Congress approves 5-year extension of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
WASHINGTON — The Senate gave final congressional approval on Friday to a bill renewing the government's authority to monitor overseas phone calls and emails of suspected foreign spies and terrorists — but not Americans —without obtaining a court order for each intercept.
The classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act program was on the brink of expiring by year's end. The 73-23 vote sent the bill to a supportive President Obama, whose signature would keep the warrantless intercept program in operation for five more years.
The Senate majority rejected arguments from an unusual combination of Democratic liberals and ideological Republican conservatives, who sought to amend the bill to require the government to reveal statistics showing whether any Americans were swept up in the foreign intercepts. The attempt lost, with 52 votes against and 43 in favor.
The Obama administration's intelligence community and leaders of the Senate's intelligence committee said the information should be classified and opposed the disclosure, repeating that it is illegal to target Americans without an order from a special U.S. surveillance court.
The group seeking more disclosures also sought — unsuccessfully — a determination by the government of whether any intelligence agency attempted to use information gained from foreigners to search for information on Americans without a warrant, referred to as “back-door” searches. The prohibition against targeting Americans without a warrant protects Americans wherever they are, in the United States or elsewhere.
The debate focused on the need to balance national security with civil liberties. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the chairwoman and top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned that the classified intercept program would be jeopardized if even statistical information was disclosed. They sparred repeatedly with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who held the bill up for months until he was allowed to argue on the Senate floor that Americans' civil liberties were in danger under the law.
During debate that began Thursday, Feinstein bluntly told Wyden, a fellow liberal, that she opposed his disclosure amendment because, “I know where this goes. Where it goes is to destroy the program.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fetal parts in Planned Parenthood lab shown in 4th video
- Feds eye use of federal dollars for ads for for-profit colleges
- Protesters ousted in bid to block Shell icebreaker on Portland river
- Minn. dentist laying low in slaying of lion
- Highway bill on Obama’s desk extends funding 3 months
- VA whistle-blowers aghast
- Piece of plant found on island on way to France for analysis
- OSU band song mocked Holocaust victims
- McClatchy: Emails on Clinton’s private server contain Benghazi information
- Geological gem The Wave on Arizona-Utah border draws worldwide visitors
- Only 1 co-op health program, of 23, made money in 2014, report says