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December 28, 2012

US Senate Votes to Extend Warrantless Surveillance Act

by VOA News

The U.S. Senate has overwhelmingly approved a five-year extension of a law allowing the government to conduct wiretapping on foreign citizens without a warrant.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year, cleared the Senate Friday by a 73-23 margin with broad bipartisan support. The legislation now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The law, first passed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, also allows intelligence gathering on Americans when they communicate abroad with foreigners designated by security agencies as potential terrorist suspects.

The legislation covers telephone calls, emails and other types of electronic communications.

Critics, including privacy advocates, argue the law allows for government abuse because investigators do not need judicial approval to conduct surveillance.

Ahead of Friday's vote, lawmakers rejected proposed amendments, including one that would have compelled the National Security Agency to estimate how many U.S. citizens have been monitored under the law.