Senate Rejects Final FISA Amendment, Lets Spying Program Stay Shrouded In Secrecy

TechDirt

Yesterday, we covered the rushed last-minute debate over the FISA Amendments Act, after which three critical amendments that would have brought some accountability to the NSA's spying program were all struck down. This morning, the fourth and final such amendment from Senators Wyden and Udall was also rejected, in a vote of 52 to 43, meaning FISA will now move forward in its current (and likely unconstitutional) form.

What was in the Wyden-Udall amendment? Even according to the White House's leaked talking points, which were strongly opposed to the amendments, it sounds like something that just makes sense:

What the Amendment Does: Requires the DNI to submit a report to Congress and the public on the impact FAA and other surveillance authorities have on the privacy of United States persons.

As Wyden has pointed out in the past, and re-iterated during debate this morning, not only is Congress unable to get an estimate from the NSA on how many American citizens have been spied on through FISA, he is unable to even get a yes or no answer as to whether such an estimate exists. Considering FISA is supposed to be subject to Congressional oversight, this seems like a pretty big problem, and one worth fixing before renewing the program for another five years. Instead, the Senate voted to wash its hands of the issue, despite solid evidence that the NSA is engaged in widespread spying on US citizens and at least one known instance in which the 4th Amendment was violated. So much for checks and balances.

Update: As expected, immediately following the rejection of this amendment, the Senate voted to extend FISA for another five years.

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