Senate extends warrantless wiretapping program with approval of FISA
- Year: 2012
- Length: 2:49 minutes (2.58 MB)
- Format: MP3 Mono 44kHz 128Kbps (CBR)
Today, the US Senate extended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, for five more years. The controversial law allows the government to secretly monitor phone calls and emails that involve at least one party believed to be outside the US. The Act was approved despite concerns from privacy rights advocates and some lawmakers that the broad surveillance powers could violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and requires probable cause. Supporters of the Act, including California Senator Dianne Feinstein, argued there was no time to add in accountability and privacy amendments. Feinstein spoke to FSRN after the vote.
“We have just till Sunday to get the bill signed, otherwise it’s a huge process that stops. If the program goes down, in my view, it is a very large national security risk. The only way you prevent attacks from happening is to know something is going to happen, which means you have to have good intelligence, and this is a program by which that intelligence is drawn. So there were no amendments. We took up the House bill so it could go right to the President and get signed.”
But Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy told FSRN that the deadline to reapprove the law was known well in advance.
“We put all these amendments together last July so we’d have time to get them done, and I’m disappointed we didn’t, because I support much of what’s in FISA, but I want real accountability. And I don’t know how you get it.”
Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, a former member of the intelligence committee, told his Senate colleagues ahead of today’s vote that the highly secretive program threatens Americans’ civil liberties. Wyden introduced an amendment that would have required the NSA to disclose to lawmakers and the public, how many US citizens have been monitored under the program.
“Mr. President, this is an important time for American security. It will always an important time for American security. It is also an important time for American liberty. And this amendment ensures that we can strike the appropriate balance between protecting our countries well-being and also protecting the individual liberties that we all cherish.”
Wyden’s amendment, along with several others designed to increase oversight of the program, did not pass. Senators approved the FISA extension 73 to 23. It already passed the House in September and will now go to President Obama’s desk to be signed. Privacy advocates are attempting to get the Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of warrantless wiretapping.