Expiring Warrantless Spy Bill to Be Reauthorized by Year’s End
U.S. spies can rest easy knowing that the nation’s warrantless wiretapping program — secretly employed by the President George W. Bush administration in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks — won’t expire at year’s end.
That’s because Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said Wednesday he would lift his procedural hold that bars the Senate from voting on the FISA Amendments Act, which the President Barack Obama administration maintains is its top national-security priority. The only real issue is for how many years the spy bill will be extended for, and whether any transparency or privacy protections will be written into the spy program that Congress codified in 2008.
The act, subject to a constitutional challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union and others before the Supreme Court, authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed to be outside the United States. Communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”
But Wyden stepped in to stop the bill because the government refuses to say how often the eavesdropping powers are being used to spy on Americans. Wyden asked the Obama administration a year ago for that information, but it refused.