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 RT @LionelMedia: I could only get through five minutes of Meet the Press. It sounds like a conversation in the dayroom of Creedmoor.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @ErikLoomis: We can talk about Tianjin but the same thing happened in Texas in 2013 and the same problems are the reason. http://t.co/gm
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @KevinBankston Not a book but consider both Verne and lesser extent Capek occupied same space in paper as pop science columns
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @joanneleon Green cards need to be renewed after 10 yrs. Even that is fucked. @herrdoktorjay
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @joanneleon That is, in large part, what I'm talking abt. EVERYONE on such visas faces delays outside of DHS deadlines @herrdoktorjay
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel DWS, DNC Chair, prevents Iran resolution. Schumer, presumed rising Senate Minority Leader, voting against Iran deal. See a trend?
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @herrdoktorjay Which is why it pisses me off the reporting on Christie's comment is so terrible. Bc that's clearly what he was talking about
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @herrdoktorjay If you can't assume all whose visa expired malicious overstays (you can't bc DHS sucks) you can't track malicious overstays
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @herrdoktorjay See, that's my point. DHS now starts process by saying, "Oh, we'll miss our own deadline by 3 months."
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @herrdoktorjay Even routine green card renewals for non-risk people STILL assume 3 months longer than DHS's own deadlines.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @herrdoktorjay You're lucky! I know abt 50 people who went thru. I think I know one who didn't either technically fall or come damn close.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @bsdtectr Their passports ARE RFIDed (as are ours).
2hreplyretweetfavorite