The Washington Times
Congress on Friday voted to renew a key foreign surveillance law despite push-back from critics who say it poses serious violations of constitutional privacy rights for Americans.
The Senate passed a five-year extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments (FISA) Act by a bipartisan vote of 73-23. The bill, which easily passed the House earlier this year, is expected to be signed by President Obama.
FISA was established in 1978 and allows US intelligence agencies to conduct physical and electronic surveillance of foreign terrorist suspects overseas. Americans can get swept up in an investigation if officials think they're in contact with a suspected terrorist.
Several provisions in the law, which was updated and extended in 2008, are scheduled to expire Tuesday.
The measure says intelligence officials can't intentionally target a specific American, nor intentionally acquire communications that are "known at the time of acquisition" to be wholly domestic.
But some contend innocent citizens can easily get swept up in such investigations and that their phone calls and emails can be reviewed without a warrant.
Critics say Americans may be unaware a friend or family member with whom they've communicated has been targeted as a suspected or potential terrorist. They also say such action threatens constitutional privacy rights because intelligence officials can eavesdrop on them without a warrant.
Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, a leading opponent of extending FISA without significant changes, said the law threatens "individual liberties" of Americans.
An amendment proposed by Mr. Wyden that would have strengthened privacy rights of Americans failed by eight votes.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 12/28/2012
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