Way back in September we reported that the House of Representatives gave thumbs up to the FISA Amendments Act renewal -- allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to continue to eavesdrop on the private conversations of American citizens without a warrant, granted the person in question is at least assumed to be involved in a foreign affair that could threaten national security. Essentially, the government can do as they please sifting through our email and phone calls. This week, after days of tenuous -- and largely fruitless -- debates and the shooting down of amendments drafted to rein in the unconstitutional nature of FISA, the Senate also gave their approval to the renewal of the act for another five years shortly before it was due to expire. Given the global sociopolitical barometer, flat out ignoring civil liberties seems to be the trendy thing to do these days.
The FISA Amendments Act essentially allows the government to eavesdrop on Americans' email and phone calls without a warrant. There's just one stipulation: One of those involved must be "believed" to be from outside the United States. So, basically, they can conduct electronic surveillance on domestic targets so long as they suspect there might be some kind of foreign involvement. This is the act that the House of Representatives have agreed to reauthorize for five more years.
A bill that the Obama administration plans to submit sometime next year would require all communication services, even smart phones, Facebook and Skype, to be "technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order," including "being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages." The reasoning behind the proposed bill, federal officials claim, is as society uses modern communication technology more frequently and departs from relying on phones for their communicative needs, this leads to an "erosion of their investigative powers." The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn't view the proposed bill as an expansion of authority, but more as keeping up with expanding technology and avenues of communication. Valerie E. Caproni, general counsel for the FBI explains, "We’re not talking expanding authority. We’re talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security."