Friday Jan 04, 201309:34 PM GMT
Senator blasts warrantless wiretapping: There's going to be extraordinary anger
Fri Jan 4, 2013 9:33PM
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President Barack Obama this week renewed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, despite his own misgivings about the law's broad reach. The law allows the government to use warrantless wiretapping to monitor overseas phone calls and emails, and keeps the interpretations of the how the law can be applied secret from the public.

 

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.) spoke to HuffPost Live's Mike Sacks on Thursday about his opposition to the application of the law.

 

"When the public finds out that these secret interpretations are so dramatically different than what the public law says, I think there's going to be extraordinary anger in the country," Wyden said. "Because it's one thing to have debates about laws... but we assume that the law itself is public."

FACTS & FIGURES

Federal detectives won’t need a warrant to eavesdrop on the emails and phone calls of Americans for another five years. President Obama reauthorized an intelligence gathering bill on Sunday that puts national security over constitutional rights. RT

 

Obama inked his name over the weekend to an extension of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a George W. Bush-era legislation that has allowed the government expansive spy powers that has been considered by some to be dragnet surveillance. RT

 

FISA was first signed into law in the 1970s in order to put into place rules regarding domestic spying within the United States. Upon the passing of the FAA in 2008, however, the online and over-the-phone activities of Americans became subject to sweeping, warrantless wiretapping in instances where investigators reasonably suspect US citizens to be engaged in conversation with persons located outside of the country. RT

 

Critics say Americans may be unaware a friend or family member with whom they have communicated has been targeted in a terrorism probe. They also say such action threatens privacy rights because intelligence officials can eavesdrop on them without a warrant. Washington Times

 

Sen. Ron Wyden, a leading opponent of extending FISA without significant changes, said the Founding Fathers would abhor the law because it violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Washington Times

 

“You can’t just go out checking everybody in sight with the prospect of that maybe there’s someone who’s done something wrong,” Mr. Wyden said on the Senate floor Friday. “Government officials may only search someone’s house if they have evidence that someone is breaking the law and they show the evidence to a judge to get an individual warrant.” Washington Times

 

As a Senator, Obama vowed he would end warrantless wiretaps and initially opposed the FISA law based on the addition of telecom immunity, but ultimately voted for it with immunity intact just six months before winning the 2008 presidential election. Incidentally, the plan was opposed then by six in 10 Americans, according to a poll by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

 

Civil liberties advocates are worried that the spy agencies might be able to use intelligence gathering capabilities ostensibly targeted at foreigners -- a legal practice under the law -- to search their databases for Americans' emails and phone calls without a warrant. Huffington Post

 

“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 American Civil Liberties Union. “The Bush administration’s program of warrantless wiretapping, once considered a radical threat to the Fourth Amendment, has become institutionalized for another five years.” aclu.org

AGB/AGB

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