Feeds

Senate votes to continue FISA domestic spying through 2017

All proposed privacy amendments rejected

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

The US Senate has voted by overwhelming majority to extend the provisions of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 – the controversial law that grants intelligence agencies broad authority to spy on US citizens – for another five years.

The law, which was first passed in the wake of the Bush-era warrantless wiretapping scandal, grants telecoms companies blanket immunity from prosecution for participating in domestic surveillance.

In addition, it specifically authorizes intelligence agencies to monitor the phone, email, and other communications of US citizens for up to a week without obtaining a warrant, provided one of the parties to the communications is outside the US.

Critics of the act claim it violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, but the Obama administration has argued that the law "is necessary to keep the American people safe."

"Intelligence collection under [the act] has produced and continues to produce significant information that is vital to defend the Nation against international terrorism and other threats," the administration said in a policy statement in September.

As originally drafted, the law would have expired on Monday, but on Friday the Senate elected to extend it through 2017 by a vote of 73–23, with four abstentions.

Several proposed amendments to the bill would have offered increased transparency and added privacy protections, but all were rejected in the Senate vote.

Civil rights organizations were quick to blast the vote, characterizing the FISA Amendments Act as an unconstitutional law that grants the government excessive and unchecked surveillance authority.

In a statement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation called the vote "shameful" and "disgraceful," adding, "Make no mistake: this vote was nothing less than abdication by Congress of its role as watchdog over Executive power, and a failure of its independent obligation to protect the Bill of Rights."

The American Civil Liberties Union also chimed in, saying, "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. The Bush administration's program of warrantless wiretapping, once considered a radical threat to the Fourth Amendment, has become institutionalized for another five years."

Despite such objections, however, the extension is now all but a done deal. The House passed it in September by a similarly wide margin of 301–118, leaving it only for President Obama to sign it into law, which he is expected to do over the weekend. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.