SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The US capital is now preparing for Barack Obama's inauguration.
But it was before his inauguration four years ago that civil liberties groups had high hopes he would do away with laws put in place by his predecessor that violate US constitutional rights in the name of national security.
On Sunday, they were once again disappointed when Obama signed the re-authorisation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendment.
This law gives the government broad powers to eavesdrop on the private conversations of US citizens as long as one of the conversation participants is outside the country.
But at a time when the US Congress cannot seem to agree on anything in a timely manner - Republicans and Democrats came together and rejected all of the proposals, instead putting national security ahead of constitutional rights.
Earlier last week, several senators tried to amend the legislation to add some protection for Americans.
Senator Ron Wydens proposed an amendment that would mandate the release of information on searches that involved US citizens. It did not pass but garnered 43 votes.
Senator Jeff Merkley's amendment would have declassified the legal opinions of the FISA court - a secret court that certifies government privacy protections. Thirty-seven senators supported his proposal.
An amendment from Senator Patrick Leahy would have required congressional approval of FISA legislation every three years instead of five. His proposal received the backing of 38 senators.
Senator Rand Paul's amendment would have required individual search warrants for all electronic communications. It got a mere 12 votes.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the National Security Agency, explained what the extension to the FISA amendment means for US civil liberties.
"[The FISA Act] is one part, it's one element of a much larger series of activities that the US is engaged in in terms of surveillance … but it has gone far beyond its original mandate … the problem is everything else that the government is doing under that mantle, that rubric of national security …. Part of the problem is much of this is being done in secret and there's very little oversight or accountability …. It was just stunning when I found out that the White House had entered into a secret agreement with the National Security Agency to completely bypass the FISA, and by bypassing it they turned the USA into the equivalent of a foreign nation for the purposes of dragnet, blanket electronic surveillance … in secret, in secret."
So, does spying on Americans really protect the country?
Joining Inside Story Americas for the discussion with presenter Kimberley Halkett are guests: Sebastian Gorka, a national security analyst; Michelle Richardson, the legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union; and Shahid Buttar, the executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.