Thursday, December 27, 2012

Senate Debating Warrantless Domestic Spying Today; Vote Pending

Senate Debating Warrantless Domestic Spying Today; Vote Pending:
Sen. Ron WydenIf your
post-holiday boredom has left you without a reason to get riled up
(or perhaps the Fiscal Cliff "negotiations" just aren't enough), I
invite you to watch the Senate debate on C-Span about
renewing the FISA Amendments Act today. The FISA Act allows the
government to get secret permission to spy on communications to and
from Americans without having to prove probable cause in defiance
of the Fourth Amendment.
The
Electronic Frontier Foundation
(EFF) has been on top of the
political machinations behind the renewal of the bill, such as the
senators – among them Ron Wyden (who is currently speaking as I
write this) and Rand Paul – working to change the laws to require
warrants to collect private communications from Americans.
Here’s what EFF has to say about Wyden’s actions:
Sen. Ron Wyden, one of the most ardent defenders of civil
liberties in the Senate, has been asking the NSA for months for
information on how the FISA Amendments Act has impacted
Americans.
The NSA has so far refused, yet, as the
New York Times reported in 2009
, we know the NSA was still
intercepting domestic communications in a “significant and
systematic” way. We also
know the secret FISA court ruled
, on at least one occasion,
that the government had violated the Fourth Amendment when
conducting surveillance under the FAA. Yet the NSA has rather
unbelievably claimed releasing the number of Americans whose
privacy has been violated would violate those same Americans’
privacy.
Ron Wyden’s amendment would force the NSA to come clean and give
a general estimate of how many Americans have been affected by this
unconstitutional bill, and finally give us information Americans
deserve.
In addition, another Wyden amendment would clarify that the
acquisition of American communications is prohibited without a
warrant. Sen. Wyden has accused the government of conducting
“backdoor searches,” whereby the government collects communications
of foreign individuals talking to Americans, but later goes back
into the government’s database of intercepted communications and
reviews the Americans' comunications. Sen. Wyden hopes this
clarification to the law will help guard against further intrusive
spying on American communications.
And here is what Paul is up to:
Republican Senator Rand Paul has commendably been one of the few
voices unequivocally denouncing the FISA Amendments Act as a
violation of the Fourth Amendment. To that end, Sen. Paul will be
introducing “the Fourth Amendment Protection Act” which will
re-iterate that all US communications, whether sought by US
intelligence agencies like the NSA or any government agency, are
protected against unwarranted searches and seizures—even if they
are held by third party email providers like Google.
A vote is expected today. The EFF reported
earlier
in the month that many senators were trying to get the
amendments renewed without any debate at all.