Senate Approves Intelligence Bill, But Extension Of Secret Law Allowing Spying On Americans Cut Back
from the well-that's-good dept
As you may recall, earlier this year, the Senate tried to rush through a multi-year renewal of the FISA Amendments Act. The FAA, originally approved in 2008, retroactively made warrantless wiretapping efforts by the US government legal. The supposed intention of the bill was to make it easier to tap foreigners outside the US. However, it appears that the government has interpreted parts of it in ways that go beyond what people might expect, leading to significant surveillance of Americans inside the country. Senator Ron Wyden had sought information on just how many Americans had their communications intercepted under this law and was told it was "not reasonably possible" to answer that question. In response, he put a hold on the bill, and the Senate chose not to fight him on it, choosing not to put such a multi-year extension into the bill -- meaning that the issue will have to be voted on again in 2012. According to Wyden:
“I’m pleased that the final version of the 2012 Intelligence Authorization Act does not include the multi-year extension of the FISA Amendments Act that was included in the Senate version of the bill. I opposed the Senate version of the bill, and I announced a public hold on it, because I believe Congress has an obligation to get more information about the effects of this law before extending it for several more years. The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 was intended to give the government new authorities to conduct surveillance of foreigners outside the United States, but right now nobody in government knows how many people inside the United States have had their communications collected and reviewed as a result of this law. Congress will inevitably need to debate the reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act at some point during 2012, and when this debate occurs I plan to continue to press for more information about the impact that this law has had on the privacy of law-abiding American citizens.”Unfortunately, if the past few years have been any indication of how this all works, there will be no significant debate until the deadline is close, and then Senators will demand that everyone quickly reauthorize things or we're all going to die (or some equally horrible scenario). It's the "give us all sorts of extra powers immediately with no real oversight or we're all going to die" form of government that has been so in vogue lately.