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Excerpt: "The Obama administration wanted a quick, no-questions-asked-or-answered renewal of broad electronic eavesdropping powers that largely legalized the Bush administration's illegal warrantless wiretapping program. ... But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has stepped in to stop the bill because the government refuses to say how often the spy powers are being used."

Wyden has barred the Senate from a routine vote on the renewal of broad electronic eavesdropping powers that largely legalized the Bush administration's illegal warrantless wiretapping program. (photo: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg)
Wyden has barred the Senate from a routine vote on the renewal of broad electronic eavesdropping powers that largely legalized the Bush administration's illegal warrantless wiretapping program. (photo: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg)

Lone Senator Blocks Renewal of NSA Wiretap Program

By David Kravets, Wired

15 June 12


he Obama administration wanted a quick, no-questions-asked-or-answered renewal of broad electronic eavesdropping powers that largely legalized the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program. That’s despite President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to revisit and revise the rules to protect Americans’ rights.

Everything seemed to be going to plan after a Senate committee approved the re-authorization in secret last month.

But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has stepped in to stop the bill because the government refuses to say how often the spy powers are being used.

Wyden has barred the Senate from a routine vote using a little-used legislative power - called a hold - to block lawmakers from taking a procedural consent vote. Instead, he demands a floor debate that can draw out the approval process indefinitely via the filibuster.

Wyden did the same thing a year ago with the Protect IP Act. That legislation, which would have dramatically increased the government’s legal power to disrupt and shutter websites “dedicated to infringing activities,” subsequently died a loud death in January amid a turbulent internet backlash.

The senator’s latest move targets the FISA Amendment Act. The legislation, expiring at year’s end, authorizes the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and emails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is outside the United States. The communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee secretly approved the measure May 22 (.pdf) for a full floor vote, and released those results days ago. In response, Wyden placed a hold on the measure late Monday. Among other reasons, he said the government should disclose how many Americans’ communications have been intercepted under the law, which was adopted in 2008 as a way to legalize the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

“Before Congress votes to renew these authorities it is important to understand how they are working in practice,” Wyden said. “In particular, it is important for Congress to better understand how many people inside the United States have had their communications collected or reviewed under the authorities granted by the FISA Amendments Act.”

Wyden asked the Obama administration a year ago for that information. The administration replied (.pdf) that it was “not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed under the authority of the FAA.”

Wyden added that the law should be amended to prevent the government “from searching through these communications in an effort to find the phone calls or emails of a particular American, unless the government has obtained a warrant or emergency authorization permitting surveillance of that American.” He and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) proposed that amendment last month, and it failed.

The FISA Amendments Act generally requires the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court to rubber-stamp terror-related electronic surveillance requests that target Americans’ communications. The government does not have to identify the target or facility to be monitored. It can begin surveillance a week before making the request, and the surveillance can continue during the appeals process if, in a rare case, the secret FISA court rejects the surveillance application. The court’s rulings are not public.

The House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security debated the measure last month and appeared willing to side with the Obama administration’s demands that lawmakers re-authorize the bill, as the Senate Intelligence committee did. The Senate’s measure extends the powers until June 1, 2017. The House committee has not moved its measure to the floor for a full vote.

Then-senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama voted for the measure in 2008, though he said the bill was flawed and that he would push to amend it if elected. Instead, Obama, as president, simply continued the Bush administration’s legal tactics aimed at crushing any judicial scrutiny of the wiretapping program, and his administration is now demanding that federal lawmakers extend the legislation.

The Supreme Court next term is expected to hear a constitutional challenge to the law amid allegations it violates Americans’ Fourth Amendment privacy rights.

A Wyden spokeswoman said Thursday the senator might be willing to agree to a “short term” extension of the measure, instead of seeing the spy powers lapse, in a bid to give lawmakers more time to reach a deal. your social media marketing partner


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+48 # MidwestTom 2012-06-15 08:50
We all need to donate to Wyden. He is a very brave Senator.
+36 # Carbonman1950 2012-06-15 08:52
Given that warrantless wiretaps are un-constitution al on their face (convoluted legal "reasoning" and "opinion" not withstanding), his reasoning is a bit wishy-washy.

