House Votes to Reauthorize FISA Amendments Act

The House of Representatives voted yesterday to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act for five years.

The Act generally authorizes electronic surveillance of non-U.S. persons and U.S. persons who are believed to be outside the United States, while prohibiting the “intentional” targeting of persons in the U.S. without an individualized warrant, seemingly leaving a wide opening for unintentional or incidental collection.  This and other features of the Act prompted concerns about the expansion of surveillance authority and the erosion of constitutional protections.

But such concerns, however eloquently expressed by a few dissenting Members, gained little traction.  The House rebuffed efforts to increase reporting on implementation of the law or to shorten the duration of its renewal, and approved the measure by a vote of 300-118.

In the Senate, Sen. Ron Wyden has placed a hold on the bill in an attempt to compel disclosure of the current scale of government interception of U.S. communications, which the Administration says it cannot provide.

The Congressional Research Service has produced a new report on Reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act, dated September 12, 2012.

The ACLU is challenging the constitutionality of the Act in a case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on October 29.

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