December 30, 2012

Congress sends illegal eavesdropping bill to White House

Guardian, UK - Civil rights campaigners voiced dismay on Friday over the US Senate's re-authorization of the government's warrantless surveillance program, and the defeat of two amendments that would have provided for basic oversight of the eavesdropping.

The Senate voted 73-23 to extend the law, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act, for five years. The House of Representatives has already passed the measure, which President Obama has said he will sign.

"We're incredibly disappointed, not just that it passed, but that they rejected some very moderate amendments that wouldn't have interfered with the collection of intelligence," said Michelle Richardson, an ACLU expert on surveillance issues.

The amended FISA Act was passed in 2008 to retroactively cover Bush-era domestic surveillance. The law permits the National Security Agency to track communication between foreign targets and people inside the United States without obtaining a warrant. Critics say it violates fourth amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. NSA whistleblower Bill Binney has estimated that the agency, under protection of the law, has "assembled" 20 trillion transactions between US citizens.

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