Congress plunged another spike into freedom. On September 12, the House passed HR 5949: FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2012. The measure carried 301 – 118. Seventy-four Democrats joined 227 Republicans. Nancy Pelosi voted Yea. So did Steny Hoyer, Howard Berman, Brad Sherman, Gary Ackerman, Nita Lowey, and Marcy Kaptur.
On December 28, the Senate followed suit. With little debate, it overwhelmingly renewed warrantless spying 73 – 23. Thirty Democrats and Independent Joe Lieberman joined 42 Republicans. Congressional profiles in courage don’t exist. America’s Secretary of State designee, John Kerry, voted Yea. So did Democrats Reid, Levin, Conrad, Cardin, Mikulski, Feinstein, Stabenow, and Schumer.
Perhaps before yearend, Obama will sign it into law. He may have already done so quietly. He calls the measure a national security priority. New Year’s eve enactment would repeat last year’s December 31 disgrace. Indefinite detention harshness became law. US citizens and permanent residents are as vulnerable as others.
Unpopular measures slip under the radar when few notice. Weekends and holiday breaks conceal blows to freedom.
Warrantless spying is extended another five years. Overseas phone calls, emails, and other communications of US citizens and permanent residents may be monitored without court authorization.
Probable cause isn’t needed. Electronic eavesdropping will look for “foreign intelligence information.” Virtually anything qualifies. Vague language is all-embracing.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked why is warrantless domestic spying important? Key FISA Amendments Act provisions were challenged before the Supreme Court (Clapper v. Amnesty International).
Months after 9/11, Bush secretly authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans lawlessly. Sweeping surveillance followed without court-approved warrants. Doing so violates core constitutional protections. Conditions now are worse than then.
On October 29, High Court oral arguments were heard. Justices will decide if lawyers, journalists, labor, media, human rights organizations, and others may challenge the constitutionality of warrantless spying.
In March 2011, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled they and others the law affects have legal standing to challenge. ACLU spokeswoman Rachel Myers called it “a really big victory.”
It means potentially affected parties “don’t have to prove (they’ve) been spied on to challenge an unlawful spy act.”
The Court overruled a district judge claiming otherwise. It said “plaintiffs have good reason to believe that their communications in particular, will fall within the scope of the broad surveillance that they can assume the government will conduct.”
Their jobs entail overseas phone, email and other communications. Warrantless spying targets these activities. Government officials claim they may “be associated with terrorist activities.” Corroborating evidence isn’t needed.