back to article US senators rail against effort to sneak through creepy mass spying bill

A bipartisan group of US senators have lambasted an effort to force permanent authorization of a controversial warrantless American spying program through Congress by attaching it to an end-of-year spending bill, calling the effort "an end-run around the Constitution." At a press conference Tuesday morning, Senators Ron Wyden …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Paul noted that "the information on foreigners is gathered in a less-than-Constitutional manner – and most of us are okay with that

    And still it's claimed the Privacy Figleaf is "satisfactory".

    1. jmch Silver badge

      "the information on foreigners is gathered in a less-than-Constitutional manner – and most of us are okay with that"

      That's shocking, given that the US supreme court has ruled that the protections of US constitution also apply to foreign nationals on US soil.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        And so if foreigners == citizens

        and it's ok to spy on foreigners then it's ok to spy on citizens - QED

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eject them

    Congress critters need to be recalled and ejected from the Senate/House if they vote for unconstitutional legislation. If we did more of this, they wouldn't be passing this garbage willy-nilly, knowing their jobs and golden parachutes were at stake. (We probably need an amendment making them lose their golden parachute if they are recalled from office.)

    They have ONE job -- to uphold and defend the Constitution. It's the only thing they have to swear to in order to take office. To pass unconstitutional garbage is simply a complete failure to perform the job they were hired to do. Fire them.

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Eject them

      "Congress critters need to be recalled and ejected from the Senate/House if they vote for unconstitutional legislation"

      Completely in agreement. The constitution is apparently only sacred if it upholds your own values, otherwise who cares? Many Republicans go literally up in arms if someone mentions gun control because, constitution*. Same for allowing corporations to have freedom of speech**, and a bunch of others.

      *Never mind that the constitution only mentions citizenry freely possessing weapons in the context of militias not for private use

      **Never mind that it's a stretch to equate a legal person to a natural person

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Eject them

        Pity there isn't any constitutional amendment about illegal searches

  3. dan1980

    I simple don't understand why the rules should allow tacking one (or more) distinct, unrelated items onto a bill.

    I can see why, from the standpoint from expedience, it could help move things along in the limited time available but that benefit cannot out-weigh the IMMENSE potential for abuse.

    This ability is used, time and again, everywhere it is allowed, to push through legislation that otherwise could not pass on its own. And, if a piece of legislation can't pass on its own, tacking it onto another bill like this is a deliberate attempt to circumvent democracy.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I simple don't understand why the rules should allow tacking one (or more) distinct, unrelated items onto a bill."

      It's got a long and not entirely shining reputation. In Westminster, back in the days when divorce required an Act of Parliament one way to do that was to tack on a clause to some other Act.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        The simple answer would surely be to vote against the whole bill, throwing the "must have" legislation out too. The sponsors of the valid bills would soon stop allowing them to sneak through.

        1. Keef

          And according to the BBC...

          "Republicans attached a measure to the tax bill that opens drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

          Nice work guys, I'm sure Bob'll be along to justify it quite soon...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The simple answer would surely be to vote against the whole bill, throwing the "must have" legislation out too.

          Or better ban the attachment of anything extra to any bill with anyone trying it being thrown out of office and banned from ever holding a political post again.

        3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          ...vote against the whole bill...

          That would require a spine, an anatomical structure missing in elected officials.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I simple don't understand why the rules should allow tacking one (or more) distinct, unrelated items onto a bill.

      It's been around for a long, long time and used for attaching such things as "pork barrel projects", unpopular laws, and every popular "special interest tax rates" whereby a company's tax rate (or individual for that matter) are granted. For companies it's usually something like "a company that incorporated at 11:15 am on Feb. 20, 1975 in (city, state) is granted a tax rate of XX%. It's surprising to see the crap tucked into bills for "important stuff" by CongresCritters.

  4. PacketPusher
    Flame

    Not OK.

    While most of us may be OK with that, I am not. The constitution requires behavior of the federal government whether the people involved are citizens or not. Foreigners have a reasonable expectation of privacy as well as citizens. Even if those foreigners are not actually in the US.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: Not OK.

      That's not actually true though. Legally this has already been adjudicated that constitutional protections apply to anyone in the jurisdiction or custody of the United States and its territories, or American citizens who are abroad. The rest of the world being protected by their own governments and various international treaties.

      There aren't even any legal protections if they U.S. government gathers intel on you and hands it over to your home country, except again in treaties between nations, your domestic laws and whatever embarrassment the U.S. or your home country would gather from such a shady deal.

      Basically, if you live outside the U.S., your in a largely free-fire zone as far as the U.S. constitution is concerned

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Not OK.

        "Basically, if you live outside the U.S., your in a largely free-fire zone as far as the U.S. constitution is concerned"

        True, but non-US citizens on US soil are protected, and what the senator said is that in the case of foreigners (not further qualified, so I infer, all of them, even on US soil), US constitution is not being upheld and he (along with many other people) doesn't care

  5. Haku

    Why are they even bothering to debate about closing the stable door?

