In the final days of the 112th Congress, President Obama signed two last minute bills. Both were extensions of highly controversial Bush-era policies. Both were scheduled to expire January 1, 2013. And both owe their passage largely to calamitous predictions that the sky would fall if they weren’t reauthorized in time.
One of the bills, of course, dealt with the expiring Bush-era tax breaks. It was the subject of endless coverage and debate. Statistics were graphed, studies were commissioned and reporters cancelled their holiday plans to give John Boehner the Lindsey Lohan treatment. Every presidential candidate was required to say how they would handle the expiring tax breaks and nearly every member of Congress — regardless of how they voted on the final deal — put out a statement explaining their vote to their constituents.
That was not the case with the other bill, which extended the Intelligence Community’s Bush-era warrantless wiretapping authorities. There were no statistics to graph or facts to report on. Cable news wasn’t filled with surveillance experts arguing for improvements to the bill. Reporters were in no position to convey how the law was working. In fact, members of Congress, who voted on the bill, don’t even know how the law they voted on is working.
Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA) in response torevelations that the Bush Administration was massively violating the privacy rights of law-abiding American citizens. Yet, not one of the 374 Members of Congress who voted to rubberstamp the FAA for five more years can say that he or she knows what impact the law is having on the privacy rights of law-abiding American citizens.Read more