Dec 14, 2012
We could be celebrating the New Year by ripping out the fiber optic cables that are sending copies of all our emails to the National Security Agency. But instead, Congress is planning on ringing in 2013 by re-authorizing parts of the FISA Amendments Act, the controversial 2008 bill that allows Americans speaking to people overseas to be surveilled without warrants.
The House of Representatives has already  passed a five-year extension on the Act with no reforms. Now the Senate has only a few days left to consider the matter, and our contacts in DC say the Senate is planning on reauthorizing the bill for 5 years without any meaningful amendments to protect privacy or increase transparency, much less allow Senators to debate its merits.
The FISA Amendments Act allows the NSA warrantless access to Americans communicating with a “target” overseas as long as the conversation deals with “foreign intelligence information”—a broad term that can mean virtually anything . And unlike regular warrants, FISA Amendments Act orders can target whole groups of people—so one order could potentially affect thousands of Americans—and don’t require probable cause that a crime has been committed.
Many believe that the government uses this law to justify receiving a fire hose of information about how Americans use the Internet. Whistleblower evidence  (PDF) provided by AT&T technician Mark Klein and former NSA employee William Binney show that the NSA has installed equipment in AT&T facilities, creating a copy of all Internet traffic flowing through facility—including our domestic and international emails and web browsing data—and sending that data to the government.