The US Senate [official website] voted 65-34 [roll call] on Thursday in favor of a six-year extension [materials] of the FISA Amendments Act [text, PDF], which authorizes the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] to gather intelligence by means of warrantless surveillance of foreign persons and American companies.
The House approved [JURIST report] the bill last week 256-164.
Critics believe that the updated Act will allow for increased warrantless surveillance. Others hope that newly-created warrant requirements, such as an addition that mandates the FBI [official website] obtain a warrant before reading emails of Americans who are already subject to criminal investigation, will prevent needless invasion of privacy. The bill also increases the maximum penalty for the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents from one year of imprisonment to five years.
The bill now requires only President Donald Trump’s signature to become law.
Privacy concerns with the surveillance laws have triggered significant debate, especially since 2013 when Edward Snowden disclosed US surveillance efforts. In March the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy [official website], Joseph Cannataci, condemned [JURIST report] surveillance laws in the US, UK, France and Germany.