The National Intelligence Agency’s spying capabilities post 9/11 attacks were under discussion Thursday in the Senate with four separate oversight amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) denied. The final vote is scheduled for Friday and the full passage of the bill is expected sans alteration.
President Obama, once vocally opposed to the espionage laws, has embraced the passage of the unaltered bill.
According to Common Dreams:
With a final vote for full passage of the bill expected Friday, the defeat of the amendments spells near complete legalization of domestic spying practices which would have previously been found criminal.
First uncovered during the Bush years and slammed by Democrats, the FISA law passed in 2008 gave retroactive immunity to the Bush era abuse and strove to codify the program going forward.
Though he ran against such measures during his first run for president, the secret spying laws have now been embraced fully and championed by President Obama.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Today is an incredibly important vote for the future of your digital privacy, but some in Congress are hoping you won’t find out.
Finally, after weeks of delay, the Senate will start debate on the dangerous FISA Amendments Act at 10 a.m. Eastern and vote on its re-authorization by the end of the day. The FISA Amendments Act is the broad domestic spying bill passed in 2008 in the wake of the warrantless wiretapping scandal. It expires at the end of the year and some in Congress wanted to re-authorize it without a minute of debate.
According to Huffington Post:
Before the votes, a handful senators mounted a strenuous effort from the chamber's floor to demand more information about whether the foreign surveillance program is being used to spy on Americans.
Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, went so far as to compare the NSA to the British officials who used broad royal writs to invade colonists' homes prior to the American Revolution, eventually prompting the passage of the Fourth Amendment with its prohibition on unreasonable government searches.
"It is never okay, never okay for government officials to use a general warrant to deliberately invade the privacy of a law-abiding American," Wyden said. "It wasn’t okay for constables and customs officials to do it in colonial days, and it’s not okay for the National Security Agency to do it today."
While conceding that the bill could use some oversight improvements, Sen. Dianne Feinsten (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged passage of the bill without alteration to avoid prompting both a fight with the House of Representatives, which has already passed a "clean," unamended version of the bill, and also the program's expiration.
Without renewal, she said, "the program comes down. The program is interrupted."