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House extends warrantless email snooping for 5 more years

The House voted Wednesday to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows government agencies to monitor international communications—including email—without warrants.


Kevin Collier


Posted on Sep 13, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 11:09 am CDT

The House of Representatives agrees: The government should still be allowed to keep reading your emails.

By a vote of 301-118, the House approved H. R. 5949, introduced by Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), a bill to extend 2008’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for another five years. Intended to allow government agencies to monitor potential terrorist communications, FISA also allows them to monitor American citizens’ emails, as well as phone calls, without probable cause if they’re used in international conversation.  And if they believe it might help them get closer to Al-Qaeda, agents can spy on domestic emails too, and all without a warrant.

Critics consider FISA a gross invasion of privacy. Twenty major advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the PEN American Center, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, all signed a letter strongly condemning the extension.

Among the letter’s claims is that the National Security Agency has used FISA to justify spying on even more Americans’ emails than is legal, adding:

[D]espite evidence of impropriety, the government has not publicly detailed the extent of the problem or publicly explained what, if anything, it has done to prevent it from recurring.

“But it’s not over, we’re taking the fight to the Senate,” tweeted the Electronic Frontier Foundation. If FISA is not extended, the surveillance program will expire at the end of 2012.

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*First Published: Sep 13, 2012, 1:26 pm CDT