Senate Reauthorizes Warrantless Wiretapping

December 28, 2012

After Defeating Moderate Reforms, Senate Extends Unchecked Surveillance Powers for Five Years

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – The Senate today reauthorized the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, an unconstitutional spying bill that violates the Fourth Amendment and gives vast, unchecked surveillance authority to the government. The FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5949), passed on a 73-23 vote, authorizes the National Security Agency to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international emails and phone calls.

“It’s a tragic irony that FISA, once passed to protect Americans from warrantless government surveillance, has mutated into its polar opposite due to the FISA Amendments Act,” said Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel at the ACLU. “The Bush administration’s program of warrantless wiretapping, once considered a radical threat to the Fourth Amendment, has become institutionalized for another five years.”

Earlier, four amendments seeking to make the FISA Amendments Act more transparent and accountable—including a moderate request for a rough estimate of how many Americans’ domestic communications have been intercepted—were defeated.

There was, however, a move in the right direction, said Richardson. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) pledged to work with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) over the next year to publicly disclose how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court interprets the FISA Amendments Act. The ACLU will monitor this situation during the new year.

Immediately after FISA was signed into law in 2008, the ACLU sued to challenge the law’s constitutionality. More information on the lawsuit and the ACLU’s work to end illegal spying can be found at www.aclu.org/faa.

More information on the moderate amendments the ACLU supported can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/aclu_backgroud_on_amendments_for_web_pub_12.27.12.pdf

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