In the name of U.S. National Security, transparency and accountability rejected: Warrantless surveillance enforced
The United States Senate, on Friday, 28 December to the utter satisfaction of the Obama administration, passed amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to enforce government's warrantless surveillance program dismissing basic oversights of the eavesdropping.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is meant to allow the government to spy on suspected foreign agents abroad, but it is written in such a manner that it allows the government to snoop on conversations involving American citizens, as long as at least one end of the conversation involves a suspected agent of a foreign group overseas.
A combination of three Republican and Democratic Senators brought two amendments: One would have required the secret court that oversees surveillance requests to disclose "important rulings of law."; the other, would have required the government to estimate the number of US citizens it had spied on. Both were defeated.
"It's incredibly disappointing that such modest amendments that would have done nothing more than increase transparency and accountability failed to pass in the Senate," said Michelle Richardson of the American Civil Liberties Union said.
On December 20 the U.S. Senate voted 86 to 13 in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, allowing the indefinite detention of American citizens without due process of law and legal trial, another national security measure.The U.S. administration, previously under George W. Bush, and now under President Obama has adopted a series of laws in the name of national security, counter-terrorism and prevention of rearing terrorist acts on the American soil depicting transparency and accountability as an obstacle to the safety of the American nation.
The Obama administration measures, indefinite detention, warantless surveillance/eavesdropping and others can be construes as measures any other democratic nations that successfully combated terrorism and are still conscious of their national security need to adopt.
One such South Asian nation is Sri Lanka which is still conscious of the defeated LTTE (Tamil Tigers) rearing its head with the help and assistance of a section of Sri Lankan Diaspora living in western nations who effectively advocate a separate ethnic Tamil state in the north-east region of the Island.
Even with the opposition of human rights groups and many Republican and democratic US lawmakers the vast majority of the Senate and House Members reflected the sentiments of the Obama administration in passing the FISA amendment on Friday, December 28 as they ratified the indefinite detention without trial law previously on December 20.
When it came to national security, counter-terrorism and prevention of terrorist acts on the American soil or disruption of American interests abroad the lawmakers and the Obama administration set aside the issues of 'transparency and accountability'.
President Obama is expected to sign the FISA amendment legislation into law over the weekend.
The Senate voted 73-23 to extend the law, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act, for five years. The House of Representatives has already passed the measure, which President Obama has said he will sign.
"We're incredibly disappointed, not just that it passed, but that they rejected some very moderate amendments that wouldn't have interfered with the collection of intelligence," said Michelle Richardson, an ACLU expert on surveillance issues.
"We're actually pleased that so many [Senate] members today want more transparency," Richardson said, pointing to the 43 votes for Senator Wyden's transparency clause. "There were more members voting for transparency and accountability than there were in 2008. The amendments did better this time."
Yet they were defeated.
The amended FISA Act was passed in 2008 to retroactively cover Bush-era domestic surveillance. The law permits the National Security Agency to track communication between foreign targets and people inside the United States without obtaining a warrant. Critics say it violates fourth amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. NSA whistleblower Bill Binney has estimated that the agency, under protection of the law, has "assembled" 20 trillion transactions between US citizens.
- Asian Tribune -