Friday, December 28, 2012

Congress Has Enough Time to Keep Spying on You, Forever

Congress Has Enough Time to Keep Spying on You, Forever:
The resemblance is uncannyGood morning, misgoverned nation! You will be
utterly unsurprised to learn that the same United States Senate
that
hasn't passed a (legally required) budget resolution since
2009
, that legislates via perpetual self-made crises and lards
nearly all laws with brazenly
fictitious sunset provisions and distant spending cuts
, has
managed to fit into its busy schedule of
anti-gun press conferences
and
drunk-driving arrests
an "unusual
special session
" to reauthorize the FISA Amendments
Act of 2008
before the law turns into a pumpkin on Jan. 1.
The Act,
which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) had
attempted to re-authorize without debate
, allows for the
federal government to spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant,
without probable cause, and without even informing the allegedly
relevant oversight bodies in Congress as to the number of Americans
being spied on.
The Senate re-authorization debate yesterday lasted
seven hours
, and resulted in the
shooting down of three sensible amendments
. Sen. Patrick Leahy
(D-Vermont) attempted to cut the proposed extension from five years
to three; that lost 52-38. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) proposed
requiring the attorney general to disclose "significant" FISA court
interpretations of surveillance law; that lost 54-37. And Sen. Rand
Paul (R-Kentucky)
proposed
extending Fourth Amendment protections to electronic
communications.
Paul's amendment was routed
:
"Why is a phone call more deserving of privacy protection than
an e-mail?" Paul asked on the Senate floor.
Paul's amendment, co-sponsored by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee,
was voted down 79 to 12.
Watch Rand Paul's speech about the degraded Fourth
Amendment here:




A fourth and final
amendment
, by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), calling for
intelligence-agency estimates for the number of Americans spied on,
will likely die on the Senate floor today, clearing the final
obstruction to passage. Some nauseating passages from
The Hill
:
The anti-Feinstein"I
think, when you talk about oversight, and you can't even get a
rough estimate of how many law-abiding Americans had their
communications swept up by this law… the idea of robust oversight,
really ought to be called toothless oversight if you don't have
that kind of information," Wyden said on the floor Thursday
morning.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein
(D-Calif.) said those incidences have been "few" and "inadvertent."
She urged her colleagues not to support any of the amendments
because she said the bill would then have to be reconsidered by the
House. She said unless the House version passed, surveillance would
halt after Dec. 31, posing a threat to national security.
"Without Senate action these authorities expire in four days and
that's the reason the House bill is before us," Feinstein said
before the amendment votes Thursday. [...]
"There is a view of some that this country no longer needs to
fear attacks — I don't share that view."
The persistence of such low demagoguery a dozen years after
Sept. 11 suggests a truism that covers both the National Security
State and the Fiscal Cliff: Congress, and the Leviathan it
nurtures, requires constant
crisis
like a
whale requires krill
. As ever, the Senate needs more Rand Pauls
and Ron Wydens, fewer Dianne Feinsteins and other Dick Cheney
wannabees.