Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to re-authorize the 2008 FISA Amendments Act (FAA). The FAA Re-authorization represents the normalization of a domestic surveillance state.
The FAA was bad enough in 2008, when it "legalized" parts of the Bush warrantless wiretapping program and gave retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that gave up customers' private data to the government, but at least it had a sunset. American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Michelle Richard said of the re-authorization:
Yet again, the House has rubberstamped a law so broad and vague that, despite its passage four years ago, we still have little idea how the government is using it.
Despite the facts that:
- the sunset provided Congress an opportunity to rethink the broad surveillance powers the Executive has repeatedly abused;
- even Senators - like Ron Wyden (D-OR) - cannot get a straight answer from the intelligence community about how the law is being used against Americans; and
- whistleblowers, like my client National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower William Binney, have risked everything to expose domestic spying, the House voted to further empower the Executive's already unprecedented surveillance powers.
The House was obviously not listening to the numerous warnings about continuing unchecked domestic surveillance programs from my clients – NSA whistleblowers William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe, and Thomas Drake – all of whom were criminally investigated in retaliation for their disclosures. (Drake was prosecuted under the Espionage Act and faced decades in prison before the Justice Department's case against him collapsed in spectacular fashion days before trial.)
Binney's explosive disclosures in recent months should have been more than enough to give Congress pause about affording any more surveillance power to the Executive.
An absolute must-see is the Op-Doc featuring Binney from filmmaker Laura Poitras that appeared in the New York Times last month.
When a former senior NSA official like Binney comes forward to blow the whistle on widespread domestic surveillance, Congress should listen. The House proved yesterday that Binney's disclosures fell on dead ears. The Senate should pay attention and include privacy protections and reporting requirements when it considers the FAA Re-Authorization.
UPDATE: One more civil liberties issue that deserves mention today. Thanks to the third branch of government for actually functioning and smacking down the NDAA's indefinite detention provision with a permanent injunction. The full opinion is available here.
The judiciary might need to do the same if Congress re-authorizes FAA.
This post originally appeared on Radack's Daily Kos blog.
Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Governent Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.