With No Debate, US Senate Extends Warrantless Surveillance To 2023

After delaying a public debate on extending the controversial section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), as well as expanding NSA’s surveillance powers, for many months, the Senate voted yesterday not to have any debate before they vote on whether or not to pass the bill.

Five senators tried to filibuster the vote to end the debate, but the supporters of the surveillance bill extension were eventually able to get 60 senators that would vote against the debate, and thus bypass the filibuster.

Today, the Senate voted 65-34 to extend FISA for another six years (a year longer than the 2012 extension extension, and two years longer than the original bill’s four year-term). The bill was largely bipartisan, having seven Republican and five Democrats as co-sponsors.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Kirsten E. Gilibrand (D-NY), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) were the original co-sponsors who introduced the bill last month.

No Reforms Were Allowed

Besides there being no debate in the Senate, and little debate in the House, the leaders of the House and Senate also didn’t allow reform bills to reach the Congress floors, according to the EFF.  The senators were denied the opportunity to vote on bills and amendments that would bring strong reforms to the FISA surveillance bill.

Cindy Cohn, Executive Director at the EFF and civil liberties attorney, said:

This means six more years of warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. This is a long-abused law marketed as targeting foreigners abroad but which—intentionally and by design—subjects a tremendous amount of our Internet activities to government review, as they pass through key Internet checkpoints, and as they are stored by providers like Google and Facebook. Ultimately, the NSA uses Section 702 to sweep in and retain the communications of countless non-suspect Americans.

EFF To Redouble Its Efforts Going Forward

The EFF has already been involved in several lawsuits related to NSA’s surveillance programs, but it plans to do even more in the next few years, including bringing the FISA program in front of the Supreme Court.

The nonprofit will also continue to confront the NSA through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, in order to discover whether or not the government is secretly using the supposed “foreign intelligence” programs against Americans in court. The government has already admitted on several occasions that it has done so.

The EFF and ACLU have had a few failed attempts to sue the NSA in the past, because the courts argued that the organizations didn’t have standing. The EFF said it will continue to look for cases in which it can participate and where the victim has evidence of being illegally surveilled under these warrantless programs and therefore have standing in court, too.

The EFF also noted that it will continue to support projects that help internet users become more secure against mass surveillance, such as the HTTPS Everywhere extension and Certbot, a tool to automatically deploy Let’s Encrypt certificates on your site.

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