News Release

“Unconstitutional Surveillance Powers” Made Law While You Where Focusing on “Fiscal Cliff”

AllGov.com reports: “The U.S. government will continue to spy on Americans’ private communications without a warrant for another five years — and without oversight provisions that were shot down in the U.S. Senate.

“While most Americans celebrated the holidays, President Barack Obama, on Sunday, December 30, quietly signed into law a five-year extension of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which made it legal for the National Security Agency to perform warrantless wiretapping, something that originated under the George W. Bush administration.

“The law permits the NSA to pry into Americans’ international emails and phone calls without obtaining a court order. The spying program, which would have ended on December 31 without the extension, has been heavily criticized by civil libertarians.”

SHAHID BUTTAR, [email]
SAMANTHA PEETROS, @bordc
Buttar is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Peetros is communications specialist with the group, which released a statement: “In a 73-23 vote on December 28, the Senate overwhelmingly authorized the extension of warrantless domestic mass wiretapping for another five years. The vote for unconstitutional surveillance powers was one of this term’s few notable reflections of bipartisanship, coming at the expense of transparency and rights guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment.”

The group called this an “overreaching authorization of unwarranted and unprecedented domestic surveillance. … Unfortunately, Senators followed in the footsteps of the House, which passed an identical bill in September, failing to heed the voices of diverse Americans demanding answers and the restoration of their Fourth Amendment rights.”

Buttar has written before: “When originally passed, FISA was meant to curtail the federal government’s surveillance practices. Over the years, provisions for dragnet surveillance have been expanded, particularly since 2002. During the Bush administration, the National Security Agency began a warrantless wiretapping scheme hatched in secret and in such clear violation of FISA that Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to authorize it and Justice Department officials threatened to resign en masse.

“When the program was first revealed to the public in 2005, by New York Times journalists who risked prosecution to reveal state secrets, it caused an earthquake in Washington. However, in 2008, Congress amended FISA to essentially permit what the original statute prohibited. Since then, the program has continued to operate in secret, drawing widespread concerns as the NSA has escalated its war on privacy and the Constitution.”

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) also criticized the FISA extension, saying: “It is not real oversight when the United States Congress cannot get a yes or no answer to the question of whether an estimate currently exists as to whether law abiding Americans have had their phone calls and emails swept up under the FISA law.

“The amendment I fought to include would have helped bring the constitutional principles of security and liberty back into balance and I intend to work with my colleagues to see that the liberties of individual Americans are maintained.”

Also see from CNET: “The snoop state’s still alive and well (Anybody notice?)