Paul offers amendment to protect emails and text messages from warrantless surveilance

H.R. 5949 would extend for five years the ability of U.S. intelligence authorities to surveil terrorists overseas without first getting permission from a court.

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“Do you really want to allow your government unfettered access to sift through millions of records without obtaining a warrant from a judge,” Paul said of FISA, pointing out that the government can look through credit card records.

Paul said he was concerned that the right to privacy has been “eroded” in America, especially because other digital documents between customers and banks or Internet providers are not as protected as other forms of communication.

“Why are your phone calls more protected than your email or text messages?” Paul said on the floor Thursday. “Somehow along the way we became lazy and haphazard in our vigilance.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Paul’s amendment was too broadly worded and would prevent law enforcement officers from protecting citizens against terrorist attacks.

The Senate is considering FISA reauthorization this week because some of the surveillance programs are set to expire at the end of this year. Votes on four amendments to the bill are likely to start later Thursday. Final passage of the bill could follow.