Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), has put a hold (blocking lawmakers from taking a procedural consent vote) on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments currently before the senate. What's particularly deplorable about this is that "a Senate committee approved the re-authorization in secret last month." Senator Wyden's objection is that "the government refuses to say how often the spy powers are being used."
The previous session and vote were closed, but rumors have circulated that the extension was approved—something Senator Wyden has now confirmed. He calls for a closer look at the legislation, how it is being applied, and whether or not it is effective.
As most of my colleagues remember, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act in 2008 in an effort to give the government new authorities to conduct surveillance of foreigners outside the United States. The bill contained an
expiration date of December 2012, and the purpose of this expiration date was to force members of Congress to come back in a few years and examine whether these new authorities had been interpreted and implemented as intended.
I believe that Congress has not yet adequately examined this issue, and that there are important questions that need to be answered before the FISA Amendments Act is given a long-term extension.
He explains that "[t]he Obama administration wanted [to have] a quick, no-questions-asked-or-answered renewal of broad electronic eavesdropping powers that largely legalized the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program."
A spokesperson for Senator Wyden said that "the senator might be willing to agree to a 'short term' extension of the measure, instead of seeing the spy powers lapse, in a bid to give lawmakers more time to reach a deal."
Meanwhile, Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Daryll Issa (R-Calif.) continue to make headlines as they call on Americans to help create the first Internet Bill of Rights. At the Personal Democracy Forum 2012 in New York last week, Senator Wyden made said,
What we need is a way to measure how the voice of networks is protected and what I hope will happen out of this meeting is that we will start a grass roots drive, really a net roots drive to create a digital bill of rights for this country..that would be a way to measure and check to make sure the Internet stays free.
A document is needed, according to the lawmakers, that would allow users to
- Have the right to use the Web ("Freedom")
- Have the right to use the Web without censorship or obstruction ("Open")
- Should be treated equally while using the Web, an obvious nod at Net Neutrality ("Equality")
A web site has been created to allow anyone to offer input as to what the digital Bill of Rights should contain. You can also view the full Personal Democracy Forum interview with the Senator and Representative online.