The Capitol is seen in Washington, Jan. 3, 2018. (J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press)

The Capitol is seen in Washington, Jan. 3, 2018. (J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press)

Despite Alaska votes, Congress again approves warrantless wiretapping

Despite the ‘no’ votes of Alaska’s Congressional delegation, Congress has passed a measure extending the federal government’s warrantless wiretapping program for six more years.

The U.S. Senate voted 65-34 on Thursday to approve the program, and that action followed a 256-164 vote in the U.S. House on Nov. 11. The votes put the measure on the desk of President Donald Trump, and he is expected to sign it.

Congressional action came at a critical deadline: Without reauthorization before midnight Saturday morning, the program would have ended. Thursday’s vote in the Senate followed a far-closer procedural vote earlier in the week that passed by a single vote. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, voted no.

Had that procedural motion failed, the bill likely would have died. Instead, with Democratic support, it advanced to Thursday’s conclusion.

Murkowski and Sullivan again voted “no” on Thursday.

The bill deals with a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act that was passed by Congress in 2008, before the election of President Barack Obama. That section allows the National Security Agency to collect the email and other communications of Americans who talk with selected people outside the United States. No warrant is needed for this collection.

In a prepared statement for the Empire, Murkowski explained her “no” vote: “I cannot support a long-term extension of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act without the opportunity to consider amendments to ensure that Section 702 adequately protects the interest of US citizens in the privacy of their communications. We should be able to achieve national security objectives in a manner consistent with the Constitution’s promise that Americans will not be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The House vote was also not along party lines: Libertarian-minded Republicans hotly opposed it, and it passed the House only because many Democrats supported it.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, voted against the final measure and in favor of an amendment that would have replaced the reauthorization bill with one that would have required the federal government to obtain a warrant before seeking the communications of Americans. Ordinarily, federal investigations are required to obtain a warrant before beginning to wiretap conversations between two Americans within the national borders.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


More in News

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Thursday, March 4

The most recent state and local numbers.

This Sept. 2008 photo provided by the Center for Whale Research taken near Washington state’s San Juan Islands shows scientists looking for clues about the diet of the Pacific Northwest’s endangered orcas using a pool skimmer to collect the scales or other remains of salmon the whales had eaten. A long-term study published Wednesday, March 3, 2021, reaffirmed the importance of Chinook salmon to the whales even when they cruise the outer Pacific Coast, where the fish are harder to find. (Ken Balcomb / Center for Whale Research)
Study: Chinook salmon are key to Northwest orcas all year

That includes fish that spawn in California’s Sacramento River all the way to the Taku River.

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., listens during the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Some Republican senators labeled Haaland “radical” over her calls to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and address climate change, and said that could hurt rural America and major oil and gas-producing states. The label of Haaland as a “radical” by Republican lawmakers is getting pushback from Native Americans. (Jim Watson / Pool Photo)
Senate energy panel backs Haaland for interior secretary

Murkowski was the lone Republican to support Haaland.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Wednesday, March 3

The most recent state and local numbers.

The 52-foot fishing vessel, Haida Lady, submerged between Cobb Island and Silver Point South of Sitka, Alaska, February 28, 2021. (Courtesy photo / U.S. Coast Guard)
Unknown amount of diesel spilled after boat sinks south of Sitka

Clean up and investigation into the sinking are underway.

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Thursday, March 4, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson works with villages, tribes, businesses, and government to protect the Tongass and advance Indigenous management of natural resources. (Courtesy Photo / Brian Wallace for Juneau Climate Change Solutionists)
Juneau Climate Change Solutionists: Protecting Forests through Indigenous land management with Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson

Our greatest role in the global fight against climate change is to protect our land.

A phone screen displays a message warning of a potential spam call. Alaska Department of Public Safety warns of a new scam involving text messages sent to the family members of missing people. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Department of Public Safety warns of scam targeting families of missing people

Scammers trawl social media for info, according to the department.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Tuesday. March 2

The most recent state and local numbers.

Most Read