    The horse bolted long ago.

  6. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    "But there has been no time for public debate on those bills."

    That seems to be the modus operandi of the McConnell/Ryan Congress: Block public debate on important bills at any cost, vis. the soon-to-be-passed and never-to-be-sufficiently-cursed tax heist. I honestly suspect that it might be possible to draw a graph demonstrating that the more important the bill being considered, the shorter the allowed period for debate, and vice versa.

    1. captain_solo

      Uh, this has been the MO for pretty much every recent congress...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    America Fuck Yeah

    "A bipartisan group of US senators have lambasted an effort to force permanent authorization of a controversial warrantless American spying program through Congress by attaching it to an end-of-year spending bill, calling the effort "an end-run around the Constitution."

  8. Christoph Silver badge
    Flame

    "Paul noted that "the information on foreigners is gathered in a less-than-Constitutional manner – and most of us are okay with that"

    There are several thousand million people who are NOT okay with that.

    European laws protect people and their rights, whatever country they happen to be citizens of. US laws protect only US citizens and regard non-citizens as not real people and having no rights.

    1. GrumpyKiwi Silver badge

      Thanks but I'd rather be protected by my own countries laws than either of European or US ones.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      "US laws protect only US citizens and regard non-citizens as not real people and having no rights"

      US laws DO protect non-citizens, just that lawmakers and law enforcement don't give a shit about the law if it's inconvenient to them

    3. ST Silver badge
      Mushroom

      I see Radomes! Beautiful Radomes!

      > There are several thousand million people who are NOT okay with that.

      > European laws protect people and their rights, whatever country they happen to be citizens of.

      Oh, Really. Re-he-he-he-he-he-he-he-eally.

      I believe in Santa Claus and The Fairy Godmother.

      One word: Teufelsberg.

      I chose this one very carefully. It is no longer operational. It was shut down after the fall of the Berlin Wall. While it was operational, it was affectionately referred to as Berlin's Balls.

      You think it was the only one operating in Germany? Or in the EU, for that matter?

      Why don't you ask Frau Kanzlerin how protected you really are by Germany's Privacy Laws and by the GDPR.

      Please tell me that your government has absolutely no idea of what's going on with these radomes. They thought these were for studying bird migration patterns.

      No offense intended, but: Pot. Kettle. Black.

      Sincerely,

      The Ugly 'Murican.

  9. DCFusor Silver badge

    Forget partisan politics here

    Mike, were you just born, or did you miss things like "we have to pass it to find out what's in it"?

    This isn't partisan - it's big and powerful vs little.

    What was of, by and for the people is now above the people - at least in their own eyes....

    And while it's good when a government is afraid of its people, that's not true about this kind of afraid - the reason for this internal surveillance is obviously to avoid the pitchforks and lamp posts by nipping serious dissent in the bud.

    This push has been going on for longer than a lot of Reg readers have been alive...I used to work for the community myself. It's just that now, they're not even trying to hide it.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    America

    On the naughty list with other autocracies like; China.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    Wow, all the play book described in RA Heinlein's "Magic Inc"

    The whole "tacking onto a spending bill" routine.

    Classic.

    Here's the thing.

    This has been running 10 years and frankly the BS excuses used to justify it first time round have now been shown to be BS excuses.

    My instinct is fail to get to get it re-authorized by year end then re-challenge that "It's still valid till April". If that goes then they have to formally shut it down.

    However without effective oversight (and I don't think there has been effective oversight) how can you know if the TLA's have done as they have been told?

    As suspected once data fetishists get this sort of capability you may have to pry it out of their cold dead hands to stop them using it.

  12. jmch Silver badge

    "pretending that it is not really a search but a "query" of an existing database"

    Wow, that's a stretch of syntactic logic if I ever saw one. If you want to be pedantic about it, a plain SELECT statement is a query. As soon as you add a WHERE clause (iterated through any ETL logic, views, SPs etc), it's a search.

  13. mark l 2 Silver badge

    The US always seem to give these controversial laws names that make anyone votes against it seem anti American. First we had the patriot act rushed in after 9/11 and now we have the Liberty act they are trying to push through the back door.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      and now we have the Liberty act they are trying to push through the back door.

      Yeah, if they'd called it the Butt-Plug law, we'd have known where we stand...

    2. jmch Silver badge

      "First we had the patriot act rushed in after 9/11 and now we have the Liberty act they are trying to push through the back door."

      To paraphrase Sir Humphrey on the "Open Government bill", put the inconvenient bits in the title where they can't cause too many problems

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. spacecadet66

    "The version most likely of passing into law is called the USA Liberty Act..."

    In the words of a not-very-wise man (*), "Oh, come on!"

    (*) G. O. Bluth

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