US Congress approves wire-tapping of foreigners for 5 years



Washington: The US Congress has approved a five year extension of sweeping Surveillance laws to allow American spy agencies to wire-tap suspicious foreign citizens without warrants.

The classified George Bush era Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was approved Friday by the Senate by a 73-23 vote after lawmakers shot down attempts to add oversight and transparency safeguard clauses.

The extension of the act was cleared when it was on the brink of expiry by year's end. The House of representative has already passed the bill, which now goes to President Barack Obama for signature.

The warrantless wire-tapping was brought as an emergency measure by then President George Bush post 9/11, without Congressional authorisation. The law also provides for keeping tabs on Americans, if they are found to be in communication abroad with foreigners designated as potential terror suspects by agencies like the CIA and the National Security Agency.

Lawmakers rejected arguments from an unusual combination of Democratic liberals and ideological Republican conservatives, who sought to amend the bill to require the government to reveal statistics showing whether any Americans were swept up in the foreign intercepts.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and Saxby Chambliss, a Republican, the chairwoman and top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned that the classified intercept program would be jeopardised if even statistical information was disclosed.

PTI