Senate votes to let NSA, FBI keep spying on your email

As expected, the Senate has voted to keep the FISA Amendments Act, which will let government agencies like the NSA and FBI continue to monitor citizen emails without a warrant.

The Senate voted 73-23 to pass the Act Friday morning, after spending almost all day Thursday debating it. And not only did the Senate pass the extension—good for another five years—it voted down each of the four amendments designed to either limit its power or make it more transparent.

It voted down Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.)’s proposed amendment, which would have required the NSA to specify how many U.S. citizens it monitored. Wyden has long tried, unsuccessfully, to acquire that number. He addressed the Senate for hours Thursday, saying that it’s necessary to ensure proper oversight of the NSA, but his colleagues were unconvinced, defeating the amendment 43-52. The amendments required 60 yes votes to pass.

“The only thing @RonWyden’s amendment would do is give a general estimate of how many Americans are spied on. Yet Congress voted not to know,” tweeted the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The night before, the Senate considered three other amendments. Jeff Merkey (D-Oreg.) proposed an amendment that reflected another of Wyden’s pet causes: to make public the classified court interpretation of FISA (it was originally created to allow wiretapping of foreigners suspected of plotting against the U.S.) that lets it spy on U.S. citizens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) proposed that FISA simply be extended three more years instead of five.

Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the sole Republican to get heavily involved in either side of the debate, took a constitutionalist approach, noting that the Fourth Amendment provides “the right of people to be secure” against “unreasonable searches” without a warrant. His amendment, which would tack on an explicit clarification of how that amendment applies to the law, was the least popular, and was shot down 12-79.

Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) claimed to speak for the White House when she argued at length against each amendment and in favor of FISA’s passage, so it’s expected the bill will be signed into law almost immediately.

Screengrab of Wyden via C-SPAN

Kevin Collier

Kevin Collier

A former senior politics reporter for the Daily Dot, Kevin Collier focuses on privacy, cybersecurity, and issues of importance to the open internet. Since leaving the Daily Dot in March 2016, he has served as a reporter for Vocativ and a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed.