Sheldon Whitehouse Confirms FISA Amendments Act Permits Unwarranted Access to US Person Content

In the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup of the FISA Amendments Act, Mike Lee, Dick Durbin, and Chris Chris Coons just tried, unsuccessfully, to require the government to get a warrant before it searched US person communications collected via the targeting of non-US person under the FISA Amendments Act. It was, as Dianne Feinstein said, not dissimilar from an amendment Ron Wyden and Mark Udall had tried to pass when FAA was marked up before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The debate revealed new confirmation that the government is wiretapping American citizens in the guise of foreign surveillance.

DiFi argued that the amendment would have impeded the government to pursue Nidal Hassan by delaying the time when they could have reviewed his communication (presumably with Anwar al-Awlaki). Of course, the amendment included an emergency provision that would have permitted such a search after the effect.

More telling, though, was Whitehouse’s response. He referred back to his time using warrants as a US Attorney, and said that requiring a warrant to access the US person communication would “kill this program,” and that to think warrants “fundamentally misapprehends the way in which this program operates.”

Now, I’d be more sympathetic to Whitehouse here if, back when this bill was originally argued, his amendments requiring FISC oversight of minimization after the fact had passed. They didn’t. To make things worse, though Leahy repeatedly talked about Inspector General reporting overdue on this program, Congress is not going to wait for these reports before they extend the program for another three years, at least. So Whitehouse’s assurances that we can trust minimization to protect US person privacy seems badly misplaced.

In any case, this represents an admission, as strong as any we’ve seen, that this program is entirely about collecting the US person communication of those who communicate with people (DiFi used the term “person of interest,” which I had not heard before) overseas.

Update: Updated to explain this came in a markup hearing. Thanks to Peterr for pointing out my oversight on that point.

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+1Email to someone

13 Responses to Sheldon Whitehouse Confirms FISA Amendments Act Permits Unwarranted Access to US Person Content

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz Oops: After Threatening Hacker With 440 Years, Prosecutors Settle for a Misdemeanor | WIRED http://t.co/BjOkNbK7p5
5hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @PatrickCToomey @csoghoian @WSJ @dannyyadron Jeebus, the All Writs Act?? Owsley is right though, notable that magistrate issued opinion.
5hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @DavidBerthold: Huge storm rages through Brisbane flooding shopping centres and pushing sharks into the CBD. #brisbanestorm #bnestorm ht…
7hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @arcsine @mirriam71 @LisaBloom From another prosecution? No.
7hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz I love that Richard Sherman is sitting there eating Madden turkey on Harbaugh's logo. Couldn't happen to a bigger turkey than Harbaugh.
8hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @arcsine @mirriam71 @LisaBloom Since he voluntarily appeared, yes. Even if he later refused, his GJ testimony likely admissible against him.
8hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @LisaBloom: Wilson at station right after shooting says he told cops he'd been punched in the face. Their response: "where?" Bc they cdn…
9hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz .@mirriam71 @LisaBloom No, and neither Wilson nor any other defendant owes that. But Bob McCulloch sure does. He and Nixon owe many answers.
9hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @EFF: We're thankful to Senator @MarkUdall, for years of defending digital rights on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. We'll …
9hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Confession: reading abt struggles of shitty airports makes me thankful. http://t.co/4quSITgumg Next up? All NYC airports!
9hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @NC_Prime Brady and I pretty much coincided (if that can happen w/backup) tho only year I got tx was 99. @attackerman
10hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @attackerman It's okay. I come from an extended family of 5 PSU grads and 1 PSU prof, but do okay.
10hreplyretweetfavorite