Defenders of civil liberties and privacy advocates expressed their discontent on Thursday after the U.S. Senate passed a bill that reauthorizes and expands the ability of the goverment to spy on the digital communications without a warrant.
With a final vote of 65-34 vote in favor, the passage of the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017—now headed to President Donald Trump's desk for a signature—will extend for six years a provision known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which allows for call the "unconstitutional spying" on emails, text messages, and other digital communications of both Americans and foreign nationals without a warrant.
BREAKING: The Senate just approved (65-34) an appalling bill to extend Section 702—one of the NSA’s most powerful spying tools. While nominally directed at foreign intelligence surveillance, this bill actually violates Americans' 4th Amendment rights to privacy. (1/10)
— EFF (@EFF) January 18, 2018
The rollcall of the vote can be found here.
"Congress abdicated its responsibility to ensure that our intelligence agencies respect the Fourth Amendment," said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel for the ACLU, in response.
No president should have this power, much less one who has endorsed policies designed to unfairly target critics, immigrants, and minority communities.
— ACLU (@ACLU) January 18, 2018
Though the ACLU and its allies had backed a number of amendments to address both privacy and constitutional concerns, all those measures were defeated in both the House and Senate.
"Instead of instituting much needed reforms, lawmakers voted to give the Trump administration broad powers to spy on Americans and foreigners at home and abroad without a warrant," said Guliani. "No president should have this power, much less one who has endorsed policies designed to unfairly target critics, immigrants, and minority communities."
The vote, lamented Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, "means six more years of FBI access to giant databases of these NSA-collected communications, for purposes of routine domestic law enforcement that stray far from the original justification of national security."
In an open letter to allies who also fight for internet privacy protections, Cohn said that while the passage of the bill is disappointing it would not stop her group from fighting for "a secure digital world, free from government surveillance and censorship."
"While Congress failed the American people today," she said, "[we] will not."
How did your senators vote?
Cortez Masto (D-NV)
Van Hollen (D-MD)