Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to approve H.R. 5949, legislation extending the FISA Amendments Act for 5 more years. The FISA Amendments Act was passed in 2008, legalizing a previously illegal federal government program that seized Americans’ personal information, wiretapping their telephone calls, snooping on their emails, and conducting surveillance on their use of the Internet – all without any search warrant or any other certification of suspicion of criminal activity.
Before the passage of the legislation, Congressman John Dingell denounced the law, noting the manner in which the FISA Amendments Act undermines the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to protect the constitutional rights of people in the United States. Dingell warned that the FISA Amendents Act, “makes an end-run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, FISC, by allowing the government to conduct surveillance without a FISC warrant. Such a broad exercise of power undermines our system of checks and balances and has grave implications for the protection of our constitutional rights. We should be enhancing the role of the FISC to ensure that the rights of American citizens are protected while the government collects intelligence to help defend our nation.”
The House of Representatives did not heed Dingell’s warning. The extension of the FISA Amendments Act, without reform, was approved on a vote of 301 to 118.