The US Senate has voted to approve warrantless surveillance of Americans for counter-terrorism purposes for another five years, says The Verge. The bill extends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008, which granted retroactive immunity for wiretaps and email monitoring under the Bush Administration.
Opponents argued the bill should have been amended to protect the rights of Americans who might be surveilled by intelligence agencies monitoring the calls of foreigners.
The final Senate vote was 73 in favor and 23 against. The bill already passed the House of Representatives in September, with 301 voting for and 118 against. Now, it will proceed to the desk of President Obama, who said earlier this year that his administration “strongly” supported the House bill. That means it’s on track to be extended just before the original law expires on December 31st.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation supported a series of four amendments that would grant additional protections to citizens or make a certain level of transparency mandatory.
Those included Senator Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) attempt to make the NSA estimate how many Americans it was watching, an amendment from Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to release court opinions on the Act, Rand Paul’s (R-Ken.) proposal to spell out Fourth Amendment protections as applying to electronic communications, and the Leahy Sunset Amendment, which would have set the Act to expire in three years instead of five and require an independent review.
But all of these amendments were shot down on the Senate floor.
Whistleblowers like former NSA codebreaker William Binney say that surveillance programs catch hundreds of thousands of American citizens in their dragnet. But attempts to criticize the law have been blocked by the fact that no one — including the Senate’s intelligence committee — is allowed to know much of anything about how it actually works.
The NSA may be its own worst enemy. At some point the NSA and affiliated agencies will need to lay off highly skilled people. Some percentage will pursue crime. In Russia, many ex-KGBers now work for the Russian Mafia.
In a TED Talk recorded in February 2011, security expert Ralph Langner stated that, “The leading force behind Stuxnet is the cyber superpower – there is only one; and that’s the United States.”
He also made the bigger point that having developed Stuxnet as a computer weapon, the United States has in effect introduced it into the world’s cyber-arsenal.
The National Security Agency’s “Perfect Citizen” program, reportedly hunts for vulnerabilities in “large-scale” utilities, including power grid and gas pipeline controllers, new documents from EPIC show.
The 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which oversees the N.S.A. activities, was up for renewal in December. This vote was the last chance for Congress to enact meaningful review of surveillance activities for the next five years.
ReadWrite reviews six pending regulations that Could Destroy The Internet In 2013.
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