None-the-less - thank you very much, Senator Wyden. If we only had a few more like him we might be able to reverse this 40 year long drift into police-statehoo d.
+11 # John Locke 2012-06-15 14:42
Did we notice Obama wants this authorization, another change from a campaign promise, perhaps all these changes from what he promised is the change we can believe in!
+10 # Stephanie Remington 2012-06-16 00:43
Anyone who believed that particular campaign promise wasn't paying attention. He promised in December 2007 to filibuster any legislation that granted retroactive immunity to telecommunicati ons companies. In June 2008, when faced with exactly that legislation, he not only failed to filibuster it, he voted for it.

AT&T threw him and the other Democrats who supported the bill a thank you party at the Democratic National Convention. Press was not allowed inside and none of the invitees would respond to questions posed by the two journalists (Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald) who showed up at the event – and had to wait outside – to find out what was going on.
+34 # paulrevere 2012-06-15 09:10
+26 # Trueblue Democrat 2012-06-15 10:05
Do you know where YOUR senators were while this brave man was playing Horatio at the Bridge?

I know where mine were, Texas' two corporate lick-spittles:

John Cornyn was taking bribes as usual from mega-buck corporations (mainly big oil) and Kay Feloney Hutchison was as always busy being a superannuated cheerleader for the super-rich.
+8 # Mohanraj 2012-06-15 10:13
It seems there is only ONE TRUE Democrat in the Senate, or perhaps in the entire admiistration. But typical of the Democrats, Wyden too is prepared to bend backwards by agreeing to a short term extension. If Ron Paul, though a Republican, were in the Senate, he would have opposed this measure tooth and nail and refused to agree to even short term extension. He is the only one on both sides of the aisle who steadfastly upholds the basic freedoms of citizens.
+4 # SundownLF 2012-06-15 20:25
Yeah, he "upholds the basic freedoms of citizens" unless those citizens happen to be women who want birth control and/or abortion.

Be careful what you wish for!
+27 # 2012-06-15 10:32
Ron Wyden makes me proud to be an Oregonian. The two Senators from Oregon are true representation of their constituents. Thank you Sen. Wyden, keep up the good fight.
0 # LML 2012-06-21 02:48
Make that another proud Oregonian....
+21 # Jane Doe 2012-06-15 11:26
I am so proud to be an Oregonian! Wyden reminds me often of Paul Wellstone who stood up to the powerful evil-doers in Congress.
+18 # Rangzen 2012-06-15 12:07
A man with the courage to stand alone for what is right is the rarity who redeems us as a species.
+8 # futhark 2012-06-15 22:55
I would advise Senator Wyden to not travel in small airplanes for a while. Wing icing can do crazy things to an airplane during takeoff, especially if the plane's electronic instruments are simultaneously fried by an intense magnetic field pulse. Oh, it's almost summer...but you can never tell when an airplane's wings might ice up.

There are those among us who think that the official explanation for Senator Wellstone's premature demise is less than adequate. His removal from the Senate immediately before the vote on the PATRIOT Act was certainly convenient for lackeys of the surveillance state.
+5 # Kauai John 2012-06-16 19:46
Wellstone was murdered. And the murder was covered up.
-4 # Kauai John 2012-06-16 19:45
Ron Wyden is no Paul Wellstone!

Paul Wellstone was genuine hero. In comparison Wyden is a cheap fake since he is hardly consistent in 'standing up for the little guy'.
+16 # Bodiotoo 2012-06-15 13:31
Thank you Senator Wyden.
+5 # mdhome 2012-06-15 14:39
I have to wonder how long till "they" figure a way to end his voice.
0 # Kauai John 2012-06-16 19:43
Considering the stupid positions Wyden has taken in the past, you might find me as one of "them", even though on the surface, Wyden's position on this issue seems to be one I'd strongly support.

Let's just wait to see what he does 'in the end'. I have a feeling we'll all be disappointed.
0 # LML 2012-06-21 02:48
Yes, but at this point we should be happy with this shred....Obviou sly no one else was up to it!!
+7 # Phlippinout 2012-06-15 15:13
Thank you Ron
+6 # noitall 2012-06-15 23:45
This is what an UNOWNED politician looks like! I thought they were extinct.
0 # Kauai John 2012-06-16 19:40
Wyden is a conundrum.

While I certainly support his position on this bill, I recall several times that Wyden's position was antithetical to mine and what I believe the Democratic party -should- (not does) stand for.

For example, the way he has sabotaged Medicare and other "entitlements" (Funny how insurance from the government is an 'entitlement') by 'compromising' with Paul Ryan.
+1 # Innocent Victim 2012-06-16 20:40
Mine, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, was playing with his Apollo flight-simulato r.

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