The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.
Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.You can read the court order on the Guardian page linked above.
FISA court orders are typically supposed to focus on a specific target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state. This new information shows just how broadly the Obama administration has interpreted its ability to spy on American citizens, something about which Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have warned over the past few years. During the debate over FISA re-authorization this past December, Wyden and Udall pushed for amendments requiring the NSA to reveal the number of American citizens on which it has spied. Through the strong opposition of the Republican Party and a push from the administration, their efforts came to naught. Wyden and Udall's amendment failed 43 to 52. It had the support of 36 Democrats, 6 Republicans, and 1 Independents, but was opposed by 12 Democrats, 39 Republicans, and 1 Independent. Jeff Merkley also put forth an amendment requiring greater transparency in the program. His failed 37 to 54--on similar lines. 34 Democrats and 3 Republicans voted for it, and 13 Democrats, 40 Republicans, and 1 Independent voted against it. Rand Paul offered an amendment that would ensure adequate protection of 4th amendment rights. It failed 12 (9D, 3R) to 79. Of those 12, 3 (Stabenow, Webb, Heller) voted for the ultimate bill, so only 9 had a strong stance on 4th amendment rights: Baucus, Begich, Cantwell, Lee, Merkley, Paul, Tester, Udall (NM), and Wyden. Sanders wasn't there at the time, but I'd give him the benefit of the doubt, considering he voted with all of these folks the prior year against the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011.
I think it would appropriate to go on a trip down memory lane to look back at the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2012 so that we can see which senators put you on Verizon's latest share plan.
On July 9, 2008, Congress voted on the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which granted legal immunity to the telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. The bill passed the Senate 69 to 28. All 46 Republicans in attendance voted for it. 22 Democrats voted for it, and 27 Democrats voted against it. 1 Independent voted in favor, 1 against. Two Republicans---Sen. John McCain (AZ) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL)---and one Democrat (Sen. Ted Kennedy) were not in attendance for the vote. Obama was the only presidential candidate (primary or general) of that year to be on record in favor.
The 29 opponents of the bill were the following:
Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Joe Biden (D-DE), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Harry Reid (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Ron Wyden (D-OR)
The 22 Democratic supporters were the following:
Max Baucus (D-MT), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), McConnell (R-KY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Barack Obama (D-IL), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Jim Webb (D-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
The votes in the Democratic Party break down almost perfectly between the liberal half and conservative half. Obama and Whitehouse (who gets a lot of telecom money) would have been the most salient outliers to this. Obama, who faced significant criticism from the left and from many of his supporters for this vote, wrote a disingenuous message to his supporters in defense of his vote, which was published on the Huffington Post as well.
It is worthy of note that Clinton, Biden, and Dodd all voted against it. Obama voted for it. Make what conclusions you will.
Last year, the Senate had to consider the re-authorization of the FISA Amendments Act. They looked at it and decided, "You know, this warrantless wiretapping sure is great. Let's have some more! No need for transparency--nothing to see here!" The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2012 passed the Senate 73 to 23.
30 Democrats and 1 Independent supported it, and 19 Democrats and 1 Independent opposed it. 42 Republicans supported it, and 3 opposed it. Some senators were new and hadn't voted back in 2008. However, let's first look at who changed his/her vote.
Which Democrats switched their vote from NAY to YEA, basically admitting that disregarding civil liberties is fine as long as a Democrat is in office?
John Kerry (D-MA) --> I mean, come on, people. He was going to be Secretary of State! Of course, he had to sacrifice principles and become a lackey to the administration.
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Herb Kohl (D-WI)
1 Republican switched a YEA vote to a NAY: Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). 1 Democrat switched a YEA vote to a NAY: Max Baucus (D-MT)
Who were the fresh and new FISA opponents, i.e., those who weren't in the Senate back in 2008 and opposed the bill in 2012 and whom we should give due credit for their support for civil liberties?
7 Democrats and 2 Republicans:
Mark Begich (D-AK)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Rand Paul (R-KY)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Mark Udall (D-CO)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Which Democrats became fresh and new FISA Amendments voters and supporters, who deserve our fresh rebuke?
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Tracking the House votes would be a bit too time-consuming; however, I will highlight the disappointing fact that Nancy Pelosi voted YEA both times. The 2008 bill < ahref="http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/110-2008/h437">passed the House 293 (188 R, 105 D) to 129 (128 D, 1 R). The 2012 bill passed the House 301 (227 R, 74 D) to 118 (111 D, 7 R). Despite the change in composition of the House between the Democratic wave of 2006 and the Republican wave of 2010, the FISA votes looked almost the same. The surveillance state transcends party.
To demand that Congress investigate this unacceptable government spying on American citizens, you can sign the PCCC petition here.