As everyone expected them to do, the members of the secretive Senate Select Committe on Intelligence have attached a two and a half year extension of the controversial FISA Amendments Act (FAA) to the routine Intelligence Authorization Act, the bill that funds the intelligence operations of the US government.
Senator Ron Wyden is trying to block the continuation of FAA from the inside, though he lost a battle waged with Senator Mark Udall to require the Inspector General to report on how many times the government has used FAA to spy on Americans since the amendment passed in 2008. In 2009 a court ruled that Americans can't contest the legality of FAA spying because they can't prove they are being spied on. Senators Udall and Wyden, had they been successful, would have opened the door to a suit if a resulting IG investigation into FAA practice demonstrated that improper spying occurred.
The committee also rejected another amendment proposed by Udall and Wyden, which would have forced the Attorney General and director of national intelligence to submit a report to congressional intelligence committees explaining how the government interprets key parts of the Patriot Act. Wyden has recently told the press that the government has been implementing a far broader interpretation than the one they admit to publicly.
Wyden wrote Senate majority leader Harry Reid on Tuesday, explaining why he would block the movement of FAA beyond the intelligence committee. Wyden said:
"One of the central questions that Congress needs to ask is, are these procedures working as intended? Are they keeping the communications of law-abiding Americans from being swept up under this authority that was designed to apply to foreigners?"