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Obama signs bill to extend warrantless email surveillance

As expected, President Obama has agreed to extend FISA, a bill that gives the government broad powers to read Americans' private email, for another five years.


Kevin Collier


Posted on Dec 31, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 4:34 am CDT

President Obama has long supported a secretive, controversial bill that would allow government agencies to continue to monitor your emails without a warrant for another five years.

At 5:30 P.M. Sunday, he signed that bill, the FISA Amendment Act, into law.

It’s not a surprise: Leaked documents show that the White House, in addition to wanting the law to pass, strongly opposed four Senate amendments to temper FISA. None of those came close, and the unchanged Senate bill passed with ease, 73-23.

Though there was no real chance of Obama vetoing FISA, its critics came out strongly when it was before the Senate. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) noted that the NSA refused even estimate how many Americans it had monitored under FISA’s powers, and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) cried foul that the very court rulings that allow FISA to be used on Americans’ emails are classified. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) went the constitutional route, saying FISA violated the Fourth Amendment.

Groups that advocate Internet privacy rights, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, didn’t mince words in their reaction to the bill’s passage. The EFF called FISA “an insult to our Constitution” and “disgraceful.”

Though Obama’s timing would indicate he’s not interested in making a show of signing FISA, he has a long history with it. He opposed it early in his Senate career. Then, as a Presidential candidate in 2008, he supported that year’s version of the bill, a change of position that so angered some of his supporters, he offered an editorial on the Huffington Post explaining his change of heart.

Photo via Barack Obama/Facebook

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*First Published: Dec 31, 2012, 1:39 pm CST