A lopsided US Senate vote Friday morning, conducted with virtually no media attention, renewed a law first adopted in 2008 that retroactively authorized illegal spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on the e-mail and other Internet-based communications of tens of millions of people, both in the United States and around the world.
The FISA Amendments Act of 2012 passed by a 73-23 margin, with large majorities of Democrats (31-20) and Republicans (42-3) supporting it. Four amendments that would have imposed restrictions on NSA spying or required the agency to account for its operations were defeated in roll call votes Thursday and Friday.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill in September, and the Obama administration and Senate Democratic leaders insisted on passing the identical legislation through the Senate, without any amendments, to ensure the bill would go to the White House for presidential signature before the end of the year.
Unlike the massively publicized deadlock over tax increases and budget cuts slated to take effect New Year's Day (the "fiscal cliff"), the two parties had no difficulty working together to pass legislation to maintain the police-state powers of the American intelligence apparatus.
The rejection of all amendments was not merely a procedural matter. It demonstrated the bipartisan consensus that there should be no check whatsoever on the operations of the vast apparatus of spying and provocation that has been built up on the pretext of the "war on terror."
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