Washington, D.C. (BTSNews) — CNN, MSNBC AND FOX ALL REPORT TODAY that, after months of delay and political posturing, the outlines for an apparent Fiscal Cliff deal in Congress will raise taxes for taxpayers making more than $450,000 a year and set a top tax rate of 39.6% for personal income. For those higher-income households, investment income tax rates will also rise from 15% to 20%, and the estate tax will top out at a 40% tax rate.
But the deal is not yet in place, even though it would raise more than $600 billion in federal revenue, extend unemployment insurance benefits, safeguard the middle-class from tax hikes and prevent the nation from plunging into another recession.
BEHIND THE SCENES, however, Congress quickly approved a bill on Friday that extended the government’s power to intercept private electronic communications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congress also quickly rejected proposals from several Democrats and Republicans to protect Americans from that act.
Critics of the bill — including Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Rand Paul (R-KY) — expressed concern that the electronic surveillance authorized under the bill, though putatively directed at non-citizens, would inevitably monitor the communications of Americans as well. Senator Udall specifically expressed his concern that “a loophole” in the law “could allow the government to effectively conduct warrantless searches for Americans’ communications.”
Senator Udall and other critics of the bill suspected — but could not be sure — that the FBI, CIA, NSA and the little-known National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) were monitoring and collecting vast amounts of personal communications from Americans. Nevertheless, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said the proposed protections for Americans were unnecessary — even though the agencies would not provide even rough estimates of how many communications those agencies had already collected from American under authority of the “foreign” surveillance law.
- New, “breathtaking” federal surveillance powers investigate “future crimes”
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