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The Senate’s Eleventh-Hour Approval of The Warrantless Surveillance Program

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In the late hours of Friday, the US Senate approved the extension of the contentious FISA warrantless surveillance program, narrowly averting its expiration at the stroke of midnight. Effectively confirmed is what advocates describe as a fundamental pillar of America’s foreign intelligence-gathering procedures and civil liberties groups see it as a Fourth Amendment violation that has yet to be properly challenged.

Senate majority leader and Democrat, Chuck Schumer, extolled this bipartisan decision: “Democrats and Republicans came together and did the right thing for our country’s safety.” He addressed the concerns surrounding the program’s expiration emphatically: “We all know one thing: letting FISA expire would be dangerous. It’s an important part of our national security, to stop acts of terror, drug trafficking, and violent extreme extremism.”

A breakdown of which Senators voted in favor (or against) the controversial FISA renewal.

While valuable for various factions, the FISA legislation has been the bane for numerous Republicans and Democrats, premised on the perception that it infringes on the constitutional right to privacy of Americans.

The journey of the bill towards legislation was anything but smooth, facing resistance from House Republicans who departed from their party stance and blocked the bill thrice in the preceding five months. The tide turned last week in favor of the House passing the bill with a decisive vote count of 273-147 after the proposed span of the program was truncated from five years to a mere two years.

The impending “risk” of not securing the FISA reauthorization, which was a reactionary product spawned in the aftermath of the dreaded 9/11 events, was urgently flagged by top-level Powers from multiple channels including the White House, intelligence bigwigs, and the chief members of the House intelligence committee.

Detractors of the program, however, cite worries linked to the program’s lack of legal checks. While warrantless surveillance is only supposed to be carried out on non-citizens, time and time again, despite promises to stop, US citizens have been caught in the warrantless surveillance system.

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