to show proof of what the program actually gains us. We had terror attacks while they had these super powers, giving them more seems to be a bad idea when the trade off is going to be lying in court how they got the evidence to convict people.

SteveMB (profile) says:

Memo to Congressional Democrats: The predictions of a "Blue Wave" in November are not based on enduring physical phenomena like tides and eclipses. They are based on the likelihood that voters in November will continue to be pissed off at the Trumpanzee while not becoming likewise pissed off at you. If you insist on pissing away the latter, don’t come running to me for an explanation of "what happened?!"

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Isn’t this the truth. Arguing for important issues (to my mind) be added to the platform was met immediately with vitrolic name calling identical to that levered at the right. After a lifetime of voting left I was slapped into the moment, and asked myself why? Exclude me for questioning the surveillance state. I thought I had a few rights, and demand my representatives represent them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Um..Dulles, Bushes..

All of these people where NAZI supporters and Operation Paperclip was not mostly about the weirner von browns, it was about hiring almost the entire leftover SS by the nascent CIA(OSS), No one should be surprised at how things have turned out.

You gave control of your government to fascista because err.. fascists good jorb AmeriKKKa

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Possible, but unlikely I’d say. As I noted above, I’d say it’s much more likely that they simply want to be able to say that they ‘support the country and the agencies that keep it safe’, and if that means giving even more power to the lunatic in charge, then they’re willing to do so for purely political/personal reasons.

Pete Austin says:

Flake compared Trump to Stalin

No he didn’t.

Please correct, because suggesting that Stalin is comparable to any modern day democratic politician is grossly insulting to the millions of people that he murdered.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Flake compared Trump to Stalin

He said Trump was using the same kind of rhetoric that Stalin did. That’s a comparison to Stalin.

It’s possible to say that somebody is comparable to Stalin in his disdain for the press without implying that he’s comparable to Stalin in other ways. Stalin did a lot of awful things. Mass murder is merely the worst on a very long list.

Shameless Plug says:

Austin Petersen

I’m not from Missouri, but this would be a good place to recommend checking out Austin Petersen who is running for the Senate against Claire McCaskill. He is a libertarian (runner-up to Gary Johnson in 2016… who was decidedly not a libertarian) and is about as opposed to organizations like the NSA as any human can be.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Incredible. Meanwhile, Trump has been attacking Claire McCaskill left and right as she’s up for re-election… and she repays that by giving him more surviellance power and selling out the American public. Missouri voters should remember that.”

How much of a goddamn tard can you be Mike? The outcome will always be the same regardless of who’s in place (and your continual pet politicians like Wyden are NOT going to change that ever).

GEMont (profile) says:

Warning to Morons : Too Long - Do Not Read

Warning – Rant ahead

Fascism is like cancer. It occurs when parts of the body gain too much control and alters things to allow those parts to thrive and grow at the expense of the rest of the body, draining the body of vital resources in the process and eventually killing the host and itself.

The difference is that the members of a society that cause the death of their home nation through the fascist business model, are able to pack up their winnings and move to a new nation.

In a fascist state, the processes of government are purely for show. The “people”, while actually having no representation from government, must be maintained in a state somewhere between terror of enemies from without, and active ecstasy from bread and circuses within, in order to keep them pacified and occupied.

This is simply due to the fact that in a fascist state, there is no actual government. It has been replaced by a cartel of billionaire businessmen and all of the old government processes have been replaced with Hollywood type facades that merely look like the old government processes.

The only aspects of government that remain intact, are those that protect the invading parasites from their host, such as the military and the prison system.

The surveillance state has one primary purpose under a fascist state. Gather information to facilitate easy blackmail and control of any who would expose the cartel’s purpose or activities.

It also allows the members of the cartel to easily exploit any source of local wealth through intimidation and outright legalized theft.

The entire democratic party has been so compromised, and has been since the 9/11 false flag operation that allowed the rewriting of the US constitution and the secret legalization of the fascist cartel operations through war-time security measures laws.

The USA has been invaded, engaged and conquered, and is currently occupied at the highest levels of legalized privilege by the invaders – Billionaire Americans.

This particular situation under discussion- the legalized Spying on American citizens by the state surveillance apparatus – was a pure BS hollywood display, as the fascist surveillance state cartel has no intention of ever allowing the American People any legal rights that could theoretically harm the state in any way, including the privacy needed to conspire against the state.

Taking away the rights of Americans must be done slowly and as much as possible; secretly, in order to prevent the general public from catching on and revolting. Such hollywood displays will become common place as the state erodes the legal protections one after the other.

In much the same way that a tape worm settles into a warm protected spot in the human intestines to feed at leisure, the fascist cartel has settled into the halls of government, protected by the law itself, to slowly and inexorably devour the wealth of America.

I suppose you should all be thankful that the cartel is still keeping you partially informed as to the laws it is eliminating and replacing in order to better feed off your carcasses. Soon, this will no longer be necessary –
once they can initiate a new war somewhere – and then those of you who still “believe” that it can’t happen here will begin to feel the drain and the pain and may even decide to react.

Of course, that reaction will in most cases; especially among the middle and upper classes, be the decision to join the Fascists, and grab as much as they can before the final collapse, in a massive feeding frenzy, which in turn speeds up the whole process.

Of course, by then it will be far too late anyway, and America will soon thereafter become but a memory of its own past glory, like Rome and so many other places before it, that succumbed to fascism through simple disbelief and inaction.

I must say, its been a real education watching Americans pretend that everything is fine and dandy, apparently right up until their last breath. I never would have believed it possible had I not witnessed it with my own eyes.

No wonder Fascism is so popular with the wealthy.

It always works.

C’est la vie eh! 🙂


Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "Fascism is like cancer"

More like an immunodeficiency virus, but I get you.

I don’t think 9/11 was contrived from within. I think it was an opportunity.

Ultimately it’s the same phenomenon when a rat population runs out of food to sustain it. They turn on each other. Those who are left feast on the dead.

The thing is, knowing from our position doesn’t change our fate.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "Fascism is like cancer"

I have heard this refrain from apparently intelligent people for forty years.

“Conspiracies are impossible because someone involved would spill the beans.”

Odd then that the known conspiracies have been exposed, not by an insider spilling the beans, but by investigators who simply followed the money trail.

Please note also that “spilling the beans” places the bean-spiller between a rock and a hard spot.

On the one hand the law may now incarcerate the person who has confessed to being a part of a criminal plot, and on the other hand, every other person involved with the crime now wants this idiot dead.

Not a lot of people who made a lot of money/power as part of a criminal conspiracy, are going to commit suicide this way, no matter how many people repeat the popular meme.

Oh well, I suppose you really do get the government you deserve.


Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Conspiracies happen all the time.

A recent review of the JFK assassination acknowledged that just because we misguessed at what the conspiracies were doesn’t mean conspiracies weren’t happening. Rather what happens is that the public picks up on things going wrong, and then tries to piece together the plots from the few facts available. And we’re bad at it.

9/11 was a conspiracy. A handful of Osama Bin Laden’s Mujaheddin organized a handful of suicide hijack teams to capture airliners and use them as weapons. In a couple cases, it worked. We can only speculate whether Bin Laden meant this to be a Doolittle raid, or if this was part of a greater plot. But that’s the difference between a conspiracy and an even bigger conspiracy.

Regardless, most of human civilizations went through thousands of years of monarchy by force not because they deserved it but because they never had an opportunity to change it. Also they were told for 1500 years that they’d go to Hell for eternity if they tried.

I don’t think we get the government we deserve, rather we get the worst government we cannot prevent from holding power. And then we have to wait again for opportunity to choose differently.

That’s not deserved justice. That’s jungle law. That’s the biggest monster eating and fucking its way through the rest of the jungle because nothing else stops it.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Conspiracies happen all the time.

In my world, any secret agreement between people in power, to profit at the expense of the public, is a conspiracy.

This of course, includes every secret high level business venture ever devised by corporations, governments and Billionaire Cartels.

The way I see it, conspiracy is as much a part of everyday life, as conversation.

And as long as we believe government is a necessary evil, we will get the government we deserve. After all, the origin of government is the evolution of criminal gangs.


Anonymous Coward says:

There’s a word for people who promise to uphold the Constitution and proceed to subvert a core part of it. A word also defined in the Constitution, describing giving aid and comfort to our adversaries.

To governments around the world that wage war against Democracy as a valid form of governance, the actions of the U.S. Intelligence community’s leadership must be comforting.

To those who say that Congress voted and approved it, I ask – what purpose does the 4th Amendment serve on the Internet if the FBI can search through U.S. Persons’ emails, chat logs, and web histories for evidence of criminality without a warrant?

Deceiving lawmakers on a regular basis in order to expand your own authorities is disgusting and undemocratic.

Bergman (profile) says:

No Warrant, No Crime

Existing laws about interception of communications require a warrant for the government exemptions to be exercised. If the government is doing things that would violate those laws and has no warrant, then either the government has committed too many felonies to count — or those things don’t require a warrant.

But since it’s having a warrant that turns otherwise-illegal things legal, if no warrant is required then those things cannot be illegal.

Put another way, I wonder what Anonymous can dig up about the Executive and Legislative branches of our government using “about” and “metadata” sources? It wouldn’t even be illegal for them to do it, since no warrant is required.

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