If nothing else, passage of this legislation proves that the reign of abstraction launched by this administration ,in the days after 9/11, is thriving, and is no longer limited to phrases like "war on terror," but now extends to granting permission to wiretap, eavesdrop, and otherwise interfere with personal communications, without oversight, as long as those communications "concern a person abroad." Given all those who qualify as persons abroad, one can only surmise that this monitoring ability covers a lot of territory.
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, asserts that the measure "does violence to the Constitution," (NYT) which is all well and good, but can we have some specifics please. Americans have the right to know exactly what changes are being enforced for the next six months, what new powers are being vested in this attorney general (who can use a bit of surveillance himself), as well as what constitutes "overseas" communications, who is covered by the phrase "overseas," what paramaters, if any, are in place to ensure that eavesdropping is limited only to those under suspicion. One has come to believe, over the past six years, that everyone is under suspicion, and this is totally unacceptable.
Administration claims that the F.I.S.A. law, of thirty years ago, which requires warrants, is outmoded, but disabling the Fourth Amendment, and setting up an infrastructure in which illegal search and seizure is justified merely by invoking the shibboleth "terrorism suspect" sure as hell isn't workable either. And, as for taking comfort in the fact that this measure is scheduled to sunset in 6 months, keep in mind that the USA Patriot Act was also originally intended to sunset, in a matter of months, and this president managed to bully Congress into finalizing that legislation. Congress is conspicuously quiet with regard to the Patriot Act some sections of which are especially pernicious, such as Section 215 which allows federal agents to pressure librarians into turning over records in open-ended investigations.
This latest insult to the Constitution should not have been allowed to pass. It is up to voting Americans to demand from all prospective presidential candidates that they carefully articulate, and delineate their stand on the NSA, as well as a program that legitimizes governmental eavesdropping. Set your alarm clock, there needs to be accountability, and answers, when the six months are up.