Senate approves warrantless phone tapping until 2017

The US Senate has voted 73-23 to approve the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Reauthorization Act, which will authorize phone surveillance of Americans without a warrant for counter-terrorism purposes for the next five years. The bill extends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008, which granted immunity for wiretaps and email monitoring under the Bush Administration.

The bill passed with flying colors through the House of Representatives back in September, with 301 voting for and 118 against. However, the bill isn't official just yet. It still has to be signed by President Obama, but he said that his administration "strongly" supports the bill, which means it's on track to be extended just before the original law expires on December 31st.

In 2007, the Senate voted to grant blanket immunity to companies like AT&T, which conspired with the NSA to monitor conversations without government oversight after 9/11. Today's vote continues that immunity. Phone calls, text messages, and emails are all fair game, and a judge doesn't have to give the OK, as long as it's in the name of counterterrorism.

However, users should be worried and angry over the bill. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says that in order to be considered as a terrorism threat, the communications only have to deal with "foreign intelligence information," which is quite a broad term that can mean virtually anything. One secret FISA order can be issued against groups or categories of people that can potentially affect "hundreds of thousands of Americans at once."

[via The Verge]