The U.S. Washington Post reports that the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence voted yesterday to move forward with a five-year extension of unconstitutional surveillance of Americans’ personal emails, telephone calls, Internet activities and other communications. The name and number of the legislation that would renew Big Brother spying against immense numbers of Americans under the FISA Amendments Act was not revealed by the Washington Post… and there’s no real way for us to know what it is and what the legislation would do, except to trust the Washington Post reporter’s word that it exists.
We also can’t tell you who on the committee voted in favor of advancing the legislation toward the floor of the U.S. senate. We can’t even say whether there were any votes in opposition at all. Even the simple fact of which senators were present at the committee meeting is unavailable to us.
That’s because when the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence met yesterday to discuss and hold a vote on legislation to extend the FISA Amendments Act by five years, it did so as part of a secret hearing, shutting out the American people.
This law is depriving us of our constitutional right under the Fourth Amendment to protection from warrantless searches and seizures of our personal information, but the Senate isn’t even allowing us to know what they know, and what they’re voting on, in regards to the law. There isn’t any official legislation yet on the books for us to investigate through the Library of Congress. We’re all left in the dark, lucky that a reporter at the Washington Post has an inside relationship.
That’s not how a democracy ought to work.
What’s worse is that even the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence isn’t being told how the extraordinary, unconstitutional powers of the FISA Amendments Act are being used. Senator Ron Wyden has stated that the Executive Branch has refused to tell anyone on the committee how many Americans are having their personal communications wiretapped by the government, in what conditions the surveillance is taking place, and with what justification. Even in secret, the small number of U.S. senators who are supposed to be given clearance to have information about how the FISA Amendments Act is being used are being deprived of that information by the Obama Administration.
And yet, that committee just voted in approval of legislation that, if passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law, will allow the FISA Amendments Act spying against Americans to continue for five more years without any reform. Why?
We’ve been through several rounds of this, under George W. Bush and under Barack Obama, and the American people have never gotten adequate answers to their questions. There is no public evidence that the FISA Amendments Act is being conducted constitutionally, or even that it is genuinely targeting terrorists.
The time has come for the FISA Amendments Act to expire. Years have passed in which reforms of the law could have been crafted. Yet, no reforms are even being proposed by the White House or Congress. Therefore, the only responsible vote for any member of Congress on any legislation that extends the FISA Amendments Act in any way is NO.