The U.S. Senate voted to approve a 5-year extension on the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which will allows warrantless surveillance of anyone in regards to counter-terrorism.
This bill extends what is known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008, which allowed intelligence agencies the power to monitor E-mail or monitor your Internet traffic.
The bill came about in 2007 when then-Director of National Intelligence Admiral Mike McConnell told Congress that the original FISA passage in 1978 was a hindrance. He stated that it took a considerable amount of time to obtain warrants for monitoring terrorists. The Admiral further iterated that some two-thirds of the information they needed wasn’t available because of the slow process of getting a warrant for surveillance.
In July of 2008, then-U.S. President George Bush signed the FISA Amendments Act in support of the intelligence community’s so-called need for easier electronic monitoring of communication. The act was supposedly set in place to protect American’s civil liberties while getting the upper hand on terrorists.
When the bill extension passed in September 2012, with a 301 to 118 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, it stirred up a new whirlwind of controversy. The far-reaching enhancements FISA provided to the U.S. government in 2008 angered many privacy groups, many members of Congress and at least one former NSA intelligence agent who became a whistleblower against the agency.
The 1978 passage of FISA was made in an effort to actually protect American Citizens from being spied on, but with these new amendments those protections are pretty much gone for good. New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler who spoke out against the extension said that citizens of the United States have nothing to do with foreign intelligence gathering. “The American people deserve better,” Nadler said. “And Congress has an obligation to exert more control over spy agencies than simply to give them a blank check for another five years.
Just a few weeks ago a William Binney, who served as a former NSA cryptographer and code breaker exposed the NSA for what he claims to be constant E-mail monitoring by the NSA on all Americans. Binney left the NSA in 2001 over what he described as illegal acts of domestic spying by the agency. He also claims that the systems he built for the agency were turned against the American people and not for what they were intended. In an interview with Russia Today, Binney said that the NSA was violating the very foundation the U.S. was built upon.
Originally the extension would have expired on December 31, 2012, but on Friday, December 28, 2012 the Senate voted 73-23, in favor of extending FISA’s Amendments Act of 2008 until December 31, 2017. The bill will now move to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. And for those of you who felt the President may veto the bill, his administration has already stated that he and his administration are strongly in favor of it.
Many privacy groups and lawmakers have tried to fight the extension on the FISA amendments in the past. Some lawmakers have even asked for details on just how many Americans the NSA may be monitoring only to have their request denied stating that it would “impede the NSA’s mission.” It's quite evident these types of bills are here to stay.