U.S. Senate Votes to Extend Warrantless Wiretapping

| by Michael Allen

The U.S. Senate voted to extend warrantless wiretapping by the federal government in a vote of 73-23 this week. President Obama will likely sign the bill to keep the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) program in operation for another five years.

Under FISA, the  U.S. government will continue to monitor telephone calls and emails of anyone suspected of being a foreign spy or terrorist, without obtaining a court order, reports the Associated Press.

The Senate majority rejected arguments from Democratic liberals and Republican conservatives, who tried to amend the bill to require the government to reveal if any Americans were observed with warrantless wiretaps.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) warned that the warrantless wiretapping program would be jeopardized if even statistical information was disclosed.

They sparred repeatedly with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) who said this week: "How many phone calls to and from Americans have been swept up in this authority?"

Sen. Wyden said he was trying to "strike a balance between security and liberty" and "the 300 million Americans who expect us to strike that balance ... are in the dark."

The House approved the same five-year extension of the law by a vote of 301-118 in September.