Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Blog

The House of Representatives voted yesterday to extend the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act through 2017. Civil liberties advocates have long criticized FISA, which authorizes warrantless monitoring of electronic communications – from phone calls to emails – of foreigners as well as U.S. citizens.

One of the 118 Members who voted against the extension was New York’s own Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who said that it is “vital in a free society that we limit government, protect the constitutional rights of Americans here and abroad, and limit warrantless spying to genuine foreign intelligence.” Perhaps referring to New York’s own surveillance scandals, Nadler noted that “even the very minimal restraints Congress put on FISA have been violated. We should address those abuses. Congress has an obligation to exert more control over spy agencies than simply to give them a blank check for another five years.”

 Nadler was even more direct in his criticism of NYPD surveillance earlier this year, supporting Rep. Rush Holt’s amendment that would strip federal funding from agencies and departments that use racial profiling tactics.  

Another New York official taking a stand for civil liberties was Federal Judge Katherine Forrest. On Sept. 12, the Obama-appointee struck down the Administration’s indefinite detention law. Part of the National Defense Authorization Act, the law allowed the government to detain anyone, including American citizens, without charge or trial, using vague criteria which government agencies have thus far refused to clarify.

In May, Judge Forrest issued a preliminary injunction to block the use of indefinite detention until a final ruling could be issued. In yesterday’s 112-page ruling, Forrest called indefinite detention unconstitutional, saying it “impermissibly impinges on guaranteed First Amendment rights and lacks sufficient definitional structure and protections to meet the requirements of due process.”